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Tomek

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Posts: 98
Reply with quote  #1 
http://www.batesville.k12.in.us/bms/Staff/enneking/images/sarod%20player.jpg

Does anybody have any idea what's the little pillow looking contraption here? Seems like it would make balancing the instrument much easier.
Also, is it me or does it look like an ebony bridge?
It also looks like he has a bunch of string guides installed on the headstock. Very nice looking sarod one way or another!
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RichardH

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Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Tomek"
http://www.batesville.k12.in.us/bms/Staff/enneking/images/sarod%20player.jpg

Does anybody have any idea what's the little pillow looking contraption here? Seems like it would make balancing the instrument much easier.
Also, is it me or does it look like an ebony bridge?
It also looks like he has a bunch of string guides installed on the headstock. Very nice looking sarod one way or another!

There are two things under the sarod in the picture: one seems to be, indeed, a small pillow inserted into the bout- many sarod players, especially tall ones, put a pillow or foam or something under there to raise the sarod up. The other is a piece of wood attached to the sarod for the same purpose- the only other time I have seen this is on the sarod of Buddhadev Das Gupta. The sarod in the picture is pretty similar to his:

http://www.raga.com/cds/206/206text.html

http://stuact.tamu.edu/stuorgs/spicmacay/newer/frames/ArtistImages/BuddhadevDasgupta.gif

The 6 smooth, globular pegs, organic upper gourd, two-level bridge, long artificial nails, combined with the red and yellow gandhabandhan string makes me think the sarod player is almost certainly a disciple of Buddhadev or someone else of that lineage.

The bridge is probably not ebony, but some dark-colored type of horn or antler.

The things on the headstock are not guides, but mechanical fine tuners, same as are sometimes used on violins or other string instruments. The only times I’ve seen these used on an Indian instrument before, they caused problems with rattling, but these seem to be attached to the neck somehow.
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Tomek

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Posts: 98
Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for the great info, Richard. I might need to look into a pillow of some sort - I'm waiting for my first sarod, and I'm 6.1". Seems like it would just make it more comfortable to hold, anyway.
I'm sure you're right about the Dasgupta connection. Btw... what does gandhabandhan mean?
Interesting point about the fine-tuners, I wonder how well they work in this context. I've also seen sarods with tuning beads, like the ones on sitar.
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arnabsarod

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Reply with quote  #4 
Just a couple of additions to Richard's astute observations.

The gentleman featured in the picture shared by Tomek is Aparajit Agarwal, who is indeed a disciple of Buddhadev Dasgupta. Many might be interested to know that this civil engineer and commendably high-class sarod player is also a scion of the Jaipur Gharana of kathak dance, being the son of Sunayana Hazarilal and late Pandit Hazarilal.

I am quite familiar with Apu's sarod. The bridge is indeed made of ebony and he has crafted it himself using a combination of hand tools and Dremel power tools. Apu is a skilled carver and lathe turner, and is capable of some really good work with bridges and pegs. The wooden "pillow" under the far side of the fingerboard was originally devised by Dasgupta as he (at 6'3") found it very difficult to bend forward and control the instrument at a lower elevation. It has been adopted, subsequently, by many of his students (self included).

To my knowledge, B Dasgupta does not believe in things like 'gandabandhan' and has performed this ritual only with one disciple, an excellent sarod player named Debashish Bhattacharya, who is presently a Senior Lecturer of sarod at Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta. This was done upon the repeated insistence of Debashish's father. The beaded thread seems to be Apu's personal effect and has nothing to do with the pedagogical lineage he comes from.

As for Tomek's inquiry as to what 'gandabandhan' is, here's a brief outline. This is a traditional ritual peculiar to Hindustani musician which signifies the formal acceptance of a disciple by a teacher. After the performance of a number of rituals, prayers and offerings to the guru (and gods of their collective choice), the guru becomes responsible for the training, upkeep and professional future of the student and the student is responsible for submitting herself to obedient and often very hard practice. In today's context, this ritual has very little significance as very few gurus assume such wholesome responsibility for a disciple who comes from outside their own family, and it makes more sense to have a legally binding contract such that neither screws the other over (not that this is practiced either). :-)

Regards,

Arnab
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Tomek

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Posts: 98
Reply with quote  #5 
Arnab, thanks for the very informative post!
Regarding Apu, one can't help but admire people who are acomplished in so many disciplines.
How different is the sound of the ebony bridge, compared to bone?
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aparajit

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Posts: 100
Reply with quote  #6 
The sound of the sarod got more bass and got a little louder but lost some sustain. This is because the ebony bridge is lighter than the bone bridge originally built for me. I have also added a screw on the top (farther from the floor) part of the bridge and you can see it in the picture. This brought some of the sustain back. My theory was that some more weight directly on the side of the sympathetic strings would make it heavier and more stable and allow the sympathetic strings to vibrate rather than taking the vibration away from them by vibrating itself. The theory did pan out since the sustain came back.

