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new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:54 am

I was in the music store and all I did was just pick it up and play just a few notes, honest, then more, then chords. Suddenly it's here at home and still making me grin and my fingers are sore.
Danelectro Baby Sitar
but -
the intonation is seriously out. Internet research suggests that very little can be done and I should live with it. Danelectro website is no help. There is nothing to adjust on the bridge or tailpiece (to my untrained eye) except possibly some height on the entire bridge unit.
O Guru's of Intonation - would adjusting height help? But then that would bugger the strings relationship of sitting against the special bridge which is what gives it the wonderful buzz.
I will take it back to the store and see if their techs can figure it out.
Still - it's a blast to play!
but if anybody has a suggestion? Please share.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:51 am

Photo of the bridge section?
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby Wonks » Wed Sep 20, 2017 8:35 am

I agree that web searches show little hope, though other people report theirs being a a 'little' out, so there may be variations in production models, or it may simply be different perceptions of "in tune-ness". I suspect that with the buzz-bridge, the sitar will never really be in tune, as the string's contact with the bridge at various points along its length will cause lots of small pitch shifts as the vibrating length of the string is constantly changing.

But if you think it gets consistently more sharp or flat as you go up the neck, then there's nothing else to do but unscrew the bridge, plug the screw holes, re-site the bridge and screw it back down again. You should be able to clamp the bridge with the middle strings taken off, in order to align it and find the best position for the outer strings to get the best compromise position.

Image

But the nature of the bridge means that there will always be an intonation compromise with some strings a bit sharp and some a bit flat at the best of times. You can't angle the bridge so it gives the sort of basic intonation adjustment that an acoustic guitar has, as the strings have to run parallel with the V-grooves.

The bridge could have been made better, with the back of the bridge angled instead of being flat, and it's one of those things you probably could do to the bridge yourself if you were prepared to make a new notched metal saddle. But it would be easy to get it wrong, and the Gotoh sitar bridge they've used costs around £120 in the UK as a replacement (you might find one for less).

It's a ridiculous price for a bit of moulded plastic and a strip of steel, but they are probably made in limited quantities and so you pay the price.

The only alternative is to make your own bridge. EYB used to make an intonatable electric sitar bridge http://www.eyb-guitars.de/Eyb-English/sitarbridge.html (which cost about 3x the Gotoh price as it was all handmade) but looking at the pictures, it's probably something a hobby metalworker could make up. The important thing is that the back of the bridge block can be set higher than the front of the block.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:28 pm

Thanks Mr. Wonks. I found the EYB sitar and thought their solution was brilliant but haven't been able to track the company down. They might be out of business, but I will keep searching.
I figure for recording I can always retune for the part being played and if I ever use it live then me jumping up and down in spandex along with high volume levels will distract any audience member being able to hear if it is in tune (!)

On a serious note - The twelfth fret is definitely out on every string so moving the entire bridge may be the best option. I shall test the 1 year warranty and see if I can get a pro to do it properly. The adventure continues
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby Guest271017 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:39 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Thanks Mr. Wonks. I found the EYB sitar and thought their solution was brilliant but haven't been able to track the company down. They might be out of business, but I will keep searching.
I figure for recording I can always retune for the part being played and if I ever use it live then me jumping up and down in spandex along with high volume levels will distract any audience member being able to hear if it is in tune (!)

On a serious note - The twelfth fret is definitely out on every string so moving the entire bridge may be the best option. I shall test the 1 year warranty and see if I can get a pro to do it properly. The adventure continues

If you're going to a luthier, maybe there's a suitable, adjustable upgrade so it could be perfect?
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby Wonks » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:50 pm

Apart from possible height adjustment issues, I'm not sure what there is to stop you taking off the metal saddle and putting the plastic section in front of a hardtail Strat-style bridge.

You are starting to get into a fair bit of woodwork and probable body routing though. And if it's typical Dano construction with Masonite top and bottom, that may not be possible.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:38 pm

Update -
I spoke to the guitar tech at the local shop. When I said the words Baby Sitar he made one of those funny noises. He said improper bridge placement is the way the Koreans build these. Most of them get sent back to Danelectro. Seems it's been a problem for years but they won't solve it
But as mine is under warranty the tech said let's try some things before we send it back. He will either move the bridge and redrill the holes or move the neck an eighth of an inch away from the body, making the string length longer. It's a bolt on neck so this is all doable.

