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Himmat

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hello!

Recently I've gotten a hankering to try and build an Indian instrument. I know its not easy, and probably not the best idea to try, but hey, it will be a labour of love and a way to gain a better idea of instrument building.

I live in the west, and would like to try something using materials *easily* found in countries outside India. Ideally and maybe not realistically) I am talking Home Depot type materials.

I realize whatever I make (if I get that far) will not be concert quality, but worth a try. I'd like to try something like a basic punjabi/Firandia rabab at first.

So anyone on the forum ever taken a crack at building their own Indian instrument? If so, what did you try? What materials did you use? What tools? How did it go? Look forward to hearing from you all. Also, if you think I'm crazy (which I think I am!), let me hear that too
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martin spaink

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Reply with quote  #2 
Let me make a suggestion, why not start with doing repairs on neglceed instruments first, trying to resuscitate some dusty wallflowers? This way you will get to know these instruments well. I have never made any instrument from A to Z but have repaired / adjusted many instruments of vqrious types and found this to be very rewarding.
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nicneufeld

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Reply with quote  #3 
Home Depot materials are not good building blocks...particularly wood (and of course bone which you won't find there). Building lumber and instrument wood are very very different things, unless you are doing some seriously nice hardwood construction!

My recommendation would be to request a catalog from Stewart Macdonald. They aren't going to have "indian" materials as such (well, other than Indian rosewood fretboard blanks!) but plenty of various wood blanks, bone, hardware, glues, finishes...and of course, any of the requisite tools. Most Western luthiers, I would wager, are well acquainted with this vendor.
http://www.stewmac.com/
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David Russell Watson

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Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Himmat"
Hello!

Recently I've gotten a hankering to try and build an Indian instrument.

[edit]

I'd like to try something like a basic punjabi/Firandia rabab at first.
How close to the appearance of the traditional instrument you hope to come, is the most important consideration.

Something playable, with a membranous soundtable, a fretless fingerboard, and the same number of strings tuned to the same notes as a traditional instrument is definitely possible, I think.

However if you hope for your project to closely resemble a Firandia rabab in all its curves, it will be much more difficult to achieve. Even if the soundbox, neck, and peg box were to be made from three separate pieces of wood, you would still need three fairly large pieces of hardwood, reasonably free from defects throughout, and, harder to obtain still, the hand carving skills to turn them into parts.

I can't even imagine what power tools could help with the job, due to the rounded shape of the pieces, and those would be restricted to removing some of the bulk of the wood from the outside and inside of the pieces and no more. Even then, what would one use? All I can think of off the top of my head is a small handheld chainsaw of some sort, which makes me shudder!

The majority of the work entails slow tedious carving of the outside shape of the instrument from the block(s) of wood, and then even slower and more tedious removal of wood from the inside of each piece with something like an adze. The closer you come to the final thickness of the walls, the more frequently you will need to measure the thickness all over with calipers so as not to go too deeply and make a hole in your instrument.

If on the other hand you're willing to settle for something more rectangular, more box-like, or something more like a banjo in general form, then I think it can be done with a few carpentry skills, common sense, and patience.

David
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Himmat

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Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks everyone for your awesome replies! They're extremely helpful. Maybe building an instrument the way I'm thinking is impossible. The driver in my mind is the frustration one goes through when they first begin learning an indian instrument. I remember getting my first tabla set about 20 years ago, and I gave it to my teacher to tune...while the dayan looked great, it sounded like someone striking a pot...a waste of money.

I'm not sure if mass produced western instruments have the same issue. Maybe someone with experience with them can comment. Also has anyone *ever* come across a machine made indian string instrument? I'd be very curious of the results.

One thing I'm happy to report is that I walked into my local long and mcquade last week and was very surprised to find a tabla set on the sales floor. Even better was that is sounded fairly good and was reasonably priced. Hope to see more surprises like that!
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Himmat

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "nicneufeld"
Home Depot materials are not good building blocks...particularly wood (and of course bone which you won't find there). Building lumber and instrument wood are very very different things, unless you are doing some seriously nice hardwood construction!

