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Learning about Indian music offers students a window not only to an interesting musical tradition, but also to an ancient and multifaceted culture. Enjoy your musical journey to India! Rhythm Just as the sargam syllables organize the melody, other short syllables support the learning and practice of rhythm, or tala TAH-luh. Although the regions share certain characteristics, they sometimes use different instruments.

In both regions, Indian classical music is performed in a small ensemble, including one percussion instrument, one drone instrument, one soloist on melody instrument or voice , and sometimes another melody instrument. Melody Instruments Sitar pronounced si-TAHR — a North Indian plucked stringed instrument with a long neck and a round resonating chamber made from a gourd.

Of all the Indian instruments, the sitar tends to be the most widely recognized by outsiders to Indian culture.

It can have 21, 22, or 23 strings, although musicians only actually play six or seven of these. The rest of the strings are called sympathetic strings, which means that they are tuned to specific pitches and vibrate when the same pitch is played on the main strings. These sympathetic strings give the sitar its characteristic ring. Like the sitar, the sarod has many sympathetic strings that lend a ringing tone.

The face of the sarod is covered with goatskin, which gives it a unique sound. It is similar in appearance to the sitar, with a long neck, a round resonator, and an additional gourd resonator attached to the neck. It has four melody strings and three sympathetic strings. Violin — a European instrument used frequently in South Indian music.

It was easily adopted into Indian music in the 19th century by virtue of its ability to play the Indian ragas RAH-guhs. In contrast to Western violinists, Indian players hold the instrument below the chin and rest the scroll of the violin on the ankle, leaving the left hand free to slide the whole length of the neck while the right hand moves the bow. Bansuri BUN-soo-ree — a transverse flute made from hollow bamboo. Its simple construction contrasts with the complex embouchure formation of the mouth required to play it and produce the many embellishments used in Indian music.

Harmonium — a reed instrument played by a keyboard similar to an accordion that was introduced to Indian music in the 19th century. It can play either melody or drone and is common in many styles of Indian music. Drone Instruments An Indian music performance almost always includes one instrument that provides a drone, a sustained pitch or set of pitches that is a background sound against which the melody is played. Since Indian music does not use harmony in the way that Western music does, the drone provides a pleasing contrast to the notes of the melody and brings out the unique sonority of the raga.

The presence of the drone also embodies the concept of om pronounced OHM , the elemental and eternal sound from which all other sounds flow. Om is an essential concept not only in music, but also in religion, philosophy, and many other facets of life in India. Similar in shape to the sitar, it has four or five strings that are tuned to the most important notes of the raga. The instrument is fairly simple to play and is often played in performance by a student of the soloist.

Today, the name surpeti most often refers to an electronic instrument that produces sounds similar to the tanbura. Musicians use the surpeti for practice or in place of a tanbura in performance. The drums can be made of metal or wood and are covered with skins that can be tightened or loosened to tune the drums to the main notes of the raga. Like the tabla, the heads of the mridangam can be tuned to the main notes of the raga being performed.

Unlike Western classical music, in which musicians play from written scores for a whole piece, Indian classical music includes only a very small portion of music composed in advance of the performance. Most of the music is improvised, or composed by the musician during the performance. Those short elements form the basis for longer works created and embellished by the performer in the moment—grounding each performance in both the past and the present.

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To hear an example of this, listen to this Kennedy Center Millennium Stage concert excerpt by Shashank Subramanyam, a young master of the South Indian bamboo flute. It starts with an improvisatory section by the flute and violin with no percussion. As the percussion enters in the eight-count rhythm called adi tal AH-dee TAHL , the performers begin the pre-composed portion of the piece.

Can you tell when the composed part is over and the musicians begin improvising again?

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Hint: Listen for the point at which the percussion recedes in volume and the melody instruments resume taking turns. You and your students can explore improvisation with this simple activity: Find a partner and choose instruments any simple melody instrument, your voice, or even your whistle. One partner leads by singing or playing a short phrase, which the second partner repeats in a similar but not exact!

Try this for a few phrases, and then switch leaders. Does this exercise give you some creative ideas for further improvisation? Email a link to this page. Share This Page. The Music of India Audio Series. Asia Collection. Sreevidhya Chandramouli Video. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Re 2 , ga 3 dha 6 and ni 7 can be either shuddh normal or natural, corresponding to the Western major intervals or komal flat, corresponding to the Western minor intervals. Ma 4 can only be shuddh the natural perfect 4th or tivra corresponding to the Western augmented fourth.

A dot is added above a note to indicate an octave higher, and a dot is added below a note to indicate an octave lower. The modifying words "shuddh, komal, and tivra" are not sung as part of the sargam system, but are used in instruction for clarification purposes. One learns to know whether a note is shuddh, komal, or tivra by how it sounds. Learning the sargam system is a great aid to developing excellent relative pitch skills.

The full traditional unfolding form of raga development in Hindustani classical music begins with an alap the first section in which the notes of the raga are introduced and explored without rhythmic accompaniment followed by jor second section included in or succeeding the alap, in rhythm, but without fixed meter and jhala the last section played with rapid strokes in a fast rhythm before the tabla enters.

After this, a slow gat fixed instrumental composition following the alap, jor and jhala, that signals the tabla player to join the performance is introduced, followed by a fast gat and jhala this time with tabla accompaniment. Alhaiya Bilawal is the most commonly known raga of the Bilawal group of ragas, which are based on the same intervals found in the major scale. Bilawal is portrayed in ragamala paintings as a lady waiting in anticipation for her lover to arrive.

Rhythm and Raga

Time: late morning 9 am-noon Moods: sringar joy and love , karuna pathos, compassion, sadness Vadi king note : Dha major 6 Samvadi prime minister note : Ga major 3. Ma, the perfect fourth, is normally omitted in ascent except for when it is used in an oblique manner.

Komal ni, the minor seventh, is only used in descent in an oblique manner, as shown in the avarohi for the raga, where it appears sandwiched between two major sixths dha. The asthai is the primary theme in Hindustani music, similar to the refrain in Western music, and is usually performed in the middle register.

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The antara is the second, higher part of a composition, showing the upper register. Ancient Future leader Matthew Montfort wrote this composition showing asthai and antara late one morning after practicing Rag Alhaiya Bilawal as taught by Ali Akbar Khan. This composition stays fairly close to the raga even using the heart phrase intact , but yet exploits the natural tendencies of the guitar.

It is an example of how ragas contain compositions just waiting to be discovered. Jugalbandi is a classical North Indian musical duet literally "tied together" , in this case with the unusual configuration of sitar and guitar accompanied by tabla.

Raag Des - Indian Classical Music -

The compositional form used in this contemporary world fusion performance as closely resembles that of a jazz standard as it does that of Hindustani classical music, so it is not surprizing that in this performance Pandit Habib Khan was moved to briefly explore a blues scale during his solo from to Rather than employing the long development structure of Hindustani classical music, there is a short introduction without tabla accompaniment a loosely defined alap by each melodic instrument followed by the main melody and solos with tabla accompaniment.

To learn more about the rhythmic side of Indian music, check out these online exercises in Indian tala. Site Map.