Indian Classical Music ( Vocal )
The music of India is said to be one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world. It is said that the origins of this system go back to the Vedas (ancient scripts of the Hindus). Many different legends have grown up concerning the Origins and Development of Indian classical music. Such legends go a long way in showing the importance that music has in defining Indian culture. However, the advent of Modern Historical and Cultural Research has also given us a good perspective on the field. This has shown that Indian music has developed within a very complex interaction between different peoples of different races and cultures. It appears that the ethnic diversity of present-day India has been there from the earliest of times.The basis for Indian music is “Sangeet”. Sangeet is a combination of three art forms: music, instrumental and dance. Although these three artforms were originally derived from the single field of stagecraft. Today these three forms have differentiated into complex and highly refined individual art forms.The present system of Indian music is based on two important pillars: Rag and Tal. Rag is the melodic form while Tal is rhythmic. Rag may be roughly equated with the Western term mode or scale. There is a system of seven notes which are arranged in a means, not unlike Western scales. However, when we look closely we see that it is quite different from what we are familiar with. The Tal (rhythmic forms) are also very complex. Many common rhythmic patterns exist. They revolve around repeating patterns of beats. The interpretation of the Rag and the Tal is not the same all over India. Today there are two major traditions of classical music. There are the North Indian and the South Indian tradition. The North Indian tradition is known as Hindustani Sangeet and the south Indian is called Carnatic Sangeet. Both systems are fundamentally similar but differ in nomenclature and performance practice.Many Musical Instruments are peculiar to India. The most famous is the Sitar and Tabla. However, there are much more than the average person may not be familiar with.All of this makes up the complex and exciting field of Indian classical music. Its understanding easily consumes an entire lifetime.
Fundamentals of Rag
Introduction to the North Indian concept of the rag.
- Swar (Sur)– The “note”.
- Saptak (The Scale) – Introduction to the scale.
- Scales and Modes – More advanced material on scales.
- That – The modes.
- Jati– The number of notes in the rag.
- Arohana / Avarohana – Ascending and Descending structures.
- Vadi & Samvadi – Important notes of the rag.
- Pakad (Swarup) – Characteristic phrases.
- Samay – Timings
- Raga / Ragini– The old way of visualizing relationships between rags
- Saptak – The Register
A collection of lahars for tabla/pakhawaj solos as well as Kathak dance performances.
Fundamentals of Tal
An introduction to the North Indian approach to rhythm.
- Avartan – The cycle.
- Bol – Mnemonic syllables
- Bollywood Film Songs-A breakdown of many popular songs organized by their tables.
- Index of Tals – The common rhythmic patterns in North Indian music.
- Khali– Waving of the hands.
- Lay – Tempo.
- Matra– The Beat.
- Sam– the First beat of the cycle.
- Tali – The claps.
- Theka – The “Groove”.
- Vibhagh– The measure (bar).
A breakdown of the styles of North Indian music.
Film Songs in Rags
An index of classical based film songs indexed by the rag.
The type of guitar that you choose will depend on the style of music that you wish to play on your instrument. It does not really matter if you decide to learn to play on the electric or acoustic, it is really up to you, but one consideration to make is if you wish to play both styles of guitar, it is probably best to start with an acoustic steel string guitar. Playing this type of guitar will strengthen your fingers as you press down on the strings to make chord shapes. Pressing down strings on the electric guitar is easier and requires less finger strength, so if you wish to play both types of guitar, start with the acoustic.
Nylon stringed classical acoustics
If you plan to play the classical guitar you will find that most classical guitar music is composed of the nylon-stringed acoustic guitar. Spanish guitar and flamenco are also most commonly played on the nylon-stringed guitar. The main difference between this type of guitar and other acoustics is the width of the neck. The neck of the classical acoustic is wider than other members of the guitar family.
Steel stringed acoustics
Steel stringed acoustic guitars are played across the widest variety of music imaginable. The steel-stringed acoustic guitar is a great place to start your musical journey. The sound created from the steel strings is generally louder than that of nylon strings, and because of this, it is a favourite guitar of those who just want to stand up at any time to play and sing!
Electro-acoustic guitars are the halfway house between the acoustic and the electric guitar. In most cases the electro-acoustic guitar looks the same as the steel-stringed acoustic, the key difference is that the electro-acoustic can be plugged into an amplifier. Electro-acoustic guitars are fitted with an electronic device that captures the vibration of the strings allowing the guitar’s sound to be amplified. This device is called a pickup. The pickup means that the guitarist has greater freedom to move around than if a microphone was pointed at an acoustic-only guitar. If you are planning to perform your music in public an electro-acoustic could be a good choice. Electro-acoustic guitars are usually more expensive than regular steel string guitars.