My recommendation would be to request a catalog from Stewart Macdonald. They aren't going to have "indian" materials as such (well, other than Indian rosewood fretboard blanks!) but plenty of various wood blanks, bone, hardware, glues, finishes...and of course, any of the requisite tools. Most Western luthiers, I would wager, are well acquainted with this vendor.
http://www.stewmac.com/
Hello, thanks for the great reply! I never really realized or thought about the different qualities of wood. Shows how much of a novice I really am at this!
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Himmat

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Posts: 18
Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "martin
Let me make a suggestion, why not start with doing repairs on neglceed instruments first, trying to resuscitate some dusty wallflowers? This way you will get to know these instruments well. I have never made any instrument from A to Z but have repaired / adjusted many instruments of vqrious types and found this to be very rewarding.

That's an excellent suggestion...would be more reasonable/realistic and would let me satisfy my hankering (for now. Any places where you would suggest to find neglected rescues?
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OM GUY

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Reply with quote  #8 
....but then.... you take a look at some of the you-tube videos of the locals in India sitting on the dirt making some of the worlds most melodic instruments on the face of the earth, using the most primitve tools on the face of the earth, and you wonder how it's at all...possible.

...dremel tool, anyone?

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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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yussef ali k

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Reply with quote  #9 
Hi.
1st, hope you'll get to take your idea as far as possible.
If you allow a comment on what U wrote above, I think it'd be interesting to be able to pinpoint WHAT & WHY was not right 4 U in that tabla. It'd be useful when building 1 from scratch. Getting to the inside of it & figure it out as precisely as possible, what a nice quest!

Am very interested in sitar design & after 4 yrs, decided to try & have them build strs w/ slight mods which -for me- constituted improvements: it's also very enticing (although it also meant a lot of discussion w/ the Ustad ordering them ... also because I don't share a language w/ the master builder).

... So good luck & while you're thinking, keep in mind sometimes the devil is in the details. Be sure to do it because it's curious, educative & fun.
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Gyurme

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Reply with quote  #10 
Is there any place in the West where one could undertake a course of study to learn how to repair classical Indian instruments such as sitars, sarods, esraj, vinas and so on?
If not in the West, where in India would they have these courses, or is it a matter of being accepted/becoming an apprentice to an instrument maker in India, similiar to the guru-student relationship? THANKS
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Himmat

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Posts: 18
Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "OM
....but then.... you take a look at some of the you-tube videos of the locals in India sitting on the dirt making some of the worlds most melodic instruments on the face of the earth, using the most primitve tools on the face of the earth, and you wonder how it's at all...possible.

...dremel tool, anyone?
Great point! Those are the videos that inspire me the most in this regard. You see someone toil away to build something that may turn out to be great or just firewood. Then, if it's great and someone buys it, the builder has no idea if his effort will be appreciated or if his masterpiece will just sit and collect dust. Any "art" (in quotes because my creations are pretty brutal, but make me feel good anyway I create I get attached to...
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Himmat

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Posts: 18
Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "yussef
Hi.
1st, hope you'll get to take your idea as far as possible.
If you allow a comment on what U wrote above, I think it'd be interesting to be able to pinpoint WHAT & WHY was not right 4 U in that tabla. It'd be useful when building 1 from scratch. Getting to the inside of it & figure it out as precisely as possible, what a nice quest!

Am very interested in sitar design & after 4 yrs, decided to try & have them build strs w/ slight mods which -for me- constituted improvements: it's also very enticing (although it also meant a lot of discussion w/ the Ustad ordering them ... also because I don't share a language w/ the master builder).

... So good luck & while you're thinking, keep in mind sometimes the devil is in the details. Be sure to do it because it's curious, educative & fun.
Hi Yussef,

In my mind, everything you mentioned above is exactly what music is about. Sur and taal are the foundations of music - what a feeling it must be to influence both through your own study and modifications. To give sur and taal there due by starting something as a vision on paper and taking it through to creation so that it sounds as good as *you* think it should. Hate to sound cliche and dreamy, but for me, music is meditation...a path to God/Allah/Vaheguru/Ram or whatever name you use. Building an instrument from scratch would be the ultimate for of "bandagi" - worship - given that you are doing it for the pleasure, the curiosity and the satisfaction. I think I need to head over to the Music or Religion discussion now
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