Flow | Mela practice – svara pairs

This “Flow” exercise invites learners to practice any mela (melakarta raga)
Carnatic music offers a total of 72 scales >>
About this exercise

In our present context the above exercises are meant to foster a sense of “Flow” while supplementing the Carnatic music syllabus (abhyasa ganam) attributed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa | More information and renditions >>

Vocalists and instrumentalists practice pairs of notes (janta svara) with the aim of increasing fluency and precision.

Janta phrases are embedded in many compositions heard in today’s concerts (notably varnam, kriti and tillana) and as part of improvised interludes (manodharma sangīta): kalpana svara and tanam as clearly heard in the following examples:

Intacalamu (varnam) – Begada – Adi

Tanam – Ghanaraga panchakam (order: Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Sri, Varali)

Once familiar with the pattern consider practicing the first and the last melakarta ragas (mela 01 & mela 72).

Then proceed to others that are better known as “parental ragas” for their popular “offspring” (janya “derived ragas”) – notably those associated with melas 02 (Revati & Srimani), 17 (Saurashtram), 36 (Gambhiranata), 39 (Varali), 44 (Bhavani), 53 (Hamsanandi & Purvikalyani), 59 (Ranjani), 61 (Srutiranjani), or 66 (Amritavarshini).

Note: some of these mela-janya associations have been submitted to an expert commission appointed by the Music Academy Madras in view of some ambiguity or other. On similar lines, the “omission” of one or more notes from a raga’s “parental scale” may be confusing to learners as in the case of pentatonic (audava raga) Gambhiranata – today listed under mela 36 – which might as well be listed under mela 29.

“Whether the janya is the one derived from the melakarta or vice versa, the existing janaka-janya system of raga classification enhances the paramount importance of the 72 melas as technical facts defining the janyas under them.” – S. Seetha in Tanjore as a Seat of Music >>

a = middle octave (madhya sthayi)
‘sa = higher octave (tara sthayi)

Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura
This variation invites music teachers to create their own exercises and thereby make the practice of scale practice more enjoyable for their students.
Audio | Listen to janta phrases as taught by Savithri Rajan
Savithri Rajan teaching phrases in raga Bauli (gitam)
K. Hariprasad singing the full gitam in raga Bauli
Savithri Rajan teaching phrases in raga Navaroj (gitam)
K. Hariprasad singing the full gitam in raga Navaroj

The full series is available here:
Shobhillu Saptasvara: Abhyasa gana guided by Savithri Rajan >>

Find song lyrics and information about Carnatic ragas >>

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

The above svara pattern may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with any svara variants: those you are already familiar with (e.g. raga Mayamalavagaula, mela 15, raga Dhirasankarabharanam, mela 29, raga Mecakalyani, mela 65) or any other you want to practice.

Enjoy practicing by way of gradually getting into a state of flow: deep concentration while feeling completely absorbed by an activity.

Flow | Mela practice

sa = middle octave (madhya sthayi), ‘sa = higher octave (tara sthayi)

The present “Flow” series of exercises is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyasa ganam) attributed to 
16th c. composer Purandara Dasa | Janta variations >>

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

Explore renditions of raga Mayamalavagaula, raga (Dhira)Sankarabharanam and raga (Meca)Kalyani on YouTube >>
Listen to two kritis in ragas
Simhendramadhyamam and Sankarabharanam (6th and 7th items)
sung by Bhushany Kalyanaraman >>
Find song lyrics (composers) & translations for these and other ragas >>

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: mAyAmALavagauLa
Aa: S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S | Av: S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S

raagam: shankaraabharaNam 
Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

raagam: kalyANi
Aa: S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R2 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

The above svara pattern may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with any svara variants: those you are already familiar with (e.g. raga Mayamalavagaula, mela 15, raga Dhirasankarabharanam, mela 29, raga Mecakalyani, mela 65) or any other you want to practice.

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

Enjoy practicing by way of gradually getting into a state of flow: deep concentration while feeling completely absorbed by an activity.

