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I always thought that stringed instruments have hole(s) called soundholes so that the produced sounds can be heard.

But the sitar as a stringed instrument doesn't have any soundholes.

So how is the sound heard from a sitar?

Picture of a sitar

Picture of a guitar

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  • 2
    Have you heard of this thing called a "piano"? Nov 14 '21 at 9:35
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    @JörgWMittag have you seen the size of the soundhole on the top of a grand piano? Nov 14 '21 at 15:45
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    Harps have holes too, and they are also necessary to allow access to the soundboard to change strings. Just google for "harp soundbox holes". Nov 15 '21 at 8:45
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    @musicamante LOL indeed most instruments have holes somewhere. Nov 15 '21 at 18:49
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    For fun, I once taped over the f-holes on my cello. There was a small difference in perceived volume, but that was about it. Oh, and also @BobsaysreinstateMonica Seeing as opening or closing the lid on a piano drastically reduces the output volume, it's pretty clear that if you believe the highly upvoted answer that the piano lid is not a sound hole Nov 15 '21 at 18:51
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The sound holes on stringed instruments are not there so that the sound can be heard. They are there to tune the resonances of the wooden bodies that amplify the sounds.

It is true that there are certain frequencies that are loudest right near the sound holes, but plugging those sound holes or building those instruments without any holes would not make them silent. The wood itself vibrates and causes the air next to the wood to vibrate and that creates most of the sound we hear from stringed instruments.

Also, one of the sitar’s resonators, the lakadi ka tumba (the one behind the head) does have a hole. It’s just on the back.

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  • Of course, Lakadi Ka Tumba is optional. Nov 15 '21 at 14:14
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A guitar does not need a sound-hole, actually omitting the soundhole eliminates much of the feedback problems that people who play acoustics in loud environments have been plagued with since the birth of rock.

Now, this guitar has a sound-hole at the top, but that is a feature so you can hear yourself play. I'm sure that could have been omitted as well.

Sound holeless guitar - 01

Sound holeless guitar - 02

DISCUSSION FOUND HERE.

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  • Note that the Batson has a piezo transducer built in; but of course, feedback is only an issue for amplified guitars. Also, sound holes in the side are usually called ports.
    – ex nihilo
    Nov 15 '21 at 13:16
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For gory details, see this physicsSE answer.

Among other things mentioned there: --- it's the sound board in any plucked, bowed, or percussion instrument (piano is percussion) which amplifies the vibrations as well as providing better impedance matching.
--- The sound hole makes the box a Helmholtz resonator, which slightly modifies the spectral resonance levels.

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