If you grew up in the 1970’s, you probably associate the synthesizer with Rick Wakeman fromYes or Rick Wright from Pink Floyd. You might have an image of one or both of them surrounded by half-a-dozen keyboards. This fortress of synthesizers probably needed a cadre of engineers to set-up and an army of roadies to transport. As a child growing up in the 1980’s, whenever I think of synthesizers I think of an effeminate-looking guy with big hair, and pushed up sleeves, standing behind a keyboard and playing it with one finger. Or worse yet, a lad with jerry-curls decked out in a brightly coloured suit playing a keyboard that he wears around his neck like a guitar. What Exactly is The Synthesizer? The descendants of the synthesizers found in the aforementioned memories are some of today’s most fascinating and unique instruments. Instead of striking, strumming, or blowing to produce a vibration, the performer user a keyboard to control the production of an electronic sound generated by a variety of waveform synthesis techniques. Elisha Gray invented the first electric synthesizer in 1876. More than 50 years later, Hammond came out with the Novachoard, generally regarded as the first commercial polyphonic synthesizer (that didn’t sound like a Hammond organ). The company built over 1000 of these units between 1939 and 1942. The first commercially available synthesizer came out in the late 1960’s, the brainchild of engineer Robert Moog. In the 1970’s, synthesizers became portable for musicians to take on the road and in the 1980’s, the instruments became affordable to the average public. In the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, technology rose to incorporate synthesizers with computers and eventually home PCs One of the first albums released to feature a Moog synthesizer was The Monkees’ Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. released in 1967. The Monkees’ drummer, Mike Dolenz, bought one of the first 20 Moog models available. The following year, Walter (Wendy) Carlos, with help from Benjamin Folkman, reached the top of the charts with the album Switched-On Bach. Carlos and Folkman used Moog synthesizers to perform some of the most memorable works of the legendary German composer. The synthesizer’s popularity was further increased thanks to appearances on albums by rock’s greatest artists like The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Pink Floyd, and Yes By the time the 1970’s rolled around, the instrument was not only becoming more common in mainstream music but bands arose that used the synthesizers to create “electronic music.” While these synthesizer bands gathered a loyal following they failed to capture much of a mainstream audience. In the early 1980’s, the use of synthesizers, and its cousin the drum machine dominated a new genre of music called the new wave. Bands such as New Order, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, and OMD achieved commercial success with music dominated by the synthesizer, not the guitar. They became the vanguard of a sub-genre of music called synthpop. OMD achieved commercial success with music dominated by the synthesizer, not the guitar. They became the vanguard of a sub-genre of music called synthpop. Other artists of the era that utilized synthesizers with great success include Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, Devo, Howard Jones, Thompson Twins, Culture Club, and Tears For Fears. The instrument even helped the hard rock band Van Halen achieve their only number one single, the synth-
The piano has 88 keys which span the frequency range 27.5 Hz (A0) to 4186 Hz (C8). The strings are sounded by hammer mechanisms which are activated by the keys. Held in a heavy cast iron frame, the strings pass over a bridge to a pin block by which the strings are tuned. The soundboard is a crucial element in the sound of the piano. Energy is coupled from the strings into the soundboard and from it into the air. The soundboard is usually made of spruce. Three pedals afford the player some control over the sound of the instrument. The left pedal is the “soft pedal” or una corda. It shifts the keyboard beneath the strings so that the hammers strike fewer strings, giving a softer sound. The centre pedal is the sustain or sostenuto pedal which disengages the dampers. The right pedal is the damper pedal to dampen the whole keyboard. Some grand pianos have on the order of 7000 parts! Their function can be described in terms of six features: the keyboard, the hammers, the dampers, the bridge, the soundboard, and the strings. There are 52 white keys and 36 black keys (for the chromatic notes), bridging seven and a third octaves with 12 equal semitones per octave. The piano is the standard instrument for the equal tempered scale, yet both the high end and low end of the instrument are tuned so that they depart slightly from equal temperament because the sound has been judged to be more pleasing with that arrangement (see “stretched” tuning discussion below). Depressing a key on the piano engages a complex mechanism called the “action” of the piano which causes the hammer to strike the string. Actually, the hammers are in sets for the keys which sound two or three strings. The striking point is about 1/7th of the way along the string to discriminate against the 7th harmonic resonance, which is significantly out of tune with the equal-tempered scale. This “7th harmonic problem” can be illustrated by examining the musical intervals formed by an exact harmonic sequence. The grand piano has about 230 strings for the 88 keys. Generally, the ten lowest pitches have one wire wound string. The next 18 pitches have two, and the last 