Category Archives: Music

Musical Keyboard

musical keyboards

A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played using a keyboard. The most common of these is the piano. Some other types of keyboard instruments include celestas, which are struck idiophones operated by a keyboard, carillons, which are usually housed in bell towers or belfries of churches or other municipal buildings, and other non-acoustic instruments, such as various electronic organs, synthesizers, and keyboards designed to imitate other musical sounds.

Today, the term “keyboard” is most commonly used to refer to keyboard-style synthesizers. Under the fingers of a sensitive performer, the keyboard may also be used to control dynamics, phrasing, shading, articulation, and other elements of expression, depending on the design and inherent capabilities of the instrument.

Among the earliest keyboard instruments are the pipe organ, hurdy gurdy, clavichord and harpsichord. The organ is without doubt the oldest of these, appearing in the third century BC, though this early instrument, called hydraulis, did not use a keyboard in the modern sense. From its invention until the fourteenth century, the organ remained the only keyboard instrument. Often, the organ did not feature a keyboard at all, but rather buttons or large levers operated by a whole hand. Almost every keyboard until the fifteenth century had seven naturals to each octave.

The clavichord and the harpsichord appeared during the 14th century, the clavichord probably being the earlier. The harpsichord and the clavichord were both common until the widespread adoption of the piano in the 18th century, after which their popularity decreased. The piano was revolutionary because a pianist could vary the volume (or dynamics) of the sound by varying the vigor with which each key was struck. The piano’s full name is gravicèmbalo con piano e forte meaning harpsichord with soft and loud but can be shortened to piano-forte, which means soft-loud in Italian. In its current form, the piano is a product of the 20th century, and is far removed in both sound and appearance from the “pianos” known to Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. In fact, the modern piano is significantly different from even the 19th-century pianos used by Liszt, Chopin, and Brahms.

Keyboard instruments were further developed in the early twentieth century. Early electromechanical instruments, such as the Ondes Martenot, appeared early in the century. This was a very important contribution to the keyboard’s history.

Much effort has gone into creating an instrument that sounds like the piano but lacks its size and weight. The electric piano and electronic piano were early efforts that, while useful instruments in their own right, were not successful in convincingly reproducing the timbre of the piano. Electric and electronic organs were developed during the same period.

Guitar

guitar musical instrument

The guitar is a popular musical instrument classified as a string instrument with anywhere from 4 to 18 strings, usually having 6. The sound is projected either acoustically or through electrical amplification (for an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, respectively). It is typically played by strumming or plucking the strings with the right hand while fretting (or pressing against the fret) the strings with the left hand.

The guitar is a type of chordophone, traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings and distinguished from other chordophones by its construction and tuning. The modern guitar was preceded by the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.

There are three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar), the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar. The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the strings’ vibration, amplified by the body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber. The classical guitar is often played as a solo instrument using a comprehensive fingerpicking technique. The term fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues, bluegrass, and country guitar playing in the US.

Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, use an amplifier that can electronically manipulate and shape the tone. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid body was eventually found more suitable, as it was less prone to feedback. Electric guitars have had a continuing profound influence on popular culture.

The guitar is used in a wide variety of musical genres worldwide. It is recognized as a primary instrument in genres such as blues, bluegrass, country, flamenco, folk, jazz, jota, mariachi, metal, punk, reggae, rock, soul, and many forms of pop.

Violin

violin musical instrument

The violin, also known as a fiddle, is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola, and the cello. The modern word is derived from the Italian word violino, literally ‘small viola’.

Someone who plays the violin is called a violinist or a fiddler. The violinist produces sound by drawing a bow across one or more strings (which may be stopped by the fingers of the other hand to produce a full range of pitches), by plucking the strings (with either hand), or by a variety of other techniques. The violin is played by musicians in a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque music, classical, jazz, folk music, rock and roll, and soft rock. The violin has come to be played in many non Western music cultures all over the world. The violin is sometimes informally called a fiddle, regardless of the type of music played on it.

