Curriculum for learning Hindi

  • Knowledge of Varn Mala
  • Knowledge of Sawar & Vyanjan in Varn Mala
  • Phonetics of Sawars & Vyanjan with Picturs
  • Practice of Kvarag , Chavarg, Tavarg, Taavarg & Pavarg
  • Recognition of Varn Mala
  • Knowledge of Hindi Vowels
  • Practice of Matras
  • Mishrit Varn
  • Saunkat Varn
  • Recognition of words
  • Joining of words
  • Reading of small Words & Paragraphs
  • Counting 1 to 100
  • Reading of religious stories

Curriculum for learning Punjabi

  • Knowledge of Punjabi Alphabet’s
  • Knowledge of Punjabi Vowels
  • Practice of Mukta words
  • Practice of Kanna words
  • Practice of Sihari words
  • Practice of Bihariee words
  • Practice of Aunkur
  • Practice of Dulankar
  • Practice of Lavan & Dulavan
  • Practice of Hora & Kanaura
  • Practice of Adhik & Tippi
  • Reading of Paragraphs
  • Counting 1 to 100
  • Reading of Shabads

Sitar Curriculum

Course for Sitar/Instrumental Music

Level One:

  • Sangeet, Swars, Naad and Shruti.
  • Aroh, Avroh, Saptak and Lay.
  • Corect Placement of Fingers on the Instrument
  • Knowledge about  words of MIJRAB Da Dr Da Ra Da R Da etc
  • Different Alankars with different layakaries
  • Knowledge about Ragas and their rules.
  • One Gat and Toras in The prescribed ragas.
  • Rag Bilawal, Yaman and Bhopali.
  • Knowledge about Tal Dadra, Keherva and Teen tal.
  • Knowledge about the notation system of Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhandae. (introduction)

Level Two:

  • Knowledge about Thaats.
  • Review the notation system of Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhandae. (detailed)
  • Alankars in prescribed Ragas
  • One Rajakhani gat with Alap and Toras
  • Raag Durga, Kafi, Khamaj, and Bhairav
  • Tal, Lay, Sum, Tali, Khali, Avartan and Matra.
  • Knowledge about Ekgun, Dogun, Chaugun and Laykaris.
  • One Dhun in  rag Bilawal
  • Tal Dadra, Keharva, Teen Tal and Ek Tal.
  • Notation of Indian National Anthem.

Level Three:

  • Naad (Ahat-Anahat), Shruti Swars and Vikrit Swars.
  • Classification of Raagas, Varna (Sthai, Antra, Sanchari, Abhog).
  • Vadi, Samvadi, Anuvadi, Vivadi and Varjit Swar.
  • Purvang and Uttrang
  • Knowledge of the following concepts: Tal, Lay and its kinds (Dugun, Tigun, Chaugan) and Tal to be written in Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkandhe Notation System.
  • Recognizing Raagas and Taalas given through some swars.
  • Knowledge of Raagas with Madhya Lay, Alap and Taanas.
  • Rag Desh, Bhageshwari, Bhimpalasi and Kafi.
  • Jhap Tal, Ek Tal, Chau Tal, Teen Tal with Daugan and Chaugan.

Level Four:

  • Review Levels One, Two and Three.
  • Knowledge of  Masseet Khani Gat and Razakhani Gat.
  • Recognizing Raagas and Taalas given through some notes and Bools.
  • One Maseetkhani Gat and one Razakhani Gat in any prescribed Raagas.
  • Alap, Jod Alap, Jhalla.Tihaidar Tukre etc.
  • Gats in Jhaptal or Roopak Tal
  • Dhun in any Rag
  • Writing of Notation system
  • Raag Bhrindavani Sarang, Malkonse, Bharav and Bharvi.
  • Rupak, Tal, Ek Tal, Jhap Tal, Teen Tal, Keherva Tal and Dhadra Tal.

