In 1968, Jeff Slatnick, left the Music Inn to attend the Ali Akbar School of Music in California. He studied there at the feet of many of today’s acknowledged masters of Indian music and returned to New York City in 1977 as an accomplished performer. In the years that followed, he found himself performing his sarod in groups with other players and other instruments, indoors and out. In this new context, the sarod, which had previously been his vehicle to seemingly limitless realms, began to reveal implicit limitations. The accoustic sarod played well in only one key. It needed to be tuned and re-tuned before every piece as well as any time the temperature changed. The subtle and beautiful little notes achieved by sliding on the steel fingerboard can be lost in the soundcheck because the directly plucked notes are much louder by comparison. Finally, the instrument’s sustain leaves alot to be desired with even the best sarods.
Jeff came up with several solutions. First, he pulled the frets off a Japanese Stratocaster and glued down a steel fingerboard. It worked a little better on stage with regard to volume, but he wasn’t getting the sustain he had hoped for and it didn’t sound beautiful. He later added sympathetic strings and a small drumhead and keeper ring on which a bone bridge could be suspended. Jeff says, “The sound was all pinched off and shitty.”
He began to think that it was the shape and the weight of the manufactured guitar he was using the was the problem. He felt that a lighter design that allowed the bridge to vibrate with the face of the instrument would work better. Working at the Music Inn, seeing, playing and repairing every kind of instrument from all over the world, an image began to appear in his mind.