The violin is first known in 16th century Italy, with some further modifications occurring in the 18th and 19th centuries. Violinists and collectors particularly prize the instruments made by the Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati families from the 16th to the 18th century in Brescia and Cremona and by Jacob Stainer in Austria. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this belief is disputed. Great numbers of instruments have come from the hands of “lesser” makers, as well as still greater numbers of mass produced commercial “trade violins” coming from cottage industries in places such as Saxony, Bohemia, and Mirecourt. Many of these trade instruments were formerly sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. and other mass merchandisers.

A person who makes or repairs violins is called a luthier. The parts of a violin are usually made from different types of wood (although electric violins may not be made of wood at all, since their sound may not be dependent on specific acoustic characteristics of the instrument’s construction), and it is usually strung with gut, Perlon or other synthetic, or steel strings.

Veena

veena musical instrument

Veena is a plucked stringed instrument originating in ancient India, used mainly in Indian classical music. The name is used for several instruments belonging to different families, mainly the Rudra veena (a zither) and the Saraswati veena (a necked bowl lute) but also to other types of plucked string instruments (Mohan veena, Ancient veena etc).

One of early veenas used in India from early times, until the Gupta period and later (this is probably the instrument referred to as veena in a chapter of the Natyasastra dealing with instrumental music) was an instrument of the type of the harp and more precisely of the arched harp. It was played with the strings being kept parallel to the body of the player, with both hands plucking the strings, as shown on Samudragupta’s gold coins. It is not possible to tell exactly the number of strings of the instrument on the coin, but descriptions in early literary sources of an ancient instrument called thesaptatantree veena (7-string veena) seem to coincide generally with the type of instrument represented on the coin.

Veena can be broadly classified into several different types

With frets

  • Rudra veena, plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music
  • Saraswati veena, plucked string instrument used in Carnatic music

Fretless

  • Vichitra veena, plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music
  • Chitra veena or gottuvadhyam, plucked string instrument used in Carnatic music

Guitar

Mohan veena, slide guitar

Other

  • Yazh, or Shatatantri veena, ancient Indian form of Santoor
  • Saptatantri veena

Tabla

tabla musical instrument

The tabla (or tabl, tabla) is a membranophone percussion instrument which is often used in Hindustani classical music and in traditional music of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres.

Tabla playing is a mathematically calculated process. The right hand drum is called a tabla and the left hand drum is called a dagga or baya. It is claimed that the term tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabl, which simply means “drum.” The tabla is used in some other Asian musical traditions outside of Indian subcontinent, such as in the Indonesian dangdut genre. Playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds and rhythms, reflected in the mnemonic syllables (bol). The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed during the sound’s decay. In playing tabla there are two ways to play it: band bol and khula bol.In sense of classical music it is termed as “tali” and “khali”.

The smaller drum, played with the dominant hand, is sometimes called dayan (literally “right”), dāhina, siddha or chattū, but is correctly called the “tabla.” It is made from a conical piece of mostly teak and rosewood hollowed out to approximately half of its total depth. The drum is tuned to a specific note, usually either the tonic, dominant or subdominant of the soloist’s key and thus complements the melody. The tuning range is limited although different dāyāñs are produced in different sizes, each with a different range. Cylindrical wood blocks, known as ghatta, are inserted between the strap and the shell allowing tension to be adjusted by their vertical positioning. Fine tuning is achieved while striking vertically on the braided portion of the head using a small, heavy hammer.

The larger drum, played with the other hand, is called bāyāñ (literally “left”) or sometimes dagga, duggī or dhāmā. The bāyāñ has a much deeper bass tone, much like its distant cousin, the kettle drum. The bāyāñ may be made of any of a number of materials. Brass is the most common, copper is more expensive, but generally held to be the best, while aluminum and steel are often found in inexpensive models. Sometimes wood is used, especially in old bāyāñs from the Punjab. Clay is also used, although not favored for durability; these are generally found in the North East region of Bengal.

Mrudangam

mrudangam

The Mrudangam is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble. Alternate spellings include “mridangam”, “mrdangam”, “mritangam” and “miruthangam in Tamil”.

The mrudangam is also played in Carnatic concerts in countries outside of India, including Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. During a percussion ensemble, the mridangam is often accompanied by the ghatam, kanjira, and the morsing.

The mridangam is a double-sided drum whose body is usually made using a hollowed piece of jackfruit wood about an inch thick. The two mouths or apertures of the drum are covered with a goatskin and laced to