Level Five:

  • This Level will include Composition of Gat’s & writing in the same in notation.
  • A brief description about the other styles of classical and light music (Geet, Gazal, Bhajan and  Shabad).
  • .Knowledge about Meend, Kaann, Kampan,  Ghaseet, Krintan, Zamzama,   Gamak
  • Review of all Raagas of levels One, Two, Three and Four
  • Razakhani Gat in each of the prescribed ragas
  • Raag,  Mia Ki Todhi and Puriya Dhanashri, Desh Kar
  • Tal       Deepchandi, Sul Tal, Tilwada Tal and Jhumra Tal

Level six:

  • This Level will include Review of all Practical and  Theory previously done
  • The history of Indian and Western notation systems. The advantages and disadvantages of adopting the Western notation system for Indian music. Possibility of evolving a new system of notation for  the purpose of maintaining the standard of Indian music.
  • Two Maseetkhani Gat with Alap, Jor Alap, Meend, Kan, Gamak etc
  • All Rajakhani Gats of all levels with Toras and different type of Zhalas
  • One Gat in Dhmmar Tal with different Laykaries
  • Dhun with changes different Talas
  • One Thumri
  • Raag Joog, Raag Lalit, Raag Durbari and Raag Puriya Kalyan
  • All Talas from level One to Five.
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Curiculum for Esraj

Level One:

  • Sangeet, Swars, Naad and Shrutis.
  • Aroh, Avroh, Saptak and Lay.
  • Alankars in Shrudh swars.
  • knowledge about Ragas and their rules.
  • Rag Bilawal, Alahiya Bilawal, Yaman and Bhopali.
  • One Dhrut khayal and one lakshan geet.
  • Swar maleeka in the above Ragas.
  • Knowledge about Tal Dadra, Keherva and Teen tal.
  • Knowledge about the notation system of Vishnu Narayan Bhadkhandae. (introduction)

Level Two:

  • Knowledge about Thats.
  • Review the notation system of Vishnu Narayan Bhadkhandae. (detailed)
  • Alankars in prescribed Ragas:Dhrut Khayal with Alap and Taanas.Raag Durga, Kafi, Khamaj, and Bhairav.Tal, Lay, Sum, Tali, Khali, Avartan and Matra.
  • Knowledge about Ekgun, Dogun, chaugan and Laykaris.
  • One Sargam geet and one Lakshan Geet in any prescribed Raagas.
  • Tal Dadra, Keharva, Teen Tal and Ek Tal.
  • Notation of Indian national anthem.

Level Three:Level Four:

  • Review Levels One, two and Three.
  • Dhrupad, Sargam geet and Lakshan geet.
  • Khayal and its different kinds.
  • Recognizing Raagas and Taalas given through some notes and Bolls.
  • One Sargam geet and one Lakshan Geet in any prescribed Raagas.
  • Dhrut Khayal with Alap and Taanas.
  • Two Taranas in prescribed Raagas.
  • One baada Khayal in Vilambit Lay with proper Gayaki along with Alap and Taan.
  • Raag Bhrindavani Sarang, Malkonse, Bharav and Bhervi.
  • Rupak Tal, Ek Tal, Jhap Tal, Teen Tal, Keherva Tal and Dhadra Tal.

Level Five:

  • This year will include Dhrupad and Dhamar.
  • A brief description about the other styles of classical and light music (geet, gazal, bhajan and shabad).
  • The complete Bada Khayal, Chota Khayal, Tarana and prescribed Raagas.
  • Review of all Raagas of levels one, two, three and four.
  • One Thumri in Raag Bherav.
  • One Dhamar.
  • Raag: Mia Ki Todhi and Puriya Dhanashri.
  • Tal: Deepchandi, Sul Tal, Tilwada Tal and Jhumra Tal.

Level six:

  • This year also will include Dhrupad and Dhamar.
  • All theory review of all levels.
  • The history of Indian and Western notation systems, the advantages and disadvantages of adopting the Western notation system for Indian music, possibility of evolving a new system of notation for the purpose of maintaining the standard of Indian music.
  • Two Badha Khayal.
  • One Chota Khayal.
  • One Dhrupad.
  • One Dhamar.
  • One Tarana.
  • One Thumri.
  • Raag Joog, Lalit, Raag Durbari and Puriya Kalyan
  • All Tals from level one to five.

