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Sitar, The Most Popular Ancient Indian Music Instrument

Sitar is the most recognized of the ancient Indian musical instruments. Sitars are plucked stringed musical instruments, originating from the lute family. It is played by strumming and fingering notes out along the neck of the guitar-like instrument.

The history of the Sitar traces its origins to an instrument first built under Medieval Muslim influence from the tanbur, a Middle Eastern lute with a distinctive long neck as well as from the veena, a narrow, intricately crafted Indian Zither. Although images similar to the sitar date back to 1800. Delhi, the more well-known form of the sitar had become prominent by the mid nineteenth century. The long hollow neck and gourd body produce a rich resonance and harmony, and is the dominant instrument used in Hindustani classical music and is played as an accompaniment to dance throughout India and Pakistan.

Sitar has been derived from the Persian word "Seh-Tar" ."Seh" means three in Persian and "Tar" means strings. There are two popular modern styles of sitar, the "gayaki style" sitars (sometimes called "Vilayat Khan style sitars") and the full decorated "instrumental style" sitars (sometimes called "Ravi Shankar style sitars").

Most popular sitar player: Ravi Shankar & Anoushka Shankar
The Sitar is a fretted instrument but the frets (metal bars) are tied on loosely enough to be slightly moved or tuned. The tuning of the frets is another feature that sets the sitar apart from western instruments. The Sitar is played in the natural or untempered tuning system. The ancient, natural, or untempered tuning system retains the perfect or natural tuning of each interval. It is believed that music played in the natural tuning system has a profoundly harmonizing effect on listeners.

The sitar player wears two mizrabs or thimble-like structures on his or her little finger. Whilst strumming the instrument with the mizrab, the player moves his other hand along the sitar's neck. Sitar music is enjoyed for leisure. In India, it is often played at Hindu and Sikh temples. 

George Harrison's sitar
In the late 1950s, Ravi Shankar (an Indian musician and composer) introduced the sitar in the western world. The sitar saw further use in popular music after The Beatles featured the sitar in their compositions, namely "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and "Within You Without You". Their use of the instrument came as a result of George Harrison taking lessons on how to play it from Ravi Shankar and Shambhu Das. Shortly after, The Rolling Stones used a sitar in "Paint It, Black" and a brief fad began for using the instrument in pop songs.
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