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cabernethy

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hi Everyone,

I Hope you are all well. Something has been plaguing me for a while and I wanted to know if anyone had some advice for me.

I Am very, very often moving frets to obtain what my ear believes is the right intonataion. I'm not talking about moving the frets to suit rag as I quite often leave me main playing sitar in a state to suit Kafi.

How often does one need to move the frets ?. Is is a case that I'm overdoing it or overcompensating for bad technique ?...I Would say for a session of 2 hours playing, I am tending to spend at least 10 mins adjusting frets :?

I am at a bit of a loss and know already that my sitar is a bit of a cheapo.
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John

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Reply with quote  #2 
From a beginner to a fellow beginner:

Give you main string a tug. I've found that most main string tuning issues are fixed by this.
Check the tuning of the main string by using the harmonic just shy of the mandra saptak (middle) Sa fret. This will give you tar saptak Sa (one octave higher) so you can check it against your chikari/tanpura. If its off, give it a tug before you start moving things. If its still of after a tug, adjust the swan/bead. Then check the fret.
Keeping a sitar in tune does seem a bit like juggling at times!

There's a great video on tuning by Max Flury:


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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #3 
Yes I'd like to echo John's excellent point: make sure your strings are in tune before you start moving things around! It is common for them to go out (generally up in pitch) over time. Usually a firm tug is al that is needed to get things back to level, but if it's more extreme then you may need to adjust the beed or give a tap to the appropriate peg.
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Dspeck

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Reply with quote  #4 
I am quite new to sitar but my ears are relatively good on comparing pitches, I practised hard on guitars which are never exactly in tune due to their equally tempered frets, and guitars have problems similar to sitars on tuning physics. I seriously started tuning the frets of my sitar about a week ago, when I finally got string wire for new tarafs.

Before moving a fret, I make sure that the relevant tarafs are in tune and the main string as well. I also make a few tries first, because I still tend to play a bit sharp sometimes.

And there is one important effect of moving the sitar out of the playing position: The strings will change pitch slightly. So always check fret tuning holding the sitar in playing position or you will get it wrong.

I suppose, things will go faster after a while, since frets have to be retuned for the different ragas.

Tugging the main string does two things: It will detune it, if the peg or the string windings on the peg don't hold or if the string is new. It will also equalise the tensions in the three areas, between peg and saddle, between saddle and bridge and between bridge and the end of the string. The tension should be equal all the time but especially when the last maintenance is long ago, it won't automatically. In order to lubricate saddle and bridge, you can use a simple pencil and draw a few lines over the notches where the strings go through. This also improves the lifespan of saddle and bridge a bit. In fact, this is true for almost any string instrument.
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povster

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Reply with quote  #5 
Cab
Quote:
Originally Posted by "cabernethy"

How often does one need to move the frets ? Is is a case that I'm overdoing it or overcompensating for bad technique ?...I Would say for a session of 2 hours playing, I am tending to spend at least 10 mins adjusting frets :?

I am at a bit of a loss and know already that my sitar is a bit of a cheapo.
You should not have to tune your frets for a 2 hours session once they are in tune. MAYBE an occasional nudge on one or two that may be a bit loose but otherwise, no.

What is absolutely KEY here is this: How are you tuning the main string? Exactly what technique are you using to insure the main string is in tune? If you can answer that then we can fine tune our recommendations.

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Dspeck

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Reply with quote  #6 
One more recommendation about tuning which helped me a lot:

The pegs need need some maintenance every now and then to ensure that they are working properly. Violonists have similar trouble and they have a special agent that they apply to their pegs. Basically, the recipe of that agent is a mix of curd soap and (non-waxed) chalk. The curd soap ensures movability of the pegs while the chalk provides friction. It works like grease and balls in a ball bearing and is done this way:

Apply curd soap to the surface of the pegs where it touches the wood of the sitar neck (there are two places, don't forget the end of the peg). Now put the peg back and turn it back and forth a little bit. Take it out again and you should see a shiny film all around the peg where it touches the wood. By inspecting these areas, you should also be able to tell, if a peg needs to be reshaped or replaced, but this is not the main point here. Apply chalk where the film is even and shiny, i.e. exactly where the peg touches the wood of the neck. Put the peg back into place and you are done.