Vocal Music Curriculum

Vocal Music
Level One:
  • Sangeet, Swars, Naad and Shrutis.
  • Aroh, Avroh, Saptak and Lay.
  • Alankars in Shrudh swars.
  • knowledge about Ragas and their rules.
  • Rag Bilawal, Alahiya Bilawal, Yaman and Bhopali.
  • One Dhrut khayal and one lakshan geet.
  • Swar maleeka in the above Ragas.
  • Knowledge about Tal Dadra, Keherva and Teen tal.
  • Knowledge about the notation system of Vishnu Narayan Bhadkhandae. (introduction)
Level Two:
  • Knowledge about Thats.
  • Review the notation system of Vishnu Narayan Bhadkhandae. (detailed)
  • Alankars in prescribed Ragas:Dhrut Khayal with Alap and Taanas.Raag Durga, Kafi, Khamaj, and Bhairav.Tal, Lay, Sum, Tali, Khali, Avartan and Matra.
  • Knowledge about Ekgun, Dogun, chaugan and Laykaris.
  • One Sargam geet and one Lakshan Geet in any prescribed Raagas.
  • Tal Dadra, Keharva, Teen Tal and Ek Tal.
  • Notation of Indian national anthem.
Level Three:
  • Naad (Ahat-Anahat), Shruti Swars and Vakra Swars.
  • Classification of Raagas, Varna (sthai, Antra, Sanchari, Abhog).
  • Vadi, Samvadi, Anuvadi, Vivadi and Varjit Swar.
  • Purvang and Uthrang.
  • Knowledge of different Style of singing.
  • Knowledge of the following concepts:Tal, Lay and its kinds (dugun, tugun, chaugan) and tal to be written in Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkandhe Notation System.
  • Recognizing Raagas and Taalas given through some notes and Bolls.
  • Knowledge of Raagas with Madhya lay, Alap and Taanas.
  • Rag Desh, Bhageshwari, Bhimpalasi and Kafi.
  • Jhap Tal, Ek Tal, Chau Tal, Teen Tal with Daugan and Chaugan.
Level Four:
  • Review Levels One, two and Three.
  • Dhrupad, Sargam geet and Lakshan geet.
  • Khayal and its different kinds.
  • Recognizing Raagas and Taalas given through some notes and Bolls.
  • One Sargam geet and one Lakshan Geet in any prescribed Raagas.
  • Dhrut Khayal with Alap and Taanas.
  • Two Taranas in prescribed Raagas.
  • One baada Khayal in Vilambit Lay with proper Gayaki along with Alap and Taan.
  • Raag Bhrindavani Sarang, Malkonse, Bharav and Bhervi.
  • Rupak Tal, Ek Tal, Jhap Tal, Teen Tal, Keherva Tal and Dhadra Tal.
Level Five:
  • This year will include Dhrupad and Dhamar.
  • A brief description about the other styles of classical and light music (geet, gazal, bhajan and shabad).
  • The complete Bada Khayal, Chota Khayal, Tarana and prescribed Raagas.
  • Review of all Raagas of levels one, two, three and four.
  • One Thumri in Raag Bherav.
  • One Dhamar.
  • Raag: Mia Ki Todhi and Puriya Dhanashri.
  • Tal: Deepchandi, Sul Tal, Tilwada Tal and Jhumra Tal.
Level six:
  • This year also will include Dhrupad and Dhamar.
  • All theory review of all levels.
  • The history of Indian and Western notation systems, the advantages and disadvantages of adopting the Western notation system for Indian music, possibility of evolving a new system of notation for the purpose of maintaining the standard of Indian music.
  • Two Badha Khayal.
  • One Chota Khayal.
  • One Dhrupad.
  • One Dhamar.
  • One Tarana.
  • One Thumri.
  • Raag Joog, Lalit, Raag Durbari and Puriya Kalyan
  • All Tals from level one to five.

Tabla Curriculum

Level one
• All about tabla In detail, its history and as an instrument.
• The parts of a tabla, How it’s constructed etc.
• Knowledge of Tal, Matra, vhibag, Sum, tali, khali and avartan laye.
• Basic hand position and its finger techniques.
• Knowledge of words played on right tabla and left tabla. Production of such on the tabla
as dha, na, ta, dhin, tin, to, ghe, tirkit, kat,ke.
• Tal introduction of the tal dadra, keherva, teen tal, jhap tal with its theory knowledge.
Level two
• Laye practise.
• Vilambit, maday, drut timing and ekgun, dugan, and chagun practice.
• Two different kayadas with minimum four paltas in teen tal.
• Using simple words dha, Tita, ta, tin, ge, na, ke, dhin etc.
• Practice of kehrva Tal with different type of Kehrva, with vocal music and instrumental.
• Practice Tal dadra with different type of vocal and instrumental music.
• Introduction of ek Tal with practice of different Laye and Layekaris with vocal music.

Level three

• Different kaydas with minimum five paltas with words.
• Dhita, Gudigans, takkda, tirkit etc and solo practice of all kaydas and paltas together with all three levels.
• Jhaptal, three simple tukrae, three tihais, two kaydas with four paltae, variation of tihais and two mukhrae.
• Improve on the ability to recognise sum and mukrae with vocal and instrumental music.
• Notation of tukrae and tihai.

