The surbahar is one of the most fascinating instruments of northern India. The instrument was devised about 120 years ago. The surbahar is actually just a large-sized sitar. Its body is made of wood with a flat back. Its strings are thicker than those of the sitar and the instrument is therefore tuned to a much lower pitch.
The tuning and the technique of playing is the same as in the sitar but the tone is much deeper. The surbahar is specially suited for playing serious classical styles of Hindustani music. The gats and jodas of the sitar are not played on the surbahar. However, alap, jod and jhala in the Dhrupad style are commonly played.
Sometimes gats and jhala of the north Indian bin are also played on it to the accompaniment of the pakhawaj. The invention of the surbahar is credited to the famous beenkar Umrao Khan who taught the technique of play枰ng it to his favourite disciple Ghulam Mohammed Khan. Ghulam Mohammed Khan and his son Sajjad Hussain were both famous surbahar players. There are not many masters of this instrument today.