Difference between Guitar and Sitar

Key Difference: Both, guitar and a sitar, are types of string instruments. However, there are many differences between the two such as the shape of the instruments, the number of strings on each, the way they are played, etc.

If one knows anything about a guitar or a sitar, then it very difficult for them to mix the two.  However, for someone who is not acquainted with either it may be confusing to try to identify one from the other. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is to see the different shapes on each. The typical guitar has a hollow hourglass like body with a long neck. However, the actual shape of the body may differ depending on the model. Also, electric guitars do not have a hollow body. In contrast, a sitar has a gourd shaped hollow body and a very long neck. It may also have another gourd shaped hollow located on the neck for more resonance.

While a guitar and a sitar do look quite different, there are still many other similarities and difference between the two. Firstly, both are types of string instruments. However, guitars usually have 6 strings, whereas a sitar can have 18, 19 or 20 strings. Out of these only 6 or 7 are played strings, while the others are sympathetic strings that provide resonance.

Another difference is that the sitar is played by sitting on the ground and placing the sitar against the knee. Hence, one does not need to carry the weight of the instrument, similar to the guitar which is played either sitting on a chair or standing by balancing the weight of the instrument against the body. Additionally, the sitar is usually strummed with the hand, whereas a guitar can be strummed by hand or with a pick.

Guitars are versatile, they are utilized in many different genres of music, such as, and not limited to blues, bluegrass, country, flamenco, folk, jazz, jota, mariachi, metal, punk, reggae, rock, soul, and many forms of pop. On the other hand, a sitar is traditionally used in classical Indian music. Still, the popularity of the sitar has only been increasing since the 60s. Sitars are now being used in mainstream Bollywood music, as well as in various other genres, especially pop. Sitars are commonly included to give the track a bit of a cultural edge.

 Despite the differences between the two, they make a great combination. In fact, many guitarists and sitarists often collaborate. The lines between a guitar and a sitar are further blurred by developments of instruments such as the electric sitar. The electric sitar is a type of electric guitar that is designed to mimic the sound of the traditional sitar. Some models may also have sympathetic strings, typically located on the left side of the instrument, in addition to the six playing strings. Some models also try to replicate the shape of the sitar.

Comparison between Guitar and Sitar:

 

Guitar

Sitar

Type of

String Instrument, Subtype of a chordophone

Stringed Instrument

Shape

A long hollow neck with a hollow resonating chamber. The shape of this chamber may vary. Electric guitars usually have

Sympathetic strings, bridge design, a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber.

Construction

Traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings

Traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings

Strings

Anywhere from 4 to 18 strings, usually having 6

A sitar can have 18, 19 or 20 strings. Six or seven of these are played strings which run over curved, raised frets, and the remainders are sympathetic strings which run underneath the frets and resonate in sympathy with the played strings.

Strum

Typically played by strumming or plucking the strings with the right hand while fretting (or pressing against the fret) the strings with the left hand. Also commonly strummed with a pick.

Typically played by strumming or plucking the strings with the right hand while fretting the strings with the left hand.

Sound

The sound is projected either acoustically or through electrical amplification, via use of amps

Has a timbre sound which is projected acoustically through the gourd

Types

Three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar), the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar.

There are three popular modern styles of sitar: the "gayaki style" sitars, the full decorated "instrumental style" sitars, and the instrumental style.

Genres

Used in a wide variety of musical genres worldwide, primarily in blues, bluegrass, country, flamenco, folk, jazz, jota, mariachi, metal, punk, reggae, rock, soul, and many forms of pop.

Used mainly in Hindustani music and Indian classical music. Is gaining popularity in western music.

Image Courtesy: stereogum.com, buckinghammusic.com

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