Level four
• Learn Roopak tal, ektal and deepchandi sultaal.
• Practise reciting the above tals in ekgun, dugan and chaugan layakaris with and without the tabla.
• Four advanced difficulty kayadas, mukhrae, tukrae, tihais and paltas in teen tal, chau tal, teevr tal and jhap tal.
• Solo practise with lehra.
• Improve on the ability to produce different bols on tabla recited by another person.
• Recognise different tals with vocal music and instrumental music.

Level five
• Playing solo in tal with lehra, thal teental, pashkara, kayada, rela, gat, tukdas and jhap tal etc.
• Learning how to tune the tabla.
• Composing with different tals.
• Accompanying with the tabla beside different type of singing. For example playing alongside Dhrupad, Dhamar, Tappa and thumree styles of singing.
• Accompanying with tabla beside different instrumental music. For example playing alongside masid khani gat, rajkhani gat and different dhuns of instrumental music.

Level six
• Solo with good proficiency in teen tal, jhap tal, eak tal and rupak tal.
• Accompanying with the tabla beside different vocal, instrumental and light music.
• Learning words like dhir dhir, gidha nage with different lay and lay karis.
• Composing with the bols above.
• More lays.


Rag Bhupali (Bhoopali)

Description

Bhupali is a a very common raag.  Also called Bhoopali or Bhoopaali.

This rag is very ancient and is very popular.  Common songs based upon this rag include “Jyoti Kalash Chalke” or “Pankha Hoti To Ud Ati Re”.

The same notes of Bhupali are also used in rag Deshakar,

Bhupali is classified under Kalyan thaat; however, madhyam is totally absent.  Deshkar which has the same scale, yet Deshkar is classified under Bilawal that.  This means that the missing madhyam of Bhupali is tivra while the missing madhyam in Deshkar is shuddha

Thaat is                      Kalyan

Vadi sawar                 Gandhar         (GA)

Samvadi swar           Dhavat           (DHA)

Jatti                             Audav Audav

Samay(Time)            Raat Ka Pehla Paher (First part of Night)

Arohana

Avarohana

Pakad


Dilruba / Esraj

Dilruba or esraj, which one should I get?

You only have a certain budget and you want to know whether to get a dilruba or an esraj.  Well the simple answer is that it really does not make much of a difference.  You will probably find that just as flute players have multiple bansuris of different sizes to suite different keys, and tabla players have multiple tablas for a similar purpose; you will probably find that this is not going to be your only purchase, but that it is merely your first purchase.  You will probably find that before too long you have purchased both dilrubas, and esrajs.  This is simply to allow you to have different instruments in different keys that allow you to handle the variety of solo and accompaniment jobs that fall your way.  You can get by with one instrument by switching out the first couple of strings; but this gets tiresome pretty quickly.

Ok so now you have modified your question to be “Which one should I get first”.  Although I cannot pontificate as to which one you should go for, I will give you some information to help you decide.

First of all, there is very little difference between the sound, or the playing of the two instruments.  There is not really enough difference to give one a clear advantage, still there are a few pros and cons.  Let us go over them:

There is really only one “pro” of getting an esraj, but it is a big one.  The esraj is easily modified to become a tar-shehani.  The tar-shehanihas a very distinctive sound quality that may be very useful to you in stage and recording.  Furthermore this modification is not permanent; you can put it on, or take it off at will.  Therefore, for just a small amount of extra money for the sound box attachment, you really are getting two instruments.

There are several cons of the esraj.  Since the resonator is smaller in the esraj as compared to the dilruba, the volume of the instrument is somewhat lower.  This places greater demands upon you when micing it for sound reinforcement.  Another disadvantage of the instrument is that the sympathetic strings attach directly to the pegs.  This is a much cruder arrangement than is found in the dilruba, and is often the source of minor problems.  Such problems can be a buzzing resulting from the string rattling against itself where it wraps around the peg.  The string can also rattle or bind against the neck or the last fret, if it wraps either too high or to low around the peg.  These are minor inconveniences, but they must be attended to if you have an esraj.

There are also pros and cons concerning buying a dilruba.  Let us look at these right now:

There are a few advantages to buying a dilruba.  The attachments of the sympathetic strings is more “pakka“, and not nearly as crude as theesraj; therefore there are very few problems inherent to the design.  The dilruba also tends to be louder than the esraj.  This makes it a much easier to deal with in both recording as well as stage situations.

There seems to be only one disadvantage of the dilrubatar-shehnai attachments are not available for them.

As a practical matter, the decision as to which one to buy is usually determined by availability and cost.  In other words, whatever you can find, and whatever you can afford, that is the one you are going to buy.