It might work with any soap, but curd soap is the original. As for chalk, there is waxed chalk which is not good, it should be honest pure dry chalk as you know it from school.

If it is difficult to turn a peg, apply more soap, if it doesn't keep the tuning, apply more chalk.
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OM GUY

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Reply with quote  #7 
Curd soap? Please forgive me, but what is 'curd soap'? ops:

I have to agree about the wax chalk...but it's very difficult to find for most people. However, it must be chalk free.

If you don't trust your string tunings nor your fret position, get a frequency tuner that both emits a note frequency or "listens" to your strings and tells you what is in and out of tune.

But, please don't forget to tell me what curd soap is.... ops:

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povster

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Reply with quote  #8 
To clarify about the chalk - modern day school chalk has was in it to reduce the chalk dust. You should not use that as the wax will contribute to slipping pegs.

You want wax-free chalk. It is usually called "sidewalk chalk" or "carpenter's chalk" and comes in sticks about 1/2" - 3/4" in diameter, often in various pastel shades in addition to white.

Still, for cab's situation, it will be very useful to know how he tunes his main string.

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coughcapkittykat

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "povster"
often in various pastel shades in addition to white.

Is the stuff they sell in art shops ok to use? Every chalk i've ever found doesn't list wax in it. I've been to hardware shops before and still not found this elusive wax-free chalk, they usually don't know what I'm talking about.
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OM GUY

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Reply with quote  #10 
It's also called "Railroad chalk"........ but getting it at a hardware store can be a test of wits and patients. 1/2 the stores 'just ran out of it' while the other 1/2 kind of look at you with the fish-eye and wonder out loud ---> " Hmmmm...never heard of that stuff before".....I try not to even begin to tell them why I need it, most of them wouldn't even know what a violin is, let alone a sitar.

Out of frustration, I called a few mfg's....and wouldn't you know it's a big proprietary secret of how they make the stuff?? Yudda thunk I was asking for yellow cake to build a gdmnd dirty bomb or something! All I want to know ---- is their wax in the junk or not?? :?

Anyway, I digress. Get a-hold of Lars, he'll be happy to sell you all you want. :wink:

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Let's hope 2016 is less violent and that people discover the soothing influence of ICM. Hari OM!
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John

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Reply with quote  #11 
Anybody else here use climbing chalk? It works a treat.

I had to give up rock climbing when I started playing sitar and took some consolation in the fact that the little bag of chalk I used for my hands when climbing was ideal for 'dipping' sitar pegs into.

A picture paints a thousand words:

http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/uploads/black-diamond/media/630100_chalkbag_wl.jpg

The chalk is widely available at 'outdoor' shops and comes as loose powder or, more commonly, as a cloth ball. You put the chalk in the bag, squash the ball down a few times to get the chalk moving around, then pull the drawstring to close the bag. The pegs can then be dipped through the opening in the bag giving them a nice, even coating from bottom to top.
A bit extravagant, I admit, but it was just sat there, so I tried it & it works perfectly.

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Dspeck

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Reply with quote  #12 
Curd soap is the basis for fine soaps: http://www.seifen.at/english/Curdprocess.htm

Well, don't use soap without chalk, or you won't be able to tune your sitar anymore. But if the pegs of your sitar can hardly be turned or make crackling noises, it helps a lot.
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cabernethy

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Reply with quote  #13 
Thank you all for the very informative replies

Having spent the last day trying out the suggestions, I think that I MAY have cracked it.

I have never used the harmonic trick to tune the main string....having done so, I've realised how flat the main string was in open position. After a bit of a downwards shift on all the frets (and shifting pegs / ties where the were now hitting) I've managed to get it sounding pretty good (to my ears anyway).

An IN-TUNE Open Ma on the Baaj string is quite a boon for me (especially as I play mostly from Kafi), what a relief

I will have to check out the soap tweak as well, very soon.....
Thank you all....

Carl
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