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An electric sitar is a kind of electric guitar designed to mimic the sound of the sitar, a traditional musical instrument of India. Depending on the manufacturer and model, these instruments bear varying degrees of resemblance to the traditional sitar. Most resemble the electric guitar in the style of the body and headstock, though some have a body shaped to resemble that of the sitar (such as a model made by Danelectro).
The instrument was developed in the late 1960s by session guitarist Vinnie Bell in partnership with Danelectro. At the time, many western musical groups began to use the sitar, which is generally considered a difficult instrument to learn. By contrast, the electric sitar, with its standard guitar fretboard and tuning, is a more familiar fret arrangement for a guitarist to play. The twangy sitar-like tone comes from a flat bridge adding the necessary buzz to the guitar strings.
In addition to the six playing strings, most electric sitars have sympathetic strings, typically located on the left side of the instrument (though some do not have these). These strings have their own pickups (typically lipstick pickups are used for both sets of strings), and are usually tuned with a harp wrench (a difficult process). A unique type of bridge, a "buzz bridge", developed by Vinnie Bell, helps give the instrument its distinctive sound. Some electric sitars have drone strings in lieu of sympathetic strings. A few models, such as the Jerry Jones "Baby" sitar, lack both sympathetic and drone strings, while still retaining the distinctive buzz bridge.
The "sympathetic" strings on most electric sitars do not resonate strongly enough to match the effect of an acoustic sitar. There are resonant chambers in the solid-body instruments that have Masonite tops, however it is not enough to excite the 13 strings into true sympathy. The strings are tensioned over two rosewood bridges with fret material as saddles so the sound is more like an autoharp than a sitar.
Versions of the electric sitar were also developed mainly in India. These are smaller sized sitars that look like a sitar. These sitars are tuned the same way as the original classical sitar would be tuned.
Because the tone quality and playing technique differ significantly from that of the sitar, it is typically used in rock, jazz, and fusion styles. Notable early hit singles featuring electric sitar include Eric Burdon and the Animals' "Monterey", Maná's "Siembra el Amor", Joe South's "Games People Play", Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her" (played by Eddie Willis) and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", B.J. Thomas' "Hooked on a Feeling" (played by Reggie Young), The Spinners' "It's a Shame", The Box Tops "Cry Like a Baby" as well as some sides by The Stylistics and The Delfonics.
Other recording artists who have featured the electric sitar include:
- Steppenwolf ("Snowblind Friend", played by producer Richard Podolor)
- Mandrake Memorial
- Kronos Quartet
- Genesis (in "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)")
- Yes (in "Close To The Edge", "Siberian Khatru", "Tales From Topographic Oceans", "To Be Over") and their guitarist Steve Howe on his solo albums
- Mike Oldfield used it on "Flying Start" (on Islands)
- The Clash (in "Armagideon Time")
- Todd Rundgren
- Redbone ("Come and Get Your Love")
- Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods ("Who Do You Think You Are?")
- The Grass Roots "Glory Bound"
- Guns N' Roses (in "Pretty Tied Up")
- Lenny Kravitz ("It Ain't Over 'til It's Over")
- Robbie Dupree ("Steal Away")
- Metallica (in "Wherever I May Roam")
- Steely Dan (in "Do It Again")
- Dan Fogelberg (in "Nexus")
- George Duke and Stanley Clarke in ("Sweet Baby")
- Roy Wood
- Eric Johnson
- Mystical Sun
- Pearl Jam (in "Who You Are")
- Screaming Trees in "Halo of Ashes"
- Redd Kross (in "Play My Song")
- Alice in Chains (in "What the Hell Have I")
- Torsten de Winkel
- Flower Travellin' Band
- Manic Street Preachers (in "Tsunami" and "I'm Not Working")
- Hiroshi Takano
- Clarence White
- Ronnie Wood
- Kaoru of Dir en grey
- Pat Metheny (notably on "Last Train Home")
- Steve Vai (notably on "For the Love of God")
- Rory Gallagher (in "Philby")
- Mint Royale
- Steve Miller
- Eddie Van Halen (on "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" & "Primary")
- Tony Hicks of The Hollies
- Schizo Da Maddcap
- Rob Mastrianni (Beatbox Guitar, Next Tribe).
- Raagnagrok is a contemporary duo using electric sitar and electronic.
- Tom Petty features electric sitar on "Don't Come Around Here No More".
- Khalil Balakrishna, when playing live for Miles Davis.
On his award-winning 1969 instrumental rendition of the Joe South tune "Games People Play" saxophonist King Curtis teamed with guitarist Duane Allman on the electric sitar (he also played slide guitar). This can be found on the Duane Allman album An Anthology.
The 1971 album Somethin' Else recorded by Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass prominently featured an electric sitar, a first for the country music industry. The instrument provided accompaniment on such songs as "Snowbird", "Rose Garden", "Are You from Dixie?" and others.
Glass Hammer guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh performed electric sitar in the band's song from 2009 to his departure in 2018.
In 2010, MGMT released their album Congratulations, where the electric sitar was played on many tracks by lead singer and guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden. Blues musician Buddy Guy played, among other guitars, a Coral electric sitar in shows on his 2010 tour.
The 2015 song "Multi-Love" by Unknown Mortal Orchestra makes use of the electric sitar.
- Jerry Jones - Several Sitar Models
- Star's - Coral copy Sitar Model
- Italia - Modena Sitar
- Pygmy sitar- electro acoustic sitar models
- G.S. Wyllie (acoustic, as played by Paul Simon on "Love," from the album You're the One)
- Linda Manzer's acoustic model
- Versoul - 12-string acoustic and electric versions
- EYB - Sitar bridges made to convert traditional electric guitars to sitar-guitars
- M. Hunzeker: Custom Instruments/Sitar Guitar Hybrid
- Sitar in popular music
- Sitar in jazz
- Electric mandolin
- Electric upright bass
- Electric violin
- "Star's Electric Sitar". Quest International Ltd. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
- "The Worlds First Electric Sitar". Danelectro Bellzouki, Hawaiian Lapsteel, and The Electric Sitar. VintageDanelectro.com. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
Late 1960's Coral Sitar 3S19 Image Image 1 (with Original Gig Bag), 2, 3, 4 (with Original Hard Case)
- US A bridge for stringed musical instruments of the guitar or sitar type having a relatively wide upper surface which is contacted linearly by the strings, the bridge having a front to rear convexly arcuate upper surface and being angularly adjustable by rocking and then locking the bridge in a desired position. The rocking adjustment of the bridge effectively shifts the position of contact by the strings axially of the instrument in accordance with requirements of dimensional guitar characteristics. 3422715, [|Gambella, Vincent] & Nathan Daniel, "Bridge Construction in Guitar-like Instruments", issued 1969
- HypWax (December 14, 1998). "Odd Pop: Pop Sitar". Hyp Records.