✦ Setar ✦

Setar

 

Setar

Setar is a string or stringed instrument. In these musical instruments a stretched vibrating string produces the initial sound. They are called Chordophones as well. "Setâr" consists of "Se" and "Târ". The word "Târ" means string and the word "Se" means three in Persian and for this reason "Setâr" means a stringed instrument with three strings. Setar is a plucked string instrument and and the right index finger nail is used as a plectrum to pluck or strum the instrument. Setar is a fretted string instrument, thus the instrument has frets that have been tied on the neck. Setar is one of the main instruments of Persian art music.

Setar Strings

Setar has four strings (two single strings and a course made up of two strings). The first string from down to up is named the "White String" and made of steel. The second string from down to up is named the "Yellow String" and made of Bronze or Phosphor-Bronze. The two strings in the course (the third and fourth string from down to up) have different names and are tuned in an octave or to different tones. The thiner string of the course is named the "Drone String" and made of steel and the thicker string of the course is named the "Bass String" and made of Bronze or Phosphor-Bronze. Setar strings are used in different thicknesse or gauges. These gauges are chosen in thousandths of a meter. Here I am going to suggest you some gauges for Setar strings. You can use 0.16 mm or 0.18 mm for the white and drone strings, 0.18 mm or 0.20 mm for the yellow string and 0.30 or 0.35 for the bass string. The earlier generation of Setar had three strings and as mentioned the contemporary Setar has four strings, but we will consider the Setar, as an instrument with three strings, because we consider the drone and bass strings as a course.

 

Setar Strings

 

Setar Frets

Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings' vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. Setar frets are mostly made of gut, embedded around the neck and located at the points that are determined according to the ears of the musicians. Every fret consists of 3 or 4 threads according to the tradition. The frets are moveable, because we need sometimes to move the frets to get a new arrange of frets. Frets worn down from heavy use can be replaced. The number of Setar frets can be between 22 and 28. I show you in the following picture the frets of my Persian Tar in an Octave. It can be useful for Setar as well, because the system of fretting in Setar and Persian Tar is the same. The frets between whole tone and half tone frets representing the micro tones. Some Setar players and makers use frets made of nylon or metal.

 

Setar Frets

 

Setar Tunings

The tonal center or the base tone of the starting piece of any "Dastgâh" has a great role in tuning the Setar. We are going to assume that the white string is tuned in "c". Most of the times the yellow string is tuned in "g". I am going to call the drone and bass strings as tuning strings, because the tuning of these strings change with choosing a new Dastgah or with playing the same Dastgah from a different base tone. I am going to present here the traditional tunings of Setar. Please pay attention to the order of strings: from left to right white string (1st), yellow string (2nd), drone string (3th) and bass stirng (4th). Please consider that the yellow string is tuned lower than the white string.

Mahur

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
C C G C C

Rast Panjgah

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
F C F C C

Shur

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
G C G C F

Nava

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
G C G D D

Homayun

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
G C G D D

Chahargah

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
C C G C C

Segah

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
A
1/4FLAT
C G A
1/4FLAT
F

Esfahan

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
G C G D D

Tork

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
B
FLAT
C G B
FLAT
F

Afshari

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
C C G C F

Abu'ata

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
C C G C F

Dashti

base tone white strings yellow strings drone string bass string
D C G C F