Electric sitar guitar?

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by bostjan, Nov 24, 2020.

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  1. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I studied sitar years ago. I love Indian classical music, but I hate strict rules (Indian music has a lot of doozies, like most ragas can only be played at certain times of day, for example).

    I've always kind of liked and also kind of hated the Danelectro Sitar Guitars.

    I actually dig the tone and the idea of it being much more convenient than an actual sitar, but:
    1. The sympathetic strings don't buzz.
    2. The neck is not adjustable (and build quality is not on parr with any non-adjustable luthiers' work - the Dano necks are just cheap. I've had two myself that bowed to the point where they became unplayable)
    3. Scale length is too short.
    Etc.

    Gotoh makes a replacement buzz bridge, but it seems to be universally unavailable unless you are an OEM or willing to pay over 20% more than MSRP for a used one (in the US at least), plus, it doesn't appear to be adjustable, and I've seen threads on other guitar sites where builders couldn't seem to figure out where to install them to get proper intonation.

    All that said, it seems to me like a no brainer to have a regular old bridge with low angle saddles to produce the effect on a fully adjustable bridge. But probably there's some profound reason why no one takes that approach.

    My ultimate long term goal would be a neck that's wide and scalloped, so fretting is similar to a real sitar, probably half strung (real sitar has a huge area for bending the first string down (cardinally down not pitch down lol)), and, also either adjustable frets (doesn't really work with scalloping) or something like just intonation with unequal spacing. Buzz saddles and then sympathetic string also designed to make similar tone. Obviously, this would be very heavily DIY. Solid body with adjustable truss rod and adjustable intonation, for all the modern convenience of electric guitar. Maybe something like 28" scale to get plenty of twangy buzz tuned the highest four of DADGAD (so DGAD) or similar.

    Then again, my wife will kill me if I end up with more guitars.

    Anyway, does anyone here have experience owning, playing, or working on sitar guitars? Any reason why a humbucker wouldn't be ideal?
     
  2. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire pointy purveyor

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    the danelectros are absolute trash. Look into the rogue or italia electric sitars instead. Much more playable ime.
    They're basically 6 string guitars with a bunch of separate sympathetic drone strings. Still gives the cool jangly quality without the nightmare of terrible ergonomics and the movable frets of a real sitar. It says something when Ravi Shankar had to have a master tuner on hand to adjust his frets and such.
     
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  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    The ergonomics aren't that horrible unless you play for a long time or play anything challenging or try to push the limitations of the instrument or aren't a yoga guru. :lol:

    Are the Rogue ones better? I guess I always assumed they were made in the same factory or whatever. I've seen one or two higher end one off ones floating around, but they don't seem to stick around long on the market and still don't check off enough of my boxes. But if I could convert an old squier strat or something, that's actually be good enough, probably.
     
  4. Seabeast2000

    Seabeast2000 Tropospheric Holocenian Contributor

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  5. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire pointy purveyor

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    The rogues are definitely better than the danelectros ime. A real Coral would be preferable but those are like 2k minimum lol
     
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  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Wow, I missed that one. Looks like the neck is adjustable if you remove it at least. I might have to ask if they'll ever order more of them.
     
  7. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Danelectros are toys, or at least they were when they came up to be... they still look like so, at least imo...

    I've been thinking in creating an apparatus to be installed between the bridge, the bridge pickup and under the strings with a lever that could apply a "string buzzer" and fix it in place, so to get that sitar buzz. With a rotation axis along the section of the saddle spacing and individual and adjustable pseudo saddles / screws so to interfere with the strings vibration when locked in interference position. Unlocking would remove/rotate the pseudo-saddles out of the string vibrating arc, allowing for a free string ringing... it's just an idea, never sketched anything about it yet... and am not sure I will ever design it...

    On the other hand, I used to do a simple trick like inserting a short piece of a string (long enough to cover the hi to low string spacing at the bridge), along the saddles alternating over and under the strings, so to get it in place, then force it agains the saddles. This will kill intonation, but buzz almost like a sitar and create some sympathetic vibrations. It's worth to give it a shot, at least.