Who should I purchase it from?

That is impossible for me to say.  Dilrubas and esrajs are definitely not commodities; each one is unique.  A particular shop might have a good selection, good quality and reasonable prices now, but in six months it may only have junk.  All I can say is to look at the obvious things such as the reputation of the shop or maker and see whether you can establish some type of rapport with them.

Should I get it from the West or India?

A lot depends on where you are.  Obviously if you live in India, or even if you are planning to visit India, then purchasing it there is definitely the thing to do.  However, if you are living outside of India and are thinking of purchasing one from there by way of the internet, then obviously there are some concerns.  But on the other hand, purchasing from a non-Indian sources has concerns too.  Let us look much more closely at some of these factors:

There is only one advantage of purchasing from India by way of the internet; that advantage is cost.  You will pay substantially less money than purchasing instruments from non-Indian retailers.

However we must remember that there may be serious disadvantages associated with buying from India.  This process has been compared to “choosing a mail order bride, by looking at a picture of her sister.”  Anything can go wrong.  If things do go wrong, then the shipping costs involved in sending instruments back and forth, can quickly erase any cost advantage.

There are many reasons why things can go wrong.  One common reason is because many unscrupulous retailers use international sales as an opportunity to unload poor quality instruments that they know the cannot otherwise sell.  Twenty years ago, this was the norm.  Fortunately these days it is less common.  The nature of globalisation (I generally do not like to use the term “globalisation”.  It has become a euphemism for neo-imperialism) is such that retailers today are conscious of their international reputation.  If they want to keep selling their instruments in the international markets, they know that they must maintain a certain level of quality.

There is another reason why you may be hesitant to buy from form an Indian retailer from abroad.  This one is not a reflection of dishonest business practices, but is a reflection of fundamental differences in musical culture.

When you go into a music store in India, the instruments are generally in a somewhat unfinished state.  Invariably they are untuned, the strings are the wrong gauges, the frets are in the wrong positions, etc.  In India, when you purchase an instrument from a shop, there is seldom the expectation that you are going to walk out with it “as is”.  It is a normal part of the negotiations to specify the finishing touches that you want done.  This is very different from the West, where instruments purchased from music stores are ready to go.

The reasons for the unfinished state of Indian instruments in the shops are varied.  Most of them result from valid technical, business, and musical considerations.  In general we can say that the stringing and tuning of Indian instruments is very much an individual thing.  Since the craftsmen have absolutely no idea who is going to purchase their instruments, or what their particular style may be, they just sort of get the instruments roughly “into the ballpark” and leave it that way.  We must remember that unknowns of stringing and tuning spill over into fret placements and jawari contours as well.  Therefore incorrect placement of frets on new esrajsdilrubas and unfinished jawaris are common.

The result of all of this is that if you get your instrument directly form India, it will likely be in an unplayable state.  If you are a rank beginner you are in a quandary.  This is the time when you need the maximum knowledge and experience, yet this is the time of your life, when you know the least.  At this point you absolutely must have a good teacher to assist you in these practical details, otherwise you will be attempting to teach yourself on an instrument which may be completely unplayable.

This is where there can be advantages in dealing with non-Indian shops.  Many of the better shops in North America and Europe pride themselves on “tweaking” their instruments before they are sold.  They attend to all of these details before sending them out.  Furthermore, these shops are often the only reliable quality control step in the whole chain.  You may not see how many “dogs” they have had to quietly dispose of just so you can be certain that you get a decent instrument.

Now there is an obvious cost disadvantage to dealing with non-Indian retailers.  Their tweaking and quality control naturally adds to the price of the instruments.

This brings us to the bottom line.  If you are living outside of India, and you are not sure about your ability to “tweak” the instrument yourself, then you may be better off spending a little extra money and buying from a reliable non-Indian retailer.  However if you are confident in your ability to work on the instruments, then you will probably find that it is better to deal with Indian retailers.

Some esrajs have a resonator on the top; is this preferable?

It does slightly change the sound in a way that many people find pleasing.  However its influence is negligible when compared to more important considerations such as to the quality of the skin, the reinforcement pati (tasma), and the bridge.  Since its influence is minimal, you might be inclined to just consider it decoration.

I have a new instrument, but it seems that the frets are in the wrong position.  What do I do?

