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A member of the lute family of instruments, the sitar loosely resembles a guitar. The classical Indian instrument has a broad long, fretted neck and a rounded, gourd shaped body.

Traditionally sitars have 7 strings, 11-13 resonating strings and 20 frets. The instrument’s popularity expanded in the 1960s when musicians like The Beatles, The Doors and The Rolling Stones featured the distinctive sound in their music.

Difference between traditional and electric sitars

  • Traditional – Classic sitars are modelled on the design of the plucked string Indian instrument that dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Modern designs are often highly decorated.
  • Electric – There are two types of electric sitar. New fusion models feature a solid body and a sitar top, and have the good looks of the traditional instrument. The other version is an electric guitar that has been modified to mimic the sitar sound.

How to choose the right sitar for you

  • The Ravi Shankar – Named after the most famous sitar player, the Ravi Shankar (or R.V.) sitar boasts 12-14 resonating strings, and a small ‘pumpkin’ resonating chamber that is positioned at the top of the sitar neck. Two extra bass strings give this distinctive instrument a deep bass sound. The R.V. is usually highly decorated and embellished with carving detail.
  • The Vilayat Khan – Slightly smaller in size than the R.V., the singular gourd sitar is named after sitar maestro Vilayat Khan. Known as the V.K. this instrument features fewer strings and no bass strings at all. Instead, the V.K. has a ‘chickaree’ string that produces a fuller sound.
  • The Surbahar – Commonly known as the bass sitar, this instrument is larger in size and features thicker strings and a wider neck. This sitar is harder to play and is therefore more suitable for experienced sitar players.

Different types of sitar

  • Vintage – intricately carved instruments.
  • Left handed – designed specifically for left handed guitar players.
  • Electric – an electric guitar that mimics that sound of the traditional Indian instrument.
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