    Lately, I've been trying to get the same kind of tones through piezos, single coils and multi-FXs. A mix of very short delay times (like 4 to 6 mili sec) and hi feedback rates (like 95% to 99%), and then adjust the volume to taste, along with pitch shifter FXs to play with octaves and slight detunes as well as a bit touch of Phasers just to recreate the mismatch of frequencies and tunings... There are tutorials on youtube on how to achieve those kind of sounds. Some also use EQ to remove most of the bass and middle freqs from the input signal path.

    These pretend to get the same kind of tones with the ease of playing a guitar. Line6 variax guitars had the sitar tones from processed (sampled?) piezo imput signals at the bridge... (they used the piezo loaded bridges so to get a clean, full range and unfiltered signal to be processed/modulated)...
     
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  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    The variax sitar tone isn't bad, but it's also not exactly what I'm going for.

    As for this string buzz aparatus, I'd be very keen to know more. If I get my printer back up and running, maybe I could try a few design experiments. I had even thought of a saddle that could be rotated 90° to add or remove the effect (in that case, though, tension would have to be reduced to adjust it, probably). First I'd need to see if the buzz results from a wedge-shaped saddle as I suspect it'd be.
     
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  9. Seabeast2000

    Seabeast2000 Tropospheric Holocenian Contributor

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    haven't took a minute to find a demo on yt yet....


    [​IMG]
     
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  10. c7spheres

    c7spheres GuitArtist

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    I've played the Jerry Jones Electric Sitar a few times. It's real fun stuff but even on that set up properly the buzz effect isnt' that great on the lower strings. It really works great on the higher 3 strings.
    - Someone should make a spring loaded push button buzz piece to retro fit to an existing guitar for cheap. That would be fun.
    - Even after I had been playing for several years, pickiing up a sitar and trying to play it was more humbling than I would have initially thought. Even after figuring out how to hold it and everything it's quite challenging. Sitar and Tamboura and tabla's are so awesome sounding though.
     
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  11. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    Why don’t you just buy a real sitar? I’ve had one for about 15 years and it wasn’t too expensive if I remember correctly.

    edit: pic because why not?
    9C5FB563-3004-4337-9326-5B2B3798CC1C.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2020
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  12. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    I've seen a few youtube videos on that. sounds cool, but also like a one trick poney, I think... and NO MIDI! :(...
     
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  13. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I actually did buy one almost exactly like that one many yaers ago. I got really into it for about 3-4 years. Took lessons with a guy who had been abroad and took lessons with another guy who had learned, supposedly, from Ravi Shankar (the lessons I had were really good, regardless of academic lineage). I did 2 different sessions with the instrument. Then, one of the metal bands I was in got busy and I dropped my lessons to go on tour and just sort of stopped playing. By the time I picked it up next, I felt that my skill had eroded completely away and I haven't gotten back into it since then. My instrument has been in my mom's spare closet since I moved to Vermont, along with a set of tablas that I had always dreamt of finding someone to jam on.

    I have the utmost respect for the musicians who play classical Indian music, and I love fertain aspects of it. I love how it sounds and I appreciate how the ragas are structured with a specific scale and tempo map, but vague about melodies so every performance of it is slightly different, but I dislike how other aspects are overly strict about more arbitrary things (instrumentation, experimentation, and even what times of day each raga is allowed to be played) or how some things are somehow both strict and vague at the same time (there are no specific shruti for this raga, but you cannot use those ones!).

    The real sitar is a heap of fun to play 50% of the time and is a pain in the ass the rest of the time. Tuning it is a massive undertaking. Restringing it is a half day project. If you have a dog, then finding a place to sit and play without the dog wanting to crawl inside of the instrument to find out why it smells the way it does is just a joke. Heck, just getting it out of the case and getting ready to play it takes about five minutes, even if it was relatively in tune.

    So, as great as all of that is, I'd really like something with the conveniences of a modern electric guitar and the sound reminiscent of a real sitar.

    Maybe it's because I'm daydreaming a lot, but I think I could even make my own string sustainer and toss it on one or two of the drone string, kind of like having a veena playing along.