As for balance, the wooden insert and the pillow (which I made myself with some red velvet...what was I thinking....and foam and a piece of hanger wire for rigidity) does help tremendously. I have subsequently opened and recarved the instrument since it was extremely heavy. The 6 main string pegs you see here are made of cocobolo and I turned them myself. They are quite heavy too and being far away from the fulcrum (which is the part resting on my leg) have quite a moment (term for rotational force = weight * moment arm). The instrument was made for me by Dulal in Calcutta on very short notice and he did not have time to carve the instrument as much as it should. There were parts that were up to 3/4 inch thick which I reduced by half. The steel plate also has been replaced by me by a non-stainless one which I had fabricated by a sheet metal shop in Cincinnati where I live. The ebony pegs have been replaced by butternut ones and are more like the tarab (sympathetic) string tuners. I was having considerable shoulder pain due to the weight of the instrument and having to balance it with the weight of my right hand. This has improved somewhat since my modifications.

I do not know if this board is still active and if anyone will read this post.

BTW, I am still in Cincinnati and travel to Houston occassionally on business.
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norumba

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Posts: 32
Reply with quote  #7 
hi Apu,
very interesting stuff..... im wondering if you can share some specs on the plate you had made; did you use steel or some other metal? do you have dimensions you'd be willing to share? im working on an ergo friendly electric solid body sarod/fretless guitar or perhaps modifying one of my sarods as well...

thanks,
sd
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aparajit

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Posts: 100
Reply with quote  #8 
I would definitely be willing to provide any and all help I can. It would be easier to do so via email so please send me a private message with your email and I will contact you.

As for the steel plate, I made it exactly like my old plate (I know this does not help much) but that is because I was not making any changes to the rim along the edges of the fingerplate, only to the insides. I had the plate made of regular steel rather than stainless. I also sent it and all of my string coils (along with shaving razor blades, chisels, etc.) to a place in Chicago for cryogenic treatment. Do not know if that made much difference though. The plate was built by roller bending in a sheet metal shop. Unfortunately for me, the plate acquired a convex shape parallel to the strings....very very bad for action. When I took it back to have the convex shape straightened, the legs on either side (the turn down which gets screwed onto the neck) got splayed and therefore wider than the neck. It was a huge pain for me to fit that onto my sarod, I ended up having to rechisel and shape the sarod neck edge (this is very very tough and scary) and ultimately because of the wider plate, I had to build material around the neck by scraping the finish and applying a fine wood powder mixed with special instrument glue to the edge and then sanding it (stuff turned black but it sounds OK). I also rebuilt the nut and made a mahogany slide-on attachment. I could take some pics if anyone is interested.

As for the electric sarod, I had one custom made for me and I have used it on a CD of my band that I have just released. You can hear the song samples at http://www.atomsineve.com to hear what it sounds like. I can send you pictures of the electric sarod as well. It was made for me by Chris Stambaugh. You can check out his work at http://www.stambaughdesigns.com. I call my instrument the Elsar (short for Electric Sarod). It has 3 pick-ups. A piezo-electric pickup under the bridge, a regular pickup under the tarab strings and a hex-pickup (opened and modified Roland gk-2a pickup) for the main strings. I can control the mix between the piezo pickup and the tarabs. The body is made out of walnut. The neck is mahogany and was made by David Nugent (also a student of Pt. Buddhadev Dasgupta and a metal worker in the NorthEast states). It is a compound curve (like a section of a cone) and was built using CNC milling. Dave also made a reverse curve and then sandwiched the metal plate (stainless steel) between the two with epoxy applied only to one side. The mahogany blank was shipped to Dave by Chris and then shipped back to Chris after the curvature was made and the metal was attached. Chris did the rest of the stuff such as attaching the neck, etc.

The idea of the electric sarod has been around for a long long time. Students of Khansahib (Ali Akbar Khan) have been experimenting with this since the 70's. The desired nature of sound eventually obtained has a lot of influence on the design. My idea was to really make an electric guitar and then take away the frets and have a fretless electric guitar but with all dimensions similar to my existing acoustic sarod. If you want to make one that has a true sarod sound but electric pick-ups, your approach would be different. Be careful though, the large amount of sympathetic vibrations and the sustain do not go very well with electro-magnetic pick-ups.

My prior attempts have been as follows:

In 1985 while at Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute, I built an electric sarod-stick. The fingerplate was dead flat and made of brass. The strings were tuned from the bridge side and there was no "body". I learnt the sarod for a very short period of time in 1984 from Stuti Dey, a student of Bahadur Khan.
In 1991, 3 years before I met my true guru, I took a gibson and had the frets removed and a metal plate added. The luthier was no-good and unwilling to put curves and made a flat plate out of very thick steel. The result was a monstrous neck-heavy fretless electric that buzzed with even 1-inch of action. I later sold this at a garage sale as a novelty to someone for like 20 bucks or something. (Prior to meeting my guru in October 1993, I only tinkered with the sarod since I really had not learnt anything)
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