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Ravi Shankar Gives George Harrison a Sitar Lesson

Ravi Shankar. the Indian sitarist (and father of Norah Jones) known for his collaboration with the Beatles and other western musicians, died Tuesday in Southern California. He was 92 years old. Born in India in 1920, Shankar began playing the sitar during the late 1930s, and, by the 1940s, he started thinking about how to bring eastern music to western audiences. Tours brought him to the Soviet Union, Western Europe and the United States during the 50s. But everything changed when he crossed paths in 1966 with a rock star developing his own interest in the sitar.

George Harrison taught himself enough to play the sitar on “Norwegian Wood,” the eastern-inflected song written by Lennon and McCartney in 1965. Shankar and Harrison met the next year in London, marking the beginning of an important musical partnership. Soon enough, Harrison traveled to India — to a remote region in the Himalayas — to study the sitar and read spiritual texts with Shankar. Returning the favor, Harrison saw to it that Shankar performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. Later, the two organized the influential Concert for Bangladesh, which brought them together with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Billy Preston.

Above, we have documentary footage featuring Shankar and Harrison together in a sitar lesson. Below, we present three other clips from that fertile period.

Ravi Shankar’s Appearance with Harrison on the Dick Cavett Show (1971)

Shankar at Monterey Pop (1967)

Comments (3)

December 12, 2012 / 7:42 am

I really believe there is healing in this music. It goes to the core.

Sajith Shetty says.

December 12, 2012 / 6:54 pm

Sublime music. Thank you for visiting us.

May 11, 2016 / 12:17 am

This clip is amazing. I am writing a novel that’s partly set in this period, and one of the characters is deeply affected the first time she hears a sitar (while Norwegian Wood first plays on the radio). I’ve been doing a ton of research on George, the Beatles, Ravi Shankar…and this clip–the footage and Ravi Shankar’s voiceover–just incredible. Two questions, if you have a moment. WHERE do you think this little lesson took place? I see water in the background. I’m tempted to think California…maybe Esalen (yeah I just watched the Mad Men finale), or L.A. What do you think? For some reason, it looks like the U.S. to me, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s a seaside locale in India!
And – WHEN? 1966? 1967? Many thanks.

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Pandit Ravi Shankar uses C# as his SA on most of his sitars, however when his is playing with western orchestras he uses C.

Ustad Vilayat Khan uses D as his SA

Sitar Stringing Chart
Ravi Shankar Style (7 main strings)

1st peg. ma. #3steel - .012"
2nd peg. SA. - .016" ph. bronze
3rd peg. PA. - .022" ph. bronze
4th peg. SA. - .028" ph. bronze
5th peg. PA. # 1 steel -.010"
6th peg. SA chic. #0 steel - .009"
7th peg. high SA chic. #0 steel - .009"
Sympathetic strings. #0 steel - .009"

Sitar Stringing Chart
Vilayat Khan Style (6 main strings)

1st peg. ma. #4 steel - .013"
2nd peg. not used
3rd peg. SA. - .016" ph. bronze
4th peg. GA. #.4 steel - .013"
5th peg. PA. #3 steel - .012"
6th peg. SA chic. #0 steel - .009
7th peg. high SA chic. #0 steel - .009"
Sympathetic strings. #1 steel - .010"

These string gauges differ with various traditions, as does the desired action height.

The sympathetics are tuned, depending on the raga, from middle C to E above high C.
One Example: (Ravi Shankar) C, B, C, D, E, F, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E

The Maintenance of the sitar

1: The sitar should be kept in a case or under a cloth cover
2: The sitar strings should be changed regularly depending on how often they are used.
A sitar that is played daily should have all the strings changed every 3 months, and the main playing string, "ma" every month.
3: The finish should be rubbed down with a soft dry cloth after every playing to maintain the shine. The strings should be wiped of after every use. Do not use furniture polish on a sitar.
4: With use, the bridges become grooved under the strings. It is then time to have the bridges resurfaced, This is called Sitar Jawari. It should only be done by a professional. You can tell when the Jawari needs to be done, as the instrument will have lost its tone, and sounds more and more distorted and buzzy.
4: The gourds are very fragile and must be protected from any kind of knock. Walking through doorways needs extra care.
5: The frets should be polished with #0000 steel wool every few months to keep them smooth and clean for meend (pulling the string to the side).
6: Sitar pegs can begin to slip after a year or so of use. When changing the strings it is a good idea to lightly chalk the pegs with carpenters or sidewalk chalk. Do not use blackboard chalk as it has wax in it to prevent squealing, and this wax will ruin the peg. If the pegs continue to slip, they will need to be filed to correct the taper and to remove any lip ridge. This should be done by a repair person. Peg service is part of the work done with a Full Sitar Jawari.

