Flow | The right tempo or “kalapramanam”

Listen to Intakannaanandam emi sung by Balamurali Krishna | Lyrics >>
Image © Kutcherbuzz.com

If there is a single feature of Carnatic music to account for its mesmerizing effect on listeners it may well be a feature known as kalapramanam: practicing rhythm (laya)1 and performing in the the “right tempo”2 (kālapramānam) which, once chosen, remains even (until the piece is concluded).

Adopting it as part of regular practice enables musicians to perform in perfect alignment. Of equal importance are a number of benefits, including

The last point may be seen as test of the assertion made by the most beloved composer of South India: Sri Tyagaraja posing the rhetorical question: “Can there be any higher bliss than transcending all thoughts of body and the world, dancing with abandon?” – Intakannaanandam (learn more on karnATik.com), Bilahari raga, Rupaka tala

For details, also refer to the Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music

  • Glossary-cum-index
  • In the following section(s)
  1. ‘”The sense of rhythm gives us a feeling of freedom, luxury, and expanse. It gives us a feeling of achievement in molding or creating. It gives us a feeling of rounding out a design… As, when the eye scans the delicate tracery in a repeated pattern near the base of the cathedral and then sweeps upward and delineates the harmonious design continued in measures gradually tapering off into the towering spire, all one unit of beauty expressing the will and imagination of the architect, so in music, when the ear grasps the intricate rhythms of beautiful music and follows it from the groundwork up through the delicate tracery into towering climaxes in clustered pinnacles of rhythmic tone figures, we feel as though we did this all because we wished to, because we craved it, because we were free to do it, because we were able to do it.” – Carl Seashore in Psychology of Music (New York: Dover Publications 1938/1967 quoted in Cosmic order, cosmic play: an Indian approach to rhythmic diversity by Ludwig Pesch []
  2. “Carnatic music has this unique aspect where the musicians on stage and the audience explicitly put the tala on their hands. Each song has a particular tala and the related facets of rhythm include the tempo or kalapramanam of the song, the specifics of the tala — whether it is one of the Chapu talas or Suladi Sapta talas and its associated components, eduppu — the pivotal point where the melody starts in the tala cycle and this can occur at samam (the same starting point), before or after the tala commences [and] ‘kaarvai’ — versatile, rhythmic pause that is woven into the song itself or improvisations (kalpana svaras, korvais, pallavis). Another critical element is the arudi which can be described as a ‘landing point’ or the point of emphasis of a syllable of the lyric. The arudi is particularly important in the pallavi (part of Ragam Tanam Pallavi).” – Learn more: Arudi — the emphatic, landing point by KavyaVriksha, a “life long student of Music” []

Flow | Janya practice 5 & 6 notes – raga Vasanta

sa = middle octave (madhya sthayi), ‘sa = higher octave (tara sthayi)
Explore renditions of raga Vasanta on YouTube >>
Find song lyrics (composers) & translations for these and other ragas >>
Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: vasantA 17 sUryakAntam janya
Aa: S M1 G3 M1 D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 M1 G3 R1 S

“Flow” exercises

A series of “Flow” exercises invites learners to practice all the 72 musical scales of Carnatic music (“mela” or mēlakarta rāga). It is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyāsa gānam) attributed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa.

Repeated practice need not be tedious; instead it instantly turns joyful whenever we remind ourselves that Indian music “is created only when life is attuned to a single tune and a single time beat. Music is born only where the strings of the heart are not out of tune.” – Mahatma Gandhi on his love for music >>

As regards “time beat” in Carnatic music, the key concept is known as kāla pramānam: the right tempo which, once chosen, remains even (until the piece is concluded). | Learn more >>

Music teachers will find it easy to create their own versions: exercises that make such practice more enjoyable. | Janta variations >>

Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>

Listen to Uma Ramasubramaniam demonstrating the svaras (notes) for the present raga(s) on Raga Surabhi >>

Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Note: this recording has no fifth note “Pa”
(as advised for those janya ragas wherein “Pa” will not be sung or played)
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

Having but 6 notes (instead of 7), this type of raga pattern is traditionally classified as being “derived” (janya) from a melakarta raga. Text books refer to any raga limited to 6 notes as shadava raga. More specifically, raga Vasanta is an audava-shadava raga which means it has 5 notes in ascending, and 6 in descending melody patterns.

The most characteristic feature in the above svara pattern is the absence of the fifth note (pa) – the very note that conveys a sense of balance in most other ragas.

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Periodicals and sites included | More resources | Disclaimer >>

Please note that the above figures lend themselves to several “Carnatic sister ragas”.

Learn more and download a free mela-pocket guide here: Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method – free mini course >>

Flow | Janya practice 5 notes – raga Valaji 

An exercise for raga Valaji (YouTube) >>
Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura
The above exercise is inspired by the eminent violin duo Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan & Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi rendering a varnam by their late father
Lalgudi Shri. G Jayaraman: Chalamu seya in Adi tala1
“Flow” exercises

A series of “Flow” exercises invites learners to practice all the 72 musical scales of Carnatic music (“mela” or mēlakarta rāga). It is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyāsa gānam) attributed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa.