I did some test recordings for fun. The lipstick pickup puts out quite a low signal. Still workable though. If I wanted perfection I guess I should get a bank loan and drop 10k$ on that one perfect instrument! :clap: :clap:
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby forumuser641429 » Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:15 am

Hey, mine arrived last week and I almost sent it back. I didn't find this discussion until tonight, and so far have not had a techie look at it, but on my own I figured out that the three screws on the bridge need to be balanced just right in order to have perfect (well, it's hard to tell with an electric sitar) intonation across all strings up and down the neck while also idealizing the buzz per string. Even just barely touching the screw without noticeably turning it, is enough to radically change the relationships.

I'm thinking of putting flatwound strings on mine and even going up to 11's (maybe not if I go to flats though; D'addario makes a '1" set also).

I freaked out initially, because the third string was a half-step flat by the 12th fret but then got back in tune by the 18th fret. The other strings barely had an issue, so that was when I noticed the three screws on the bridge and began to speculate their might be a very intricate relationship that could cause just one string to go out of tune (there were minor intonation issues with the neighbouring 2nd and 4th strings as well).

I will print this discussion before visiting a technician though, in case they find issues I didn't notice and it helps them decide what to do. The suggested replacement bridge is a good idea as well.

BTW I also bought the Ravish Sitar pedal from Eleectro-Harmonix, but haven't really perfected the sound yet. It's too much with the Baby Sitar, unless you use it almost strictly for the sympathetic string emulation. But if I go to stiffer strings, I may find a tiny amount of sitar modulation on the core pitch might help. I do feel the 10's are a bit too light overall. But the flatwound sets use a wound 3rd, which maybe would cause more issues with bridge height adjustment for intonation, yet might also help with a more balanced sound.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Nov 18, 2018 12:28 pm

Hi forumuser641429, and welcome to the SOS Forums! 8-)

Thanks for such a helpful 1st post as well - you're bound to become popular here ;)


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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:08 am

work out what gauge the strings need to be to fit the bridge position.....


then live with the compromise....



also worth noting that usually the string on them when you buy them "new" are utterly shagged and incapable of stable intonation.....

start by fitting brand new set.... and seeing how it goes....

then increase or decrease the mass of each string according to the intonation requirements.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby forumuser641429 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:56 pm

I just got it back from setup work today.

The flats are PERFECT on this instrument -- intonation is better across and up the neck, and the timbral balance is even, with just enough buzz from the special bridge but without the fret noise and other contributors to competing high frequency resonance that tarnished my initial impressions.

The specialist I brought it to, says this is a way better and more interesting instrument than the Jerry Jones models were.

Note that the top "E" string isn't very useful other than for added resonance, but a real sitar specializes the purpose of each string anyway. One needs a light touch with this instrument.

I haven't had a chance yet to see which amp it likes best. Surprisingly, it is now louder acoustically than with the round wounds, so probably can be practiced unplugged.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:32 pm

If you don’t mind sharing - what were the final gauges you ended up with? Your experiences have rekindled my enthusiasm for the instrument. I found it fun and inspirational to play!
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby forumuser641429 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:54 am

.010”, .014”, .020”w, .028”w, .038”w, .048”w

I'm glad I didn't go to the heavier 11's now, as this set is just the perfect tension.

This is the D'addario ECG23 set.
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Re: new Baby Sitar - intonation not included?

Postby bostjan64 » Mon Mar 08, 2021 9:58 pm

Sorry to come in here as a new user just to bump an ancient thread, but I was wondering how these adventures turned out.

I had seen the horrible reviews of the Danelectro Baby Sitar and some subpar reviews for other similar instruments, almost all of them citing the lack of intonation adjustment, so I decided to get something with adjustable intonation for my project.

I went ahead and ordered the Eyb Sitarbridge. While it's not a perfect product (what ever is?), I believe it is the best option out there for something like this.

