Persian Setar

A setar (Persian: سه‌تار‎, pronounced [seˈt̪ʰɒːɾ]) is a stringed instrument, a type of lute used in Persian traditional music, played solo or accompanying voice. It is a member of the tanbur family of long-necked lutes with a range of more than two and a half octaves. Originally a three stringed instrument, a fourth string was added by the mid 19th century. It is played with the index finger of the right hand. It has been speculated that the setar originated in Persia by the 9th century C.E. A more conservative estimate says “it originated in the 15th century, or even earlier.” Although related to the tanbur, in recent centuries, the setar has evolved so that, musically, it more closely resembles the tar, both in tuning and playing style. According to Curt Sachs, Persians chose to name their lutes around the word tar, meaning string, combined with a word for the number of strings. Du + tar is the 2-stringed dutār, se + tar is the 3-stringed setār, čartar (4 strings), pančtār (5 strings). The modern Iranian instrument’s name سه‌تار setâr is a combination of سه se—meaning “three”—and تار târ—meaning “string”, therefore the word gives the meaning of “three-stringed” or “tri-stringed”. In spite of the instrument’s name implying it should have three strings, the modern instrument actually has four strings. One was added in the 19th century. Strings however are grouped so that musicians are still dealing with three groups or courses of strings, instead of four separately played strings. Other tanbur-family instruments share the setar name. Sharing the name may not mean a direct connection between the musical traditions. In Tajikistan, the Pamiri Setor is larger than the Iranian setar. It has 3 playing strings and sympathetic strings (as many as 8-12). It is played with a “thimblelike metal plectrum” worn on a finger. In Baluchistan, the setar is larger than the Iranian setar, and is a “rhythmic drone” instrument to accompany singing. Its three strings are set up to resemble the dutar’s two strings: one bass string and a pair of strings tune “a 4th higher.” In Pakistan, there exists the Chitrali sitar with 5 strings in 3 courses, with melody played on the top two strings.

If you are interested in Setar instrument and you want to buy it, you can refer to the store section of ShopiPersia website.


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