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Tuning & Strings

The tonic is the central element of the sitar's tuning. It can be chosen individually, usually in a range between c and d. Often it is c#.


In this style of playing, the second string (jure) is tuned to the tonic, the fourth string (kharaj) one octave lower, the sixth (chikari) one octave higher and the seventh (chikari) two octaves higher. The fifth string (pancham chikari) is the fifth above the tonic and the third string (pancham) is the fifth in the low octave. The main playing string (baj or nayaki) is tuned to the fourth. When C# is chosen as the tonic, the tuning is as follows: f#, c#, G#, C#, g#, c#', c#".
The sympathetic strings (taraf) are tuned to the chosen scale, the longest sympathetic string is the tonic, and then they are tuned starting from the next lower seventh up to the high third. An important note can be tuned twice in the middle octave.

Tuning Sitar Ravi Shankar Style  Tuning Sitar Vilayat Khan Style

VILAYAT KHAN STYLE (Gandhar Pancham)

The first two strings, both high chikari strings and the pancham chikari are tuned just like on kharaj pancham sitars (see above). Instead of the two bass melody strings, pancham and kharaj, only one additional chikari steel string is used for gandhar pancham sitars though. This string is tuned to the major or minor third, depending on the respective scale. The complete tuning of the playing strings with c# as tonic is as follows: f#, c#, f, g#, c#', c#". Tuning of the sympathetic strings usually starts with the seventh and goes straight up the scale to the third of the high octave.

The following charts show the tuning of kharaj pancham and gandhar pancham sitars with a tonic of c# in bilaval that (= western major scale), giving the Indian name of the string, its note in full, its note in Indian sargam notation and the western equivalent.

For kharaj pancham sitars the following strings are commonly used:
1. 0.30 mm steel
2. 0.40 mm bronze
3. 0.55 mm bronze
4. 0.85 mm brass
5. 0.27 mm steel
6./7. 0.22 mm steel

These and many other strings can be ordered as complete sets, single strings or in coils from India Instruments.