I also tried to make my own sitarbridge saddles out of Delrin plastic, but I just ended up melting them when I tried to machine them. I'm only out about $12 in materials from that learning experience. I made a one-piece tambura bridge out of the same material and it works gloriously well. Keep in mind, though, that tambura isn't a fretted instrument, so intonation adjustment is not an issue.

My particular instrument is a bit of a mess. I took an old seven string I was hardly using anymore and removed the bridge, drilled some new holes, and installed two banjo tuners. The idea was to move the bridge over toward the bass side and have the treble side of the neck unstrung, like a real sitar, then to add two high-pitched drone strings (like 2/3 of a real sitar) making use of the banjo tuners, and then leave four strings for playing, like a real sitar. Maybe I'll refret it later so the notes are tuned like a real sitar. I also added a piezo pickup and some other stuff that sort of is off-topic (I think I'm already trying your patience).

Anyway, the Eyb Sitarbridge... It was a little expensive for a bridge, but, I believe, well justified by the novelty and quality. First off, as a bridge itself, ignoring the sitar/buzz effect, it's possibly one of the best I've played. The intonation is super easy to adjust by unlocking a setscrew and then gliding the saddle up or down. I'm not sure if it's friction or something magnetic, but the action is nice in the adjustment. Adjusting height for each string is two screws, but still super-easy and smooth. The machining is good. It's comfy to play.

The buzzing effect is achieved well on the wound strings. However, and this may be because it's new; the effect on the plain strings is very touchy. Eyb said to let the instrument settle for a few days and try setting it up again. It's now been two days for me and it's still giving me some fits and starts.

There are a few limitations. One thing I wanted to do was crazy sitar-bends. The way this bridge is constructed, is that there are flat or nearly flat inserts that rest against the strings. If you bend a little bit, I think it's okay, probably, but, in my case, crazy bending causes the string to slide off of the insert, causing some undesired sounds. The adjustment of the buzzing on the saddles is pretty easy - a single worm screw. On the wound strings, I just set the intonation first, then adjusted the buzz screw until there was buzzing. Easy-peasey. The 3rd string has (so far) been a nightmare). I got it to buzz open, then there was no buzz fretted. Then I adjusted it to buzz on a fretted note, and then on the open string - no buzz. I took the string height up until it was ridiculously high; it was easier to get buzzing either open or fretted, but still couldn't get both, and even getting any buzzing seemed to be the difference of a tiny fraction of a turn of the screw. Once I got buzzing established, I'd tune the string to pitch again and the buzzing would go away. Since everything else about the bridge is so easy, I swapped out the saddles, thinking maybe I got one with a small error in machining or something, but no, it seems to just be the nature of the design. I guess if you want no buzz on the open string, it's fine, which is kind of where I'm at.

As for the tone of the buzzing, well, it's really cool when it works, but it's not nearly as overtone-laden as a real sitar or even the block of maple that I screwed a piece of hand-shaped plastic onto.

I'm still impressed with the Eyb bridge. I'd recommend it if you want a sitar effect on guitar, but I'd also warn that it's really only the best option because there are no great options; it's still far from perfect. Eyb was communicative and a great seller overall. I just think that the electric sitar-guitar is maybe an area where demand is so low that a perfect option has yet to be widely made.

I'd suggest that the saddles should be parabolic, sloping slightly away from the string going toward the neck-facing side of the bridge. I'd suggest that the saddles should be fairly uniformly sloped over the entire piece, rather than have such an insert. But the challenge is that they have to be made out of something like graph-tec material or a very hard plastic. No one makes such a thing. Machining so many little screwholes for tiny worm screws is difficult - probably why the Eyb device costs as much as it does. If I had something similar machined at a pro shop as a one-off, it'd cost 2-3 times as much. If I did it myself, I'd be ruining so many pieces in the process, that it'd cost even more.

Ultimately, in my experience, I think curb your expectations and then go ahead and get the Eyb Sitarbridge. As a bridge in general, it's excellent. As a sitar-guitar-bridge, it's the best you can buy, I think.
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