Contact us via this Email link

Perfect Third Studios
Drake N.S.W. Australia 2469
(02) 6737 6884

Sitar dvd sitar lessons tutor sitar training dvd tabla performance videos

Welcome to the DVD section featuring our growing number of DVD's for sitar lessons. There are hundreds of Ragas and many possibilities for future titles if there is the demand. Each DVD contains many (up to 10 or more) lessons of material and are an incredible value. Nothing is left out or hidden. We recommend that you have some prior experience to get the most benefit although talented beginners should also benefit from them.

For over 30 years there have only been sitar instruction videos at the most basic level and even the popular titles never progressed to higher levels. With our DVD's we are attempting not only to preserve the methods and treasure of the Senia-Maihar sitar style but to give enthusiastic players the resources to enhance their playing experience. They are not intended as a substitute for a qualified teacher but should suffice in the case one is not available near you or augment your established training. We hope that everyone benefits from these, many more are planned.

3 NEW TITLES NOW AVAILABLE! Please click on each title for complete description Titles with red "*" are recent 2013 additions.

beginning sitar(110 mins) $36 + shipping*NEW*Add to cart

A few reviews below and more reviews are here. See what are customers are saying about the Sitar Performance Series DVD's.

I was looking for sitar instruction DVDs and came across Indrajit by chance. I ordered his introduction to the Sitar and I am learning more from his DVD than from all three sitar teachers that I had to drive kms to get to. A very generous and intuitive teacher. In the age of overinformation, Indrajit is like finding a meezrab in the youtube hay stack.

Indrajit Baneerjee's DVD 'Introduction to Sitar Technique Vol 1' is a treasure! In one week, I have learnt learnt more than what I have learnt in an year.

I would love to order more of your instructional series in the coming days.

I received the dvd and have to tell you that IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS I HAVE EVER SEEN. HOW AWESOME IS IT. Why dont you guys do similar ones for rags TILAK KAMOD, SHUDDH KALYAN and any other really popular light ragas by the same artist?

Hi Lars,
just wanted to folllow up re below and also let you know that I received the shipment and everything was great. THanks for the calendar and agar bathi. I can't say how much I enjoyed the Introduction to Yaman. It is far and away the best video lesson for sitar that I have seen. I am really excited about your next project along the same lines. There are so many areas that could be covered and I think Indrajit is a terrific teacher- it reminds me a lot of the lessons I used to take with Amit Adiecha and also with Amit Chatterjee later.

Hello Lars,
The DVD arrived yesterday in perfect condition, really fast delivery! I allready had a great time watching it, the general impression from this first day is: very, very good, in musical dimensions but also in terms of photography/ camerawork! I think this DVD is really equally worthy for starters and more experienced Sitarists/ ICM musicians. Allthough I�ve worked intensively some time now on Rag Yaman, including a lot of listening to as many different interpretations of this beautifull Rag, especially in the Dhrupad genre, I will be able to learn a lot from this DVD! Also great compliments to Mr. Banerjee for his warm and empathic way of explaining, demonstrating and playing. So let me thak you very much again, I look forward for the next DVD�s to come. I�ll be among the first ones to order them!
All the best, the "old European"

I have to give a shout out to Lars for the production of this first in a series DVD. I have been going through it (Yaman) and have to say how surprised I am that one can learn, actually learn so much from this type of format. Indrajit is a wonderful teacher. He sings in sargam, then plays. Highly recommended if you have no teacher near-by (and even if you do!) There's no holding back information. There is so much good stuff here that you'll be busy for months. Lars says at least 10 lessons worth. I say double that. Good stuff. Way to go Lars.

