Electric Sarod

 

As  a child, I had this funny habit of breaking and re-making my toys.
Elders in my family thought, I would probably be a scientist or an engineer, but, destiny had other ideas.

I was blessed to be born in a family of musicians and I am sure some of the genes of innovations have rubbed on to me.

When I was a school boy, my father made an instrument, which was a combination of the sarod and a veena. I watched closely and thought someday I would follow suit.

It was probably in 2009, that I chanced upon a flat strip of plank in my house. I thought of experimenting with it. This strip was barely 2 ½ feet in length. I fixed a steel plate on it, with all the other features of a guitar except that it did not have a sound box of a guitar. I nicknamed it ‘patti-veena’ , a sort of a funny name though. I did not use it much because it was more of a toy.

In 2010, I had to perform with a combo from my university. Everybody had high voltage electronic equipment. My sarod, although a truly majestic medium sounded soft and mild comparatively and as soon as the sound was increased that was a feedback problem, so there was nothing that could be done.

I then thought of fixing a pick-up but, alas, even that didn’t work because of the uneven surface of the hide. I had to come up with an alternative solution as fusion music was an area that I loved experimenting in.

I started brainstorming and came up with the concept idea of making an electric sarod of my own. Had always heard of the phrase ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ , but now I knew what it exactly meant. My father’s student had an old lucknow sarod that was just lying in his house unused.  I asked him if I could use it and told him what my plans were and he happily gave it to me.

I removed all the tuning pegs, filled all the taraf and chikari holes and cut off the headstock of that sarod, then went searching in the timber market for suitable wood that wouldn’t snap or crack under too much pressure and bought a block of it home and made a new headstock for this sarod, it was now something that looked like a guitar headstock but fitted perfectly onto the sarod to give this instrument a new look. I retained just 6 strings instead of the usual 25 strings. 4 main strings and 2 support strumming strings. While I was working on this body and designing something that looked like a sarod still different if closely noticed, I ordered for an active EMG pickup from the USA , to be fitted.
I coloured the body funky red, and replaced the sarod hide with a white acrylic sheet, that from a distance looked like the white skin. Got the idea and inspiration for this from my father’s creation, the Surtarang , where he replaced the sarod hide with a wooden veena top.

Once the EMG was delivered I started with the wiring and placement work and the instrument was finally ready. Looked a bit like a red fun toy but the sound was load and I had complete control over the exact tone and volume that I wanted, without any sort of feedback issues.
I used this new red sarod in a stage performance now with the same combo that I had performed with a few months before and this time it was much better and clearer.

There was a loss of the original sarod tone and depth to a certain extent because of the removal of the skin , but now I had a new unique tone that was a blend between a sarod and slide guitar.

Happy with the outcome of the show, I decided I needed to get one made properly. No old sarod with blocked holes. A new one, specifically made with the intention of it becoming an electric sarod.

My father showed my sarod maker what I had already made myself and asked him to make a similar version of this body using his skill, while I was away on a concert tour. And weeks later when I returned surprised me with the new body as a gift.

I was very excited and immediately got to working on it. It was just the wooden body and the plate, so started making holes for the machineheads  and cut out a new acrylic sheet and placed the same EMG pickup from the old instrument onto this. This one looked much more lighter and sleek as the body was made by a professional.

I used this one for several concerts since then, experimented with the pickup position, string gauges, tone combinations, different bridge materials and even put in a guitar processor in the chain to try out various tones and finally landed on the tone I was looking for.

I played many concerts with many different artistes from around the globe with this new electric sarod that I named the Esarod and have received rave reviews from my listeners and critics.

I am currently working on a new instrument which, I promise would be whackier than this and something totally unheard of.