If you have a new instrument, then almost certainly your frets are in the wrong place.  But then if you move from a wet climate to a dry climate your frets are probably out of position.  Or if you go from dry season to wet season, your frets are probably in the wrong position.  Repositioning the frets is just part of the normal duties of owning a dilruba or esraj

The fact that the bridge rests upon taught skin has tremendous ramifications.  The strings will press the bridge down, while the tension from the skin will press the bridge up.  This system is in balance; but there are a number of things that will cause this balance to change.  Changing the pitch of the instrument changes the downward pressure exerted by the strings.  Changing the gauge of the strings also changes the downward pressure exerted by them.  But there can also be changes in the upward pressure from the skin.  For instance, changes in humidity affect the ability of the skin to exert an upward pressure against the bridge.  Age causes the skin to stretch, thus changing the skin’s ability to exert an upward pressure.  Temperature also changes the skin’s characteristics.

The bottom line is simple, as you own your instrument, there are any number of factors which will effect the precise position of the bridge.  Therefore, this will be reflected in the position of the frets.  These effects are most noticeable in the high pitch frets (e.g. high Sa, high Re, and high Ga).

Now that we realise that repositioning the frets is just part of owning a dilruba or esraj, the obvious question is how do we do it.  To begin with, your eyes will be of very little utility.  You must depend upon your ears.  If your ears tell you that a particular fret is off, then it probably is.  One word of warning; before you go messing around with the frets, you need to make sure that your strings are perfectly in tune.  If you have any doubt about your ability to hear the correct pitch, you can use an electronic tuner.  Remember that Sa, Ma, and Pa quite conveniently, are the same whether one is dealing with a tempered or untempered scale.  Therefore you can quite confidently uses an electronic tuner for your main playing strings without having to worry about the particulars of Indian intonation.

Should I move the Rishab fret or the Dhaivat fret whenever I want a komal Dha or komal Re?

If you are a rank beginner you might try this, but I don’t really recommend it.  It is better to just do a little extra practice and get the correct “feel” as to placement of the fingers.  Remember, although the frets may look like the sitar’s, they do not function in the same way.

Do I pull the string sideways to make a meend like one does with the sitar?

No, slide your fingers vertically like a sarangi.  Again, just because the frets look like a sitar’s, they do not work in the same way.

What kind of rosin should I use?

This is generally a matter of taste, but most people prefere a dark sticky bass rosin.  See Rosin (A.K.A. Biroza, Biroja, Baroza) and Indian Bowed Instruments” for more information

Should I use oil on my fingers like sitar?

Generally yes, it does make things easier.  However in the case of the sitar, the oil is obligatory; in the case of the dilrubaesraj it is purely optional.  You will be able to tell from the feel whether you need it or not.

The use of oil on the strings does have some caveats on the dilrubaesraj.  The most important thing to remember is that you should never get any oil on the area that you bow.  If you do, then the oil will transfer to the bow, thus making your bowing unreliable.  As a practical matter, it is a good idea not to go above the Pancham in the upper octave.  Although you can easily hear the pitch and control it up to the upper Sa, this places your fingers in positions which are uncomfortably close to where you bow the string.

You must also remember that if you use oil, you must occasionally clean the strings, I prefer alcohol; but remember not to get any alcohol on the finish of your instrument or it will spoil the finish.

My bowing sucks, am I doing anything wrong?

This is the eternal question.

First look at your bow.  Is it properly “broken in”.  New bows are notorious for being unresponsive.  Use a lot of rosin until the bow is broken in, then you can back off a bit.  Is the bow hair dirty?  If so, clean the hair.

Are your strings too heavy a gauge.  Many people like to use heavy gauges because it makes the instruments louder.  Unfortunately heavy strings make the instrument less responsive and harder to bow.

Is your rosin too hard.  The hard, light coloured rosins that many violinists use is generally too hard to work well for a dilruba or an esraj.  A softer bass rosin generally makes bowing easier.

After all of these points are considered, it brings us to the most common factor.  PRACTICE-PRACTICE-PRACTRICE!!!  Bowing is not easy and it takes a lot of practice, so have at it!!!


Hindustani and Carnatic Taals

How are Carnatic and Hindustani tals different?

Carnatic and Hindustani tals are fundamentally different.  They differ in their approach to the clapping and waving as well as their approach to the“theka”.

The Carnatic system adheres to a very ancient approach to the tal.  In this approach, the tal is actually defined by the clapping and waving of the hands.  Therefore, it is extremely rare to find two tals with the same vibhagtalikhali structure.  Consequently, it is also the norm to have totally different “grooves” used within each thalam.

