If you are thinking on going to India and buy a sitar there… come on! We very much encourage you giving the following advises:
If you are already familiarized with the instrument:
Check the sitar is really made of tun or teak wood; even though it is rare to find teak wood sitars in shops you can recognize it for its accentuated streaks.
This is a very important aspect. A sitar made of a low quality wood will probably not resist the change of pressure in your flight back home, and in case it would, its life would not be long.
It has to be of a minimum thickness. We usually find sitars which tablis are too slim when travelling through India. The reason why this is done is because a thin tabli helps the sound ‘s volume being higher easily, confusing us at first.
A good sitar wants time to get its sound, it wants to be played. A sitar which tabli is too thin will not last long, while a sitar with a thick tabli assures it will have a long life.
Knock the tabli with your knuckles to check the wood’s thickness.
The sympathetic strings’ response:
The answer of the taraf strings is important but is not the main aspect to focus in as the taraf strings’ response will be got with time, be patient.
Attention to the following trick: Some shops and makers use thicker strings (#02), instead of the strings traditionally required (#00). Doing this, they will get a higher response since the begining by the taraf strings, but the pressure done to the sitar by that kind of strings is lethal and it can broke the tumba or crash the wood.
Not to get 4 notes minimum by each pulling is a good reason not to buy that sitar, as it means it hasn’t been properly or accurately built.
Do absolutely not buy a sitar with this minimum of notes per pulling.
In the chromatic scale, playing note by note, check each fret. Check the sound of each note and check that when pulling the string do not touch the fret, affecting the sound.
If when playing a note the string touches the next frest and thus cuts its sound, it also means there’s something wrong in the instrument.
The main tumba:
The tumba must look good, being round and smooth and in harmony with the whole sitar. Do not buy a sitar which tumba is too big or distorted.
It is also important to exhaustively check the tumba’s painting. If you notice different tonalities or small protuberances be careful: could mean it was a broken tumba that has been repaired
The “kuntis” or pegs:
Check the pegs one by one. When turning them to tune the sitar they should stay in the same position. If it doesn’t keep its position and the string goes out of tune, take it out and look for what’s wrong.
A sitar’s neck does not have to be straight and completely perpendicular to the body. When joining it to the tumba it is softly twisted up, to the peg’s side. Do also check that.
Distance between the strings:
The strings shouldn’t be not to close not to separated between them. The distance between the strings is not correct sometimes when there’s a mistake at the main or the upper bridge.
A wrong position of the strings would prevent us playing properly.
Check also the main string not to be too elevated. Between the main string and the last fret, the closest to the bridge, there should be 8-12mm distance.
Normally a sitar shouldn’t be nor too heavy not too light. This aspect is difficult to check without having had previous contact with a good sitar to compare with.
We recommend to check several shops to get an approximate idea of the correct weight.
A solid appearance is a must for the sitar we choose.
All joints must look resistant, well glued and without any crack or damage.
Look at the joint of the tabli to the tumba: it has to fit perfectly without overhanging.
Pay special attention to the joint of neck and tumba. Check they are perfectly united, being safe and resistant. Mistakes in this point are common.
Sometimes the appearance tells about the instrument’s quality, but don’t mislead at first sight and priorize the previously mentioned aspects.
Pay special attention to the painting and varnishing, check the are correctly done and correctly dried (according to the time needed).
These have been some advises for buying a sitar. We sincerely add that it is quite difficult to get a good instrument with no experience and we remind you one more time the instruments’ quality is guaranteed usually by the liability and relationship established between buyer and instrument maker.
We do not pretend to discourage but to warn you by this; carefully check every sitar and remember all the previous advises, you might be lucky and come back from India with your perfect instrument.
And our last advise is: give priority to what you believe in, make your own decisions and believe in them and not in what the shop’s owner or craftsmen tell you, wherever the shop is and whichever it reputation is. We are advising you from our experience, to conn is an everyday occurrence in India. Good luck!