And with a rich store at our fingertips in the digital age, let’s remind ourselves that there really is no such thing as a ‘learner’ raga’; a fact that sets us free to explore any raga with a sense of wonder: through joyful – active – involvement, whatever level or age group we happen to occupy!

The long-term goal is to become fluent in all the 72 melakarta ragas (including those rarely heard). In this manner it becomes easier to recognize both, melakarta and janya ragas, by distinguishing their characteristic notes even when modulated or “embellished” in accordance with classical conventions (gamaka). Their application is demonstrated in an elegant, highly instructive video (duration: 7 min.): The 13-part Sanskrit composition of Chitravina N Ravikiran. For a more detailed application, listen to Smt Kiranavali’s students at Cleveland Aradhana (Part 1) | Part 2 >>

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

For learners interested in staff notation for the above ragas and more, also check this course author’s reference work:

Find a copy of the Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music

Flow | Moods, feelings and colours

Colours, moods and feelings have been favourite subjects in the context of raga, literally “colour, beauty, pleasure, passion and compassion”.

We are aware that the ultimate aim of every composer and musician is to achieve the coalescence, the essential factors of classical music namely bhava, raga and tala. | Learn more >>

Explore this wonderful realm in imaginative ways – always in accordance with your own creativity and feelings

Suggestions for widening the scope for the “Flow”-exercises offered in this course:

  • Alternate the singing of svara syllables with humming (-m):
    – lines wherein 3-2-3 svaras are highlighted become “3 svaras sung + 2 svaras hummed + 3 svaras sung”
    – lines wherein 8 svaras are highlighted become “4 svaras sung + 4 svaras hummed”
  • Instead of humming (-m), extend the vowel found in the preceding svara variant (-a, -i)
  • As always, “be patient” …

To get going, click on “Details” and enjoy your practice!

Details

Select one of the exercises offered here:

  • 7 notes: Any sampurna (melakarta) raga
  • 5 notes: raga Mohana
  • 6 notes: raga Kuntalavarali
  • 6 notes: ragas Sriranjani & Hamsanandi

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

Here comes another challenge

Details

Designed for anyone in search of new “Flow-” horizons through music:

  • Vary the vowels of svara syllables: –a, -i and -u yield ra-ri-ru, ga-gi-gu, ma-mi, dha-dhi-dhu, na-ni-nu.
  • Examples
    – in raga Sankarabharanam (seven notes, mela 29), the variants sung are: “sa ri gu ma pa dhi nu
    – these variants also apply to many janya ragas like Hamsadhvani: “sa ri gu pa nu” (five notes)
    – in melakarta raga Gamanasrama (seven notes, mela 53), the corresponding variants are: “sa ra gu mi pa dhi nu
    – its janya raga Hamsanandi (six notes) lacks pa: “sa ra gu mi dhi nu
    – other variants apply to janya raga Sriranjani: “sa ri gi ma dhi ni
    – the “parent raga” for Sriranjani (six notes) is Kharaharapriya (seven notes, mela 22) to which the following variants apply: “sa ri gi ma pa dhi ni”

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) and performing in the the “right tempo” (kālapramānam) which, once chosen, remains even or standardized.

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)

Flow | Combine exercises & vocal ranges

  • 7 notes: Any sampurna (melakarta) raga
  • 6 notes: ragas Sriranjani & Hamsanandi
  • 5 notes: raga Hamsadhvani
  • 5 notes: raga Mohana
  • 5 notes: raga Valaji
  • 5/\7 notes: ragas Bilahari & Mohana Kalyani
  • 5/\6 notes: Vasanta
  • 6 notes: raga Kuntalavarali

<< swipe >> to try another exercise
Flow | Exercises, related resources & tips >>

Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = G# without Pa
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = G#
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = G
Tambura: “Sa” = F without Pa
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = F
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = D
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = D without Pa
Sruti petti: “Sa” = C-sharp
Sruti petti: “Sa” = C without Pa
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = C
Tambura and sruti petti: “Sa” = A# (lower octave)

Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura