How To Tune A Setar?


The setar is one of the stringed and mezrabi instruments of Iranian music, which is played with the nails of the index finger or plectrum. Contrary to its name that means the 3-stringed instrument, setar consists of four strings. The setar is a native Iranian instrument, and many music schools teach their students how to play it. In order to be able to play a beautiful song with an instrument, it is necessary to tune it well. One of the issues about this instrument is its tuning. In this article, the setar tuning and its related points are explained.

How To Tune A Setar?

playing setar

There are two general methods for tuning a setar. In the first method, a tuner is used, and the second method is called the aural or auditory method, The easiest possible way to tune a setar is the first method, which is to use a tuner.
But if you want to tune the instrument using the auditory method, you will need more experience; Because you must know the sound of the notes well. But there is a simple way to tune a setar in the auditory way. You can select the first string of the setar and tune it according to the tuner. Then, to tune the rest of the strings, it is enough to set the first one as the base and tune all the others accordingly.
To be a little more precise and get a better result, you can first tune the first string on second note and after that, you can tune other strings. On the first string where there is G fret, take the string and plunk with it. To get a better result, plunk it several times and listen carefully to the sound coming out each time. Keep the sound that comes out well in your mind; Because you will need it for tuning setar.
After you have done the above steps, tighten and loosen the second string very slowly so that it is close to the sound that you tested in the previous step. It is much better if the tuner is always by your hand while tuning the setar; Because you can tune your instrument better and more precisely.

In How Many Ways Can You Tune A Setar?

The method mentioned above is called the “C-G-C-C” tuning and is recognized by most music professionals as the basic setar tuning. But it is good to know that this method is not the only method of tuning a setar. But you can use many other methods to tune your instrument. Some of the common tuning methods are:

• The first method

In this method, the strings are in the order of “C – G – C – C”. But it is slightly different from the common method; Because in this type of tuning, the strings are tight and tensioned. This method is mostly used when a person intends to play solo; Because the clarity of the instrument’s sound increases in this model and its resonance decreases. This model is the model of classical music pitch and it is mostly used for single-stringed performances.

• The second method

In the second method of tuning, the three strings of the strings are in the order of “B-flat – F – B-flat – B-flat “. The second method is usually used when a person intends to play traditional music with the help of setar; Because its clarity and resonance are at an average level.
In this case, the strings are a little looser and are tuned two semitones lower than the original tuning. The clarity of the sound will be acceptable in this type of tuning and the resonance will come out of the instrument well. The second method of tuning is more suitable for Iranian songs and pieces; Because it stirs emotions better and more beautifully and can convey details to the audience more accurately.

• The third method

In the third tuning method, the three strings of the instrument have the states of “A-E-A-A” respectively. This means that the strings are tuned three semitones lower. This type of tuning is also known as lower tuning, which has low sound clarity and high resonance.
In the third state, the strings are looser than the previous two states. The looseness of the string makes it resonate too much But also will reduce the clarity of its sound, which makes the sound coming out of the instrument resemble old instruments. Also, the interference of the strings will be more in this method.
The most common use of this method is to tune a setar more for practice; Because its sound is less. Also, if you use your instrument every 7 to 10 days or very little in general, it is better to tune the instrument in the third way after each use; Because in this case, the least possible pressure is applied to the strings and the instrument itself, and the instrument will have a longer life.


The setar is one of the oldest and most popular Iranian instruments, which belongs to the family of the tanbur instrument. This instrument used to have three strings. But with the passing of time and various changes in the instrument, the fourth string has also been added to it. In order to get the best possible sound from an instrument, it must be tuned in the right way. To learn more about how to tune a setar, this article explains about setar and different tuning methods.

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