Conversely, the Hindustani system defines the tal by the theka.  The theka is a basic “grove” or pattern of bols.  It is very common inHindustani sangeet to have the different tals share the same pattern of clapping and waving.  For instance, punjabi thekatintal, and tilwada talsall have an identical vibhagtalikhali structure.

Are the responsibilities of the mridangam player the same as those of the tabla player?

No, there are major differences between the duties of the mridangam player and the tabla player.  The tabla player’s primary duty is that of timekeeper.  It is the tabla a player’s job to keep the whole performance together.

The mridangam player is generally not the timekeeper.  In a typical performance, the main musician, as well as half the first row of the audience, will be there to keep the tal.  This frees the mridangam player to explore elaborations that a tabla player is generally not free to do.

Is there an equivalence between Hindustani and Carnatic tals?

The fundamental differences between the Hindustani and Carnatic tals make an exact correlation between the two systems impossible.  However the following table is a rough approximation.

Carnatic and Hindustani Tals
Carnatic Hindustani
Chatusra Jati Ata Chautal, Ektal
Adi tal Tintal, Tilwada, Kaherava, Dhummali
Mishra Chapu Tivra, Rupak, Pashtu, Dipchandi
Khanda Chapu Sultal, Jhaptal
Rupakam Dadra, Khempta

Can you play tabla with Carnatic sangeet and mridangam with Hindustani sangeet?

You can play the instruments in this manner, but it is generally not done.  This would be somewhat like playing bassoon in Country-and-Western music or pedal steel guitar in a classical symphonic setting.

Do Carnatic tals have thekas?

No, Carnatic tals do not have a theka in the Hindustani sense of the word.  However, there are a number of fairly standard accompaniment patterns that are used; but these patterns do not have the same level of theoretical importance as one finds in the North.

Tal, Tala, Thalam, Talam – Which is correct?

They are all correct.  We must remember that India is a land of many languages.  Although all are derived from the Sanskrit word “Tala”, differences in pronunciation have contributed to the different spellings.

One other reason for the different spellings is the differing approaches to transliterating different Indian languages.  Identical words may be transliterated differently.  The relationship between “t” and “th” is a common example.  For instance rathna, kantha, and lalitha in the South are transliterated as ratna, kanta, and lalita in the north.

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Western Musician concerning Indian Music

like that.  What you should listen for will depend upon what genre of Indian music you are dealing with.

If you is listening to North Indian classical music, there are several things that you should listen for.  The easiest component for a Western musician is to become familiar with the mode.  Beyond this mode there are certain melodic requirements and limitations.  These melodic components transform the simple mode into the rag.  Each rag has its own identity.  It is also helpful to understand how these melodic entities are set against a rhythmic framework; this is known as the tal.

What types of Indian music are there?

There are two systems of classical music (North Indian and South Indian), there are semiclassical forms such as gazal, and rabindra sangit, there are the popular forms such as filmi sangit and bangara, as well as countless varieties of folk music.

What is the difference between North Indian music and South Indian music?

Both North Indian and South Indian music are based upon common concepts such as rag (raga) and tal (tala), however there the similarity ends.  North Indian music, also known as Hindustani sangit, has many elements in common with the music of Afghanistan and Persia.  The South Indian music, known as Carnatic Sangit, shows many regional influences peculiar to the deep South.  In the last hundred years there has been a lot of mixing of rags and other musical elements, but still they are separate systems.

What is Bollywood?

Bollywood is the Bombay version of Hollywood, and relates to the film industry.  Indian movies are generally musicals and the film song is a very popular form of entertainment.

Is there Indian music notation?

Indian music is always said to be an oral tradition; this is only partly true.  Indian musical notation stretches back to the Samaveda, which is several thousand years old, so it is arguable that India has one of the oldest traditions of music notation.  Even today, notation is heavily used in education.

However, since the classical music of both North and South is so heavily dependent upon improvisation, then a strict notation is somewhat irrelevant.  Indian classical music resists notation for the same reasons that Western jazz music resists it.

Musical notation is somewhat analogous to taxidermy. Indian music tied to notation has the same relationship to the actual performance as a stuffed animal does to a living one.

Can I get sheets of Indian music in Western notation?

As of the time that I am writing this, I am unaware of any music available in staff notation.  There are however, a lot of music in traditional Indian notations.  You may wish to check out ”Elementary North Indian Vocal”.

Can I enjoy Indian vocal even if I don’t understand any Indian language?

Even in India, not everybody understands the lyrics.  The singers themselves do not always understand the words that they are singing.  There are simply too many languages.  Since this is not an impediment to the enjoyment of vocal music in India, it need not be an impediment to you.

