Learn to Play > The Sitar player story

Forget everything you know about the Mrdanga and read this

Srila Prabhupada once told a story. It went something like this:

Once upon a time there was this guy who owned a sitar. (A sitar is a complex Indian instrument with lots and lots of strings. It's really hard to play.)

The man didn't know how to play, but because it was his sitar, he used to pick it up and strum on it, and by doing so different kinds of beautiful sounds would come out of it.

The man had a friend. The friend used to come over and listen to him play, and the friend thought, "This is a nice sounding musical instrument. I would like to learn how to play one of those, too."

So one day that friend was walking downtown and came across a sign outside a shop. The sign said, "Sitar lessons." He thought he would go in and see what it was about.

Inside the man said, "I'm interested in learning how to play the sitar. How much are your lessons?"

The man inside the shop asked, "Do you know anything about how to play the sitar?"

"No," replied the visitor. "My friend has a sitar and I became attracted to it, so I'd like to learn. I know nothing about how to play one."

"For you," the shop keeper said, "the lessons will be only 50 rupees an hour."

Since it seemed like a reasonable price, the man took the first lesson and found it was very good. He learned a lot that day. Happy with his first lesson, he went back to his friend who owned the sitar. "I took a sitar lesson downtown today, and it was very good!" he proclaimed.

"Oh? How much did they charge?" asked the man with the sitar.

"They charged me only 50 rupees for the first lesson, and I learned a lot!"

"Really?" said the man with the sitar. "Maybe I should also go there and take lessons. If they charged you 50 rupees and you know nothing about the sitar, maybe they will charge me less because I already know a lot about the sitar, because I've taught myself!"

So the man with the sitar next went downtown to the same shop. Walking in, he said, "How much are your sitar lessons?"

The shopkeeper said, "Do you know anything about how to play the sitar?"

"Oh yes!" proudly proclaimed the sitar owner. "I have taught myself so many things already!"

"I see," said the shopkeeper. "The lessons are 100 rupees an hour."

"100 rupees!" protested the sitar owner. "My friend came in here with no knowledge of the sitar, and you charged him 50 rupees. I already know so much, and you want to charge me 100 rupees? Why is that?"

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"Because," said the shopkeeper, "first we have to unteach everything that you know, and then we have to reteach it. That's twice as hard."

Moral of the story: Forget everything you think you already know about the mrdanga and start with a clean slate. I'm going to teach you from scratch.

That's the end of the "Read me" section. You're now ready to begin your first lesson!

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