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fossesitar

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Reply with quote  #1 
I believe this is a good time and a proper place to open a discussion for opinions (and hopefully some facts!) regarding taraf sympathetic strings. As I configured the headline for this thread: more, less, or none? And there are certainly adherents to support each of these options.

Instruments without taraf certainly have resonance and sympathetic tones beyond the (fretted) note being plucked. These are due to the overtone series of a vibrating string (fretted note), along with the overtone series of the open strings and on a perfectly tuned instrument (octaves and fifths) the overtones series of each string create natural sympathetic resonance/reinforcement tones for some of the 12 possible fretted notes (semitones). When I was in India I was pleasantly surprised at how good a "practice" sitar (no taraf) sounded. The sounds of rudra and saraswati veenas are also sans taraf and show many rich resonant sympathetic tones. So that begins to lay out the case for no taraf.

If taraf are to be used is more always better? In my experience no, with taraf I find less is more but this is just my personal opinion based on my own ear. My experience with the extremely resonant carbon instruments has led me to the personal conclusion that 9 or ten taraf is the ideal - one for each semi tone that is not present in the main drone strings (SA and PA). My explanation for this is that (A) duplicate taraf (or octaves) must be perfectly in tune or they conflict and fight with the other taraf tuned to the same note - and this is hardly ever the case. Under this theorem even 9 taraf can be too many for many rags such as those with 6 or 7 notes.........

This may relate to the no taraf argument - even 9 perfectly tuned taraf create such a multitude of overtone structures that they will inevitably conflict in some way or form. Is no taraf possibly better on a very resonant instrument? One factor to add to the confusion - an instrument without taraf has considerably less string tension therefore the tabli can be made thinner and more responsive.

I intend to investigate this taraf question on my personal surbahar although I will not be changing the thickness of the tabli plate, I will be trying it entirely without taraf and of course, with - leaving all else the same. Since it is a very resonant instrument I expect to be able to evaluate both scenarios with care.

I am interested in your opinions and experiences on this subject. I believe that perhaps on instruments such as sarangi or possibly sarod that crazy amounts of taraf contribute to the ghostly sound but that may be another thing entirely.

So chime in and let's open a discussion on taraf: more, less, or none? GF
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OM GUY

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Reply with quote  #2 
The fact is, that it's totally subjective.... at least, that's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it...

But seriously, the fact is that I picked up one of my girls last night and really listened to each note and the taraf response. With each sitar, it's a whole new world of timing and response and tuning. What joy and inner bliss for me when I stroke the notes and hear subtle response from the tarafs!

How can I possibly disregard a chorus of sweet angels, more.... more!!

It's simply, subjective.

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barend

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Reply with quote  #3 
Tarafs belong to the sitar. Can't imagine one without them. Good tuning is important but that's part of the package if you play sitar. Most sitars really come alive when the tarafs are tuned well (which is not so hard in my opinion). Also the variety of playing techniques that involve the taraf strings (strumming between alap notes, playing it with the pinky of the left hand etc.) are an important part of the sitar technique.

Only downside of having 13 tarafs is the conflict with the fret ties when you have to move them. That is really annoying. Therefore 11 tarafs is also enough. But soundwise I prefer 13.
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trippy monkey

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Reply with quote  #4 
I suppose it all depends on what kind of response one gets from them.
A subtle meeEEOOWWW or a straight MOW????
That 8 stringer I got in India last year has very subtle taraf 'replies' that fit in nicely with the understated quality of the instrument.

Nick
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povster

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Reply with quote  #5 
I picked up a Manoj Kumar Sardar sitar without tarafs from AACM very inexpensively as the tumba had been broken and then repaired. Wood, pegs et al very nice. I call it my "rudra vin sitar" since the vin has no taraf either and I can introduce it to my vin without familial squabbles.

Really throaty sound and, as expected, some nice resonance without the tarafs. Am working on the jawari to get it finalized in the upper registers and will then post a sound clip. But I really do like the concept of a sitar without taraf. They originally came that way.

I am going to have some fine ravioli now. Tomorrow I will (hopefully) post some pics. But I really like this instrument.

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fossesitar

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Reply with quote  #6 
Pov - always good to avoid those familial squabbles. Did you share your ravioli with the family? Look forward to your evals on the taraf-less sitar.

I should mention that in my experience a lighter string gauge (.008's or 9's) on taraf seems (to me) to respond quicker and die out faster, while a heavier gauge like a 10 will respond a little slower but sustain longer....... do others find this as well?
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CarbonSitars

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "fossesitar"
I should mention that in my experience a lighter string gauge (.008's or 9's) on taraf seems (to me) to respond quicker and die out faster, while a heavier gauge like a 10 will respond a little slower but sustain longer....... do others find this as well?
Yeah, I noticed this too. The heavier-guages sustain longer because of the larger mass and greater string tension. I prefer this to the shorter sustaining taraf strings. To me, the sitar really comes alive when it is awash in just the right amount of tarafs with just the right amount of jawari. One of my favorite recordings with what I would call an ideal taraf sound/balance is Ravi Shankar's The Living Room Sessions albums. To me, they react in just the right way to make them musically useful and expressive. Then again, that could have merely been his playing.

