by David Courtney working tools


Surbahar is essentially a bass sitar.  It is substantially larger and is tuned about four steps lower than a regular sitar.  Its technique is similar enough to sitar so that musicians have no trouble going from one instrument to another.  The surbahar has an advantage over sitar in that it has a longer sustain and an ability to meend (glissando) up to an octave in a single fret.  Therefore it is possible to play complex melodies without using more than a single fret.  This instrument is very well suited to long slow alaps.  The instrument's main weakness is that its long sustain causes a fast jhala to become indistinct and muddy.  It is for this reason that some artists prefer to play the alap with surbahar but shift to sitar for gat and jhala.

One would think that since it does not tune to the same range that it would be impossible to play with sitar. Actually it is done quite simply.  For this one tunes it so that the baaj tar (main playing string) is set to a lower Sa instead of Ma.  This causes the note value of the frets to be different, but does allow the instrument to play an octave lower than a sitar.




Selected Video

Surbahar Part 2


Ustad Imrat Khan-Legendary Maestro of Surbahar and Sitar




Surbahar- Pt.Santhosh Banerjee





© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at [email protected]