    I guess I'm just thinking out loud that there is a ton of potential to integrate post-1960's guitar technology into an instrument that honestly doesn't seem to have changed at all since 1969. With all of the suggestions posted, I've seen twice as many options as I knew about before, yet still have yet to see one with a truss rod that can be adjusted under tension. I mean, I can buy a regular electric guitar for under a hundred bucks that has that technology, so why isn't it found on the sitar guitar? It's like there was one hit design for the thing and no one is willing to question it or make any improvements over the last 50 years.
     
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  14. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    I was messing on my FXs a few hours ago around this theme and at the same time playing with the guitar's coil combos. Parallel coil combos sound pretty interesting to use with the Delay trick. On an HH guitar, inner or outer coil combos deliver better results than neck or bridge humbucker in either parallel or single coil mode. Series mode is out of question in order to get close to the tone feeling of the sitar. I felt that since inner coils edliver a some how a hi mid tone may work better. If there's the possibility of getting the coils in reverse phase, the better. In this situation of reverse phase coils, it really doesn't matter much if it's a series or parallel mix, though parallel works best imo. I didn't feel that a bridge humbucker in parallel or a single coil in the bridge position to work better than the inner or outer coils in parallel combo. So far, and probably it depends on the guitar and installed pickups, my favorit is inner coils in reverse phase and parallel wiring with a compressor or boost to bring up the volume.

    The delay trick of having high FEEDBACK value between 90% and 100% works great along with a TIME STAMP of less than 10 mili secs. Get the reverb FX level to top and mix it with dry signal to taste. Add a subtle bit of an oscillating FX, like a phaser, chorus, flanger or even a ring modulator and it enhances the drone ringing modulation of the real sitar. EQ to taste considering an exagerated High Pass filter kindof thing before these FXs (delay included), notice that the lower strings shouldn't get too much round sounding, you want a treble "void" tone, as thin and without body.

    Sorry if I'm insisting in this "modulation" solution, but I feel it can get you in the ball park of a sitar tone with any regular guitar. Picking hand position is also interesting as it changes the tone. I found that picking towards the bridge/saddles get's more into this sitar mood than between the pickups or even towards the neck pickup itself.
     
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  15. ZXIIIT

    ZXIIIT XIII

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    I used to have this pedal, although mine arrived with a broken wheel and was a one trick pony, but it sounded great, the sitar tone was spot on and drowning it in reverb/delay created some lush atmospheric layers.
     
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  16. coffeeflush

    coffeeflush Well-Known Member

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    Cannot help you with the electric sitar, the EHX pedal is not bad but cannot sound like the real thing.
    Honestly, any harp guitar will get you close enough to that sound.
    http://www.timdonahue.com/harpguitars.html

    About Indian music having too many rules, its because of this lot of Indians me included have given up trying to study under a classical instructor. I see the point of going that deep, but it is not for everyone.
     
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  17. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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  18. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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  19. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Hmm no response to email.

    I noticed a certain microtonal neck builder (rhymes with don gourd) has photos of a strat replacement neck in 19/octave JI, which just poured a gallon of GAS on this fire. If I could get a response from EYB, I might just have to dive in.
     
  20. Bloody_Inferno

    Bloody_Inferno Silence is Violence

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    If you can find a Jerry Jones Supreme, then you're laughing.

    [​IMG]

    ...but good luck with those, since they're rarer than hen's teeth. Better chance of Danelectro reissuing it.

    I've had no problems with the Dano reissues (got mine in 2014 so I don't know how much has changed since then), and I've used it extensively to this day. I do guess they have their inconsistencies. I avoid Baby Sitars altogether.

    That said, I don't see any harm in modding a Dano. The neck is bolt on so building a replacement neck can be done. Still doesn't fix the non buzz sympathetic strings though.

    The EHX Ravish pedals are even less authentic as the Choral instruments are to the real thing, so don't expect a decent sounding sitar sound out of those. That said they do make fun experiments like the drone effects. I still want one just to see how my Dano sitar, 12 string or my fretless RG sounds when plugged into it.
     
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