The Setar is from the Tanbur family of Iranian stringed instruments.
It is from the plectrum/strum-based instruments of Iranian music which is played with the index finger of the right hand. This instrument is composed of 4 strings made from bronze and steel which are placed perpendicular to the neck of the instrument. It’s composed of 28 movable frets which are made from animal intestines or silk. The sound characteristics are fragile, nasal and slightly somber, covering a playing range of C4 to Ab5 which is around 2.5 octaves. Due to its unique tonality, the Setar has always been prominent to Sufi’s.
For the construction of the body of the instrument, woods like walnut, maple and mulberry tree wood are used. Mulberry tree wood is also used for the face of the body. Walnut wood is used for the construction of the neck. Bone is used for decorations on the neck and bridge of the instrument.
The methods behind building Setar’s have been passed on generation-to-generation through an oral manner. Since the construction method of the instrument has been kept completely traditional, all instruments are handmade and luthiers do not often use electrical machinery. Also, the woods used for the instruments normally have a life of more than 100 years and could for example originate from old wooden doors found in villages.
Setar’s have different build and design templates in which master luthiers have imposed their personal alterations and changes on them. One of the templates is known as the “Haj Taher” type which originates from the master luthier of the same name. His Setar’s are famous for their warm and deep sound and have become a criterion for overall Setar build and quality. I also follow this template in the building of my own instruments and my goal as a luthier is to keep this tradition alive but also to involve my own ideas and approaches to building Setar’s.
Shemiran, Tehran, Iran
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