"As a student, I can say this is the type of training one would receive from Indrajit in a one-on-one environment. Even though this is not an introduction to sitar, he uses basic and advanced playing techniques to show how to play a nice version of Yaman. You are taken from alap and jor through two gats and jhalla. He uses sargam-singing, bol-baz and strokes throughout. There is enough material here to keep an intermediate student busy for at least several months. The only recommendation is to use a lapel microphone instead of hand-held, but I understand that is already planned for in future releases. In short, I recommend it as a valuable training aid."

The DVD is a superb learning material,I am very happy with it. Especially for beginners, like in my case, I started studying the sitar 3 months ago,I am 50 now and never is late to begin.
With your DVD I know I have made a giant step towards understanding hindustani music.

Please keep me informed of the new releases to come.

Best regards

Sitar tuning tips, tuning tones, sitar size selection, Lesson 3 by Ashwin Batish - RagaNet Issue 3

Sitar Lesson 3
Sitar size selection, sitar tuning tones, fret moving tips

by Ashwin Batish

Is it the right one baby? Sitar that is!

An important issue facing you when you start playing the sitar is the condition of your sitar. To start with, it has to be the right fit for you. Sitars come in various sizes. By size I mean not just the overall length of the sitar but also the size of the gourd and the width of the fretboard.

If you are looking for sheer acoustic volume, you need to have a sitar which has a large gourd. But this might not be practical. If you are a small person you'll have a terrible time trying to hold it in the playing position. The opposite is also true for a large person. In this case, if the gourd is too small, I've seen people leaning excessively to keep the sitar stable. This bends their backs un-naturally and eventually they can have back problems.

Nothing to fret about?

The width and curve of the sitar's fretboard is also important, depending on your hand size, if this is not a good fit you'll have a hard time playing fast and doing meend (producing notes by pulling the string). Also, your hands will get un necessarily tired trying to hold the sitar and grapple with the note production process.

The next thing you need to check is the condition of the frets. Look for frets that feel loose. They'll usually wobble excessively when you hold them between your thumb and index fingers and try to move them. There should be some movement but if they feel wobbly then it is possible that the thread tying them has stretched or is unravelled. Many times the sitar wallas (makers) will tie the sitar frets while the varnish is wet. I have no idea why they don't wait. But the end result is that the thread digs into the varnish and dries hard.

This is a major problem because, and I know you'll have to do this, by the very nature of requirement of playing ragas on this instrument you will have to move these fret to get the right notes. Having these tying threads imbedded in the varnish means you'll have to pry them loose and then move them. This prying process might result in the thread becoming unraveled or even breaking. If it's any consolation, even my sitar had this problem. I eventually removed all the frets, sanded the embedded marks in the varnish and revarnished the sitar. But this was a lot of work! Don't attempt this yourself unless you are good at this sort of thing.

The only recourse is to re-tie the frets. If you have already brought a sitar and are experiencing this problem then call our Institute or visit our catalog by clicking here. We have some of the original tying threads available in rolls.

As a replacement, you can also use fishing line to tie the frets. Don't go above the 25 pound variety as it is too hard to pull over the frets. Although it does not look exotic, it lacks friction so it slips during the tying process, and it can be difficult to install, it is inexpensive and works well. It can also be very hard on the wood especially where the knot is tied. This can damage the wood surface under the knot. Therefore make sure you do this knot over the plastic decoration piece and not the wood.

The next thing you need to do is invest in a good quality tone generator. Above are two of the ones we carry. The Sabine is less expensive but the Seiko is the one I like due to its VU meter that is more visual. For many years I was using a mouth blown pitch pipe. That's the cheap way out. If you are tuning to the key of C then get that one. But tuning the sitar for a beginner is a bear. So you might have a bit of a struggle. If you can dish out the funds, get a guitar tuner from a music store in your area. These days there is a lot of variety. What you need is a tone reader and a generator. Many of the newer, less expensive, tuners are only readers. They make the task of tuning visual. You see a little led light that tells you when your instrument has the true note. Click here to view the tuner I recommend. We have these available in our store incase you wish to order one.