60 have three strings each. In the modern piano, the strings are mounted on a cast iron frame to provide the strength to main the required tension in all of these strings (about 30 tons for a grand). Working out combinations of lengths, masses and tensions for these strings within a compact instrument is a formidable problem. In order to maintain comparable tensions in the strings without inconvenient size for the instrument, the length is not halved with each octave but a ratio between 1.88 and 1.94:1 is used. The string mass is varied to constrain the frequencies to their proper values. For the lower pitches, the steel wire is wound with copper or brass, which adds mass without producing excessive stiffness. Even with the windings of soft metal, the increased stiffness of the lower strings makes them depart from the “ideal string” necessary to produce exact harmonics. As you increase in harmonic number, the frequencies are increasingly sharp. This has led to the practice of tuning the lower strings of the piano up to about 30 cents flat since that puts the upper harmonics more in tune with the midrange notes of the piano. This makes the piano sound better to most ears, partially because the low end of the piano at 27.5 Hz is in a frequency range where your hearing has dropped off considerably so that the upper harmonics of these low strings are probably heard more prominently than the fundamental. The extreme upper end of the piano is tuned up to 30 cents sharp in a practice that is called “stretched” tuning.
The Indian tabla, a two-piece percussion instrument, is the principal rhythmic accompaniment to most North Indian classical (namely
A harmonium is a type of organ that uses air pushed through reeds to create sound. It is popular in Indian music, and is often described as sounding like an accordion. Although it is most commonly used in Eastern music, the harmonium was developed in Paris and brought to India during the British occupation of the country. In 1840, Alexandre Debian introduced the harmonium in Paris, though several similar instruments were invented around the same time. The freestanding keyboard and pipes were used as an alternative to the larger pipe organs in churches, which were unsuitable or too expensive for small parishes or chapels. Their small size also made it possible to travel with the instruments, even if relocating to a faraway land. British colonialists brought harmoniums with them during their occupation of India, leading to the use of the instrument in Indian music. During their period of Western popularity, some were designed to resemble pipe organs, with additional height added to the pipes to make them look more expansive. They were originally played like a piano keyboard, with constant pedalling of a bellows device to pump air through the reeds and create the desired sound. Later models replaced the manual pump with an electronic one, to keep the flow of air constant. Although traditional Indian instruments are made to mimic the human voice, harmoniums quickly gained popularity for its ability to withstand tropical climates and basic operating system. The organ became known as the peti or baja, and was frequently used to accompany singing. Indian harmoniums often incorporate drone reeds, which will sustain a continuous tone to establish the key or main note of the piece. They also quickly eliminated the foot pedals, as most Indian musicians perform sitting or kneeling and couldnâ€™t operate the air pedal from those positions. Most modern organs replaced the foot-operated bellows with ones that could be operated by hand. In Western music, many well-known classical composers created music for the harmonium or in concert with the instrument. Antonin Dvorak, Rossini, Bruckner and Elgar all created pieces specifically for this type of organ. In modern Western music, the harmonium is sometimes used by experimental bands that frequently add unusual instruments to their compositions, such as Radiohead and Depeche Mode. The Beatles also had an interest in Indian-influenced music and featured the harmonium in many of their later songs, including Strawberry Fields Forever and Sexy Sadie. The harmonium offers a distinct musical experience from other keyboard or organ instruments. Its appeal has influenced many cultures, and it remains a common instrument in most Indian forms of music. Created in France, adopted by England, and improved by India, the harmonium is truly one of the most global instruments, and well worth listening to even if only for its historic value.
Among Indian classical musical instruments, the
Parts of the Sitar
Tuning the Sitar
There are a number of options in tuning the sitar. Even the same instrument will be tuned differently from piece to piece, according to the requirements of the rag. for more information check out “Tuning the Sitar”.
Playing the Sitar
The technique of the sitar is very involved. It is certainly advisable to have a teacher. However, a good introduction to the basic technique is to be found in “Learning the Sitar”. Bansuri and venue are common Indian flutes. They are typically made of bamboo or reed. There are two varieties; transverse and fipple. The transverse variety is nothing more than a length of bamboo with holes cut into it. This is the preferred flute for classical music because the embouchure gives added flexibility and control. The fipple variety is found in the folk and filmi styles but seldom used for serious music. This is usually considered to be just a toy because the absence of any embouchure limits the flexibility of the instrument. The flute may be called many things in India: Bansi, bansuri, murali, venue and many more.