Repeated practice need not be tedious; instead it instantly turns joyful whenever we remind ourselves that Indian music “is created only when life is attuned to a single tune and a single time beat. Music is born only where the strings of the heart are not out of tune.” – Mahatma Gandhi on his love for music >>

As regards “time beat” in Carnatic music, the key concept is known as kāla pramānam: the right tempo which, once chosen, remains even (until the piece is concluded). | Learn more >>

Music teachers will find it easy to create their own versions: exercises that make such practice more enjoyable. | Janta variations >>

Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: valaci (valaji), 16 cakravAkam janya
Aa: S G3 P D2 N2 S | Av: S N2 D2 P G3 S

Listen to Uma Ramasubramaniam demonstrating the svaras (notes) for the present raga(s) on Raga Surabhi >>

Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Note: this recording has no fifth note “Pa”
(as advised for those janya ragas wherein “Pa” will not be sung or played)
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

Information about the persons, items or topics

Learn & practice more

  1. Live Concert at the Narada Gana Sabha Hall 1 January 2004 []

Flow | Janya practice 5 notes – raga Hamsadhvani

An exercise for raga Hamsadhvani (YouTube) >>
Find song lyrics (composers) & translations for these and other ragas >>
Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura
The above exercise is inspired by the rendition by eminent flautist
J.A. Jayant (YouTube Channel):
Gaayathi Vanamali by Sadasiva Brahmendra in Adi tala
Listen to a Varnam sung by Bhushany Kalyanaraman >>
“Flow” exercises

A series of “Flow” exercises invites learners to practice all the 72 musical scales of Carnatic music (“mela” or mēlakarta rāga). It is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyāsa gānam) attributed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa.

Repeated practice need not be tedious; instead it instantly turns joyful whenever we remind ourselves that Indian music “is created only when life is attuned to a single tune and a single time beat. Music is born only where the strings of the heart are not out of tune.” – Mahatma Gandhi on his love for music >>

As regards “time beat” in Carnatic music, the key concept is known as kāla pramānam: the right tempo which, once chosen, remains even (until the piece is concluded). | Learn more >>

Music teachers will find it easy to create their own versions: exercises that make such practice more enjoyable. | Janta variations >>

Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: hamsadhvani
Aa: S R2 G3 P N3 S | Av: S N3 P G3 R2 S

Having but 5 notes (instead of 7), this type of raga pattern is traditionally classified as being “derived” (janya) from a melakarta raga. More specifically, text books refer to any raga limited to 5 notes as audava raga.

The above svara pattern may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with several svara variants you are already familiar with (e.g. raga Dhirasankarabharanam, mela 29, resulting in Carnatic raga Hamsadhvani which has long been popular among Hindustani musicians as “Hansadhvani”). For details on popular Hindustani ragas, refer to The Raga Guide by Joep Bor.

Once internalized you may want to contemplate and remember the same exercise with the help of the “8 x 8 beads” pattern shared here >>

Practice another raga with 5 notes here >>

Information about the persons, items or topics

Learn & practice more

Flow | Janya practice 5 notes

sa = middle octave (madhya sthayi), ‘sa = higher octave (tara sthayi)
Explore renditions of raga Mohana, raga Bhupalam, raga Revagupti & Hindustani rag Bhupali on YouTube >>
Find song lyrics (composers) & translations for these and other ragas >>
Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

The above figures lend themselves to several ragas of Carnatic music:

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: mOhanam = raagam: bhUpALi (derived from the 28th melakarta raga, Harikambhoji)
Aa: S R2 G3 P D2 S | Av: S D2 P G3 R2 S

raagam: bhUpALam (derived from the 8th melakarta raga, Hanumatodi)1
Aa: S R1 G2 P D1 S | Av: S D1 P G2 R1 S

raagam: rEvagupti (derived from the 15th melakarta, Mayamalavagaula)2
Aa: S R1 G3 P D1 S | Av: S D1 P G3 R1 S

“Flow” exercises

A series of “Flow” exercises invites learners to practice all the 72 musical scales of Carnatic music (“mela” or mēlakarta rāga). It is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyāsa gānam) attributed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa.

Repeated practice need not be tedious; instead it instantly turns joyful whenever we remind ourselves that Indian music “is created only when life is attuned to a single tune and a single time beat. Music is born only where the strings of the heart are not out of tune.” – Mahatma Gandhi on his love for music >>

As regards “time beat” in Carnatic music, the key concept is known as kāla pramānam: the right tempo which, once chosen, remains even (until the piece is concluded). | Learn more >>

Music teachers will find it easy to create their own versions: exercises that make such practice more enjoyable. | Janta variations >>

Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>

Listen to Uma Ramasubramaniam demonstrating the svaras (notes) for the present raga(s) on Raga Surabhi >>

Having but 5 notes (instead of 7), this type of raga pattern is traditionally classified as being “derived” (janya) from a melakarta raga. More specifically, text books refer to any raga limited to 5 notes as audava raga.

The above svara pattern may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with several svara variants you are already familiar with (e.g. raga Harikambhoji, mela 28, resulting in Carnatic raga Mohana which resembles Hindustani raga Bhupali, also known as Bhup or Bhup Kalyan). For details on popular Hindustani ragas, refer to The Raga Guide by Joep Bor.

Once internalized you may want to contemplate and remember the same exercise with the help of the “8 x 8 beads” pattern shared here >>

Practice a different arrangement with 5 notes: raga Hamsadhvani >>

  1. This is the present version of raga Bhupalam, the earlier one would have corresponded to Revagupti, see below. []
  2. According to P. Sambamoorthy this is the modern name for raga Bhupalam (commonly sung with notes derived from the 8th melakarta, Hanumatodi); also known as the Tamil pan Puranīrmai; in temples the earlier version of Bhupalam – the one based on 15th melakarta Mayamalavagaula – is rendered before dawn by nagasvaram players; and it used to be heard in women’s songs and other folk songs. – A Dictionary of South Indian Music and Musicians, Vol. I []