I once heard that lutherie is a "study in subtleties," and here I think it's no different. There are so many shades of what the idealized sound should be that we could spend a lifetime exploring them all. It's a highly subjective experience.
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vbnautilus

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "povster"
I picked up a Manoj Kumar Sardar sitar without tarafs from AACM very inexpensively as the tumba had been broken and then repaired. Wood, pegs et al very nice. I call it my "rudra vin sitar" since the vin has no taraf either and I can introduce it to my vin without familial squabbles.

Really throaty sound and, as expected, some nice resonance without the tarafs. Am working on the jawari to get it finalized in the upper registers and will then post a sound clip. But I really do like the concept of a sitar without taraf. They originally came that way.

I am going to have some fine ravioli now. Tomorrow I will (hopefully) post some pics. But I really like this instrument.
I'm still waiting for pics of the ravioli.
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povster

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "vbnautilus"
Quote:
Originally Posted by "povster"
I picked up a Manoj Kumar Sardar sitar without tarafs from AACM very inexpensively as the tumba had been broken and then repaired. Wood, pegs et al very nice. I call it my "rudra vin sitar" since the vin has no taraf either and I can introduce it to my vin without familial squabbles.

Really throaty sound and, as expected, some nice resonance without the tarafs. Am working on the jawari to get it finalized in the upper registers and will then post a sound clip. But I really do like the concept of a sitar without taraf. They originally came that way.

I am going to have some fine ravioli now. Tomorrow I will (hopefully) post some pics. But I really like this instrument.
I'm still waiting for pics of the ravioli.
They have been digested. I doubt you would want to see pics of them. But I will put up up a few pics in a few days of the instrument.

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OM GUY

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Reply with quote  #10 

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david

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Reply with quote  #11 
One thing to remember is that there is basic physics involved here. Specifically that you don't get something from nothing. The energy to drive the tarifdar is derived from the playing string. In other words, the presence of the tafaf string reduces the sustain of the main playing string(s).

Peace

David Courtney
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OM GUY

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "david"
One thing to remember is that there is basic physics involved here. Specifically that you don't get something from nothing. The energy to drive the tarifdar is derived from the playing string. In other words, the presence of the tafaf string reduces the sustain of the main playing string(s).

Peace

David Courtney
I, for one, would entertain a slight elaboration on your statement. Sounds interesting..

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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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fossesitar

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Reply with quote  #13 
OM - I do believe David has a point - the energy to drive the taraf has to come from somewhere, and although when the taraf and the fretted note are perfectly in tune they will reinforce each other the taraf still needs to be driven up to that point so theoretically at least this reduces somewhat the sustain of the fretted note.

I have been wrestling with this question (ideal # of taraf) for some time because of the extreme resonance of the carbon that we build our instruments from and the fact that carbon does not absorb high frequencies as wood does. For these reasons taraf above high NI (specifically high SA and the RAY above high SA) are constantly ringing on our Ultras even if RAY is not fretted. We advise our clients not to tune any taraf above high NI for this reason. Bear with me here:

There are 12 semi-tones but I have even noticed on my guitar (which is tuned from low to high D-A-D-D-A-D) that when I am perfectly in tune and I fret RAY, the note rings on well after I lift my finger - there is noticeable sympathetic resonance on RAY without the presence of any taraf. As there is on SA, as there is on PA. Although GA may get a slight resonance none of the remaining 9 semi-tones (12 minus SA, RAY, and PA) has a truly noticeable sympathetic resonance after lifting the fretted note. Because of the strong sympathetic resonance on RAY (and SA, and PA) I do not need taraf for those notes. I am using 9 taraf on my Ultras now.

I feel I get a cleaner tone, greater resonance and sustain, easier to tune and easier to restring so that is how I am building. This is my best take on the subject and I hope some of you can see the sense in this approach. GF
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fossesitar

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Reply with quote  #14 
To give an example of how generous 9 taraf can be when used along the lines described above:

We now install two equal length NI taraf - in the case where both NI and komal NI are used in a rag there is a taraf for both. But let us take a fairly "normal" selection of the common major scale from the west also used in many Indian Ragas - the seven notes of the major scale.

We have the luxury of tuning both NI taraf to the same note to reinforce NI. No taraf needed for SA or RAY, a taraf for GA, a couple of taraf for MA to give some weight there if we choose, no taraf for PA, two for DEY which can use the extra weight and we still have 2 taraf left over to deploy as we wish. An extra GA and a high NI? Nine taraf are plenty especially for a highly resonant instrument. GF
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