There are two main types; bansuri and venu. The bansuri is used in the North Indian system. It typically has six holes, however, there has been a tendency in recent years to use seven holes for added flexibility and correctness of pitch in the higher registers. It was previously associated only with folk music, but today it is found in Hindustani classical, filmi, and numerous other genres. Venu is the south Indian flute and is used in the Carnatic system. It typically has eight holes. The venu is very popular in all south Indian styles. Cultural and Religious Significance flute The bansuri is not just a musical instrument because it has a great cultural and religious significance among Hindus. It is an instrument associated with Lord Krishna. Numerous common names reflect these epitaphs of Krishna. Common examples are Venugopal, Bansilal, Murali, Muralidhar, etc. Furthermore, in traditional Indian metaphysics, it is noted how remarkable it is the way the life force (pran, or literally “breath”) is converted into a musical resonance (sur). Flute names both a family of instruments and a single instrument. It is a member of the woodwind group. The various flutes are the only non-reed woodwind instruments found in the orchestra, all the rest being either single reeds, like the clarinet or double reeds, like the oboe and bassoon. The standard members of the transverse flute family are as follows, arranged from lowest pitch to highest pitch. Each variation has a several-octave range. They are all written at more or less the same place on the staff, but their sounding pitches are different. Notice that there are two that extend the range downwards, and two that extend it upwards.
- The bass flute is the lowest flute and sounds an octave lower than written.
- The alto flute in G sounds a perfect fourth lower than written.
- A concert flute is a non-transposing instrument, played by a flautist or flautist.
- The flute in Eb sounds a minor third higher than written.
- A piccolo sounds an octave higher than written. Related instruments are the end blown flutes, a group that includes the recorder or fipple flute, the Native American flute, the flageolet, and the tin whistle or pennywhistle. The ocarina is also related, as is the transverse flute called the fife, the primary use of which is in combination with drums in marching or military bands. There are also various pan flutes, usually made of multiple pipes that are used to change pitch, rather than using holes or keys.
The violin, the most commonly used member of the modern string family, is the highest-sounding instrument of that group. Its four strings are stretched over a high arched bridge that permits the playing of one or two strings at a time, as well as the nearly simultaneous sounding of three or four as chords. The overall length of the violin averages about 60 cm (23.5 in), whereas the sounding length of the strings, from the bridge to the nut at the end of the fingerboard, is about 32 cm (12.75 in). The instrument is held on the left side of the body, while the right-hand holds the bow. The wider end of the instrument is placed between the player’s left shoulder and chin, while the left hand encircles its neck, the fingers stopping the strings to produce the various pitches. The sound is produced by drawing the bow across the strings to make them vibrate, or by plucking the strings (PIZZICATO). The range of the violin extends from G, the lowest open string, upward nearly four octaves. The strings have tuned a fifth apart at G3(196 Hz), D4, A4, E5(659.3 Hz). Many consider that violin making reached its pinnacle in the work of Antonio Stradivari and Guiseppe Guarneri in the 18th century. Although the basic construction of the violin has been long established, the subtle variations which make an outstanding violin are the stuff of legend.
The Indian Violin
The South Indian violin is almost identical to the Western violin but differs from it in tuning and playing the position. It is traditionally played, sitting cross-legged, with the scroll placed on the artistâ€™s right ankle, the back of the violin resting on the artistâ€™s left shoulder (
The standard drum set we know now exists since 1935. It was ‘invented’ in the USA, in New Orleans. It consists of a few different parts. And lots of stands to keep the thing together! But it took a while before a drum set looked like this one. A lot of different
2 or 3 tom-toms (or just ‘toms’)
1 snare drum
1 bass drum
1 ride cymbal)
1 crash cymbal
2 Hi-Hat cymbals
It was in the 16th century that the Europeans took their drums to America. When they tried to conquer The New World, they took their colonists and armies (with all the instruments) to America. Later, he blacks, living in South America, were not allowed to play and create their own African drums. So they tried to combine drums with an African origin, like the snare and the tom-toms (but nobody remembered those were African drums from origin!). That first set looked about this
- 1 snare drum
- Chinese Toms
- A Horizontally placed bass drum
- Small cymbals
- A low Hi-Hat
- Chinese temple blocks
In the 20th century, people began to play on such drums. Everybody started to play those African rhythms. And because the beats were played more and more on the cymbals, the size of the cymbals increased. The Chinese toms were replaced with Afro/European drums and the Hi-Hat had been enlarged to make it easy to play with your sticks.