Sitars and Waveshaping

Ingo Debus debus at
Mon Jan 19 10:42:59 CET 1998

media at wrote:
> I'm no sitar player, but I have tried to get sitar sounds by using um uh a
> "popular self-sequenced monosynth" and a six-band digital resonator.  You
> see, a sitar has several strings that serve as drones -- they resonate when
> other notes are sounded, but aren't directly played.  What I found is that
> you have to seriously detune the resonators so that they do not have the
> relationship of a Western scale, but I still couldn't get it right.  Does
> anyone know the specific frequencies of a sitar's drones??

A friend of mine plays sitar. I can ask him.

> So what I think you need to get the effect of these drones are number of
> resonant filters in parallel.  You might also have to add in a way to mix
> in feedback as in a real sitar all the parts can "hear" each other.

The DX7 can simulate the sitar sound pretty well. Some operators can be
used for the plucked strings and some for the resonant strings. The bad
thing with the DX7 is, the pitch bender always affects all operators.
But this can be avoided if there is one voice for the plucked strings
stacked with another for the resonant strings. Pitch bending is
essential for the plucked strings, but of course not for the resonant
It might be interesting if the drones sound louder when certain notes
are played (those with fractions or multiples of the drones'
frequencies). This might be possible with the fractional scaling feature
of the DX7II/TX802. I never tried this.

> Beyond that you will need a contoller that can play Indian scales.

Why? Are there Indian scales with more than 12 semitones per octave?

>Since I
> believe (but I am guessing based on vague memories) the drones are also
> fretted, you will need a seperate controller for the filters as well.

As far as I remember, the drone strings do not have frets. They are
placed *under* the frets of the plucked strings. They can be plucked
too, giving a harp-like sound.


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