My personal feeling is that we are working with an audio medium so while the reader is a nice tool for an accomplished musician, the new student will find this can be very difficult. It will also not cultivate your ears to read and react to the necessary tuning proceedures. So buy the tuner with a tone generator. Hear the Sa note and then try tuning it on the sitar. But to save you some money, I've devised a bunch of midi files taht you can use for tuning your sitar. Now aren't you happy you've joined the Internet?

Here's how you go about tuning your sitar.

One thing to remember is that the tuner is set to the Western Equal Temperament tuning. There is a work around to this. In Indian music the concern is to play harmonically pure intervals. Some refer to this as just intonation. I personally use harmonics to set my strings. This process can be intimidating especially to the untrained ear. But believe me, your sitar will sound celestial if you tune it the way I'm going to show you.

If you have a tone genertor that allows for alternate tunings then pick the "Just Intonation," setting. For everyone with only an equal temperament module, I'll show you a way to correct the intonation in another lesson. For now, go ahead and tune to the notes your tone module produces. It'll atleast give you a good head start. If you intend to play your sitar with other Western instruments, you might actually have to tune it to play equal temperament. Otherwise there will be a distinctive intonation compatibility problem when you start playing together.

Tuning Tones

Tune your first wire to the fourth note, Ma (F). Now the first fret is Ma tivar (f#), the second is Pa (G) and so on.

Next tune your 2nd wire to Sa. Here is a tone to help you do that.

Now tune your third wire to Pa (5th). Here is a tone for this. Remember this note is in the lower octave called the Mandar Saptak.

Now tune your 4th wire to Sa. This is the same note as in #2 above. The two strings should be the same gauge in most sitars. But in some sitars this string is of a thicker gauge. It is used for slow meditative improvisations. The problem with having this string is that in faster movements it flops around and is distractive. Sitar with this string sometimes has a little metal latch installed on the last fret (the one closest to the bridge) so one can tuck the string onto the latch when the faster movements are anticipated.

If you have this thicker gauge string installed then tune it to the lower octave Sa also called "Ati Mandar Shadaja - Sa (C)". Here is a tone for that

The fifth string is also tuned to Pancham (5th note) but it is an octave higher then #3. Here is that note

The sixth string, is tuned to the tonic, Shadaja, but is an octave higher than #2. It is also called the "Taar Shadaja". Here is that note

The seventh string, is also tuned to the tonic, Shadaja, but is two octaves higher than #2, or an octave higher than #6. Both the 6th and the 7th strings thus sound in unison. This note is also called the "Ati Tar Shadaja". Here is that note

There can be further variations between the 5th, 6th and 7th chikari strings. Try experimenting with them for example: #5 - Ga below middle C
#6 - Sa an octave above the #2 Sa String
#7 - Pa above middle C

The Chikari tonal landscape aids in the swaroop of the raga being played. So pay heed to this and create your combinations to match! So now you should have all your top string in tune. But before you go any further check all of them again. As you tune your sitar, it is quite possible that the changing tension will detune some of the strings. So you might have to do this a few times before the strings settle in. A new set is most succeptable to this problem. Proper stretching is recommended after a new string set install. I have released a sitar tutor DVD that is specifically targeted to "Changing Your Sitar Strings" that covers thoroughly this labor intensive task with special attention to creating proper loops and precautions. This link will also take you to our catalog.

Upcoming Lessons

Tuining the sympathetic Strings of your sitar, How to hold the sitar, Proper Hand Positions and fingering, Sitar String Gauges, Proper Sitting Position, Let's produce some music, and much more so come on back.

1 � 2 � 3 � 4 � 5 � 6 � 7 � 8 � 9

Please Note: All content is copyright �2003 Ashwin Batish. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying, photocopying, transmitting this document on hard paper or electronically or by any other means is strictly prohibited and unlawful. You have our permission to link to this page.

Sitar music

The sitar is a long-necked, multi-stringed (usually seventeen-stringed) instrument which originated from the Indian subcontinent in the thirteenth century. It is primarily used in Hindustani classical music, and its more visible presence in the Western world is due to musicians such as Ravi Shankar, one of the most famous masters of the sitar, and his teaching of and work with George Harrison of The Beatles. This tag also includes artists and bands that utilize the sitar as part of their… read more

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