Is all Indian music in a minor scale?

Concepts such as major or minor are totally irrelevant to Indian music.  Every mode is an entity in its own right .  True, both North and South Indian systems have a concept of a “natural scale” which is referred to as “shuddha swar saptak”.  However in practice, this is simply a means to provide a base for notation and for purposed of instruction.  It does not imply in special importance in performance situations.

What is sargam?

The sargam is the traditional Indian solfege.  This is the conceptual framework around which singers and instrumentalists will function.

In North Indian music, why is Ma the only note that has a sharp?

The tivra Ma is the augmented 4th.  This difference in terminology is a recognition of some very important harmonic relationships that exist in the area of the 4th and 5th.  This is a subject that is perhaps best suited to discussions of psychoacoustics rather than traditional musicology, and is beyond the scope of this simple web page.

Why is the key not specified in Indian music?

The absolute pitch at which a performance is rendered is merely a practical detail and is not considered of any musical significance.  Whatever pitch the performers agree upon is the key.  It will vary from artist to artist, and even the same artist may change it according to his/her mood.

Does Indian music have chords?

This is rather difficult to say. In a strict academic sense the answer is yes.  There is invariably a melody set against a drone (usually a tanpura) that includes the tonic and the 5th.  By definition, the first, fifth, and anything else is a chord.  But for all practical purposes the answer is no.  Do not try and listen for chord progressions in any classical music.

However, the situation may be different with the popular genres.  Film songs have absorbed many Western influences.  For such Western inspired genres, there may be a heavy reliance upon chords.

Are the pitches in the Indian scales the same as in the Western scale?

Popular genre such as film songs may use the standard Western tempered scale.  However, traditional Indian music is definitely not based upon the tempered scale.  It is instead based upon some type of just intonation.  Therefore, the “semitones” will sometimes be more than 100 cents and at other times they will be less than 100 cents.

Although there are constant debates as to exactly what the intervals should be, we may make a few general observations.

  1. The 4th, and 5th correspond to their Western counterparts.
  2. The natural 3rd, and 6th correspond to their UNTEMPERED Western counterparts.
  3. A minor 2nd is slightly flatter when descending compared to when it is ascending.
  4. A natural 7th is slight sharper when ascending and slightly flatter when descending.
  5. The minor 3rd and the minor 6th have different intervals depending upon other scalar characteristics.

These are just rules of thumb, so they may not always be applicable.

I keep running across different spellings of musical terms, what is going on?

The variations of spelling make internet searches very difficult. After all, does one look up “rag”“raag”, or “raga”; is it “swarup”“svarup”,“swaroop”, or “svaroop”?  These variations in spelling create many practical difficulties.

There are several reasons for such wide variations.  These include such diverse factors as variations in pronunciation, limitations and inadequacies of the Roman script, and the multilingual nature of India.

Variations in pronunciation are a major factor.  For instance, is potato pronounced “po-tay-toe” or is it pronounced “po-tah-toe”.  In a similar way, different parts of India pronounce things differently.

Inadequacies in the Roman script are also a factor.  During the colonial period there was a tendency to transliterate words according to English concepts.  One may still see these tendencies in old spellings such as “tabala” or “thabala”.  With the rise in modern linguistics, there was a shift towards Germanic rules of pronunciation.  Therefore “thabala” became standardized to ”tabla”.  Some Indian phonemes resist being placed into the Roman script.  For instance in India there are various shades that exist between the English “d” and “r”.  This will be expressed in confusing terms such as jod vs. jor or mukada vs mukara.  These are just a few of the difficulties that plague attempts to come up with consistent and clear transliterations.

One other reason for ambiguity stems from the multilingual nature of India; there are a lot of languages and dialects.  This will show up in things such as Been (Bengal and Northeast India) vs. Vina or Veena (South and Northwest India).

The result is absolute confusion in the spellings.

I play guitar, will it be easy to learn sitar?

They both have strings and they both have frets; there the similarity ends.  A guitar is generally thought of as an instrument for playing harmonies and chords, while a sitar must be thought of as a melodic instrument like a flute or an oboe.  If you attempt to play chords like a guitar, you will be missing the entire concept of the instrument.  How easily you make this fundamental shift in the way you conceptualize the instrument will determine how easily you can pick up then sitar.

Where can I purchase Indian instruments?

Check out the ”Suppliers of Indian Music Instruments” Page.

Where can I find a teacher of Indian music?

Check out the ”Performers and Teachers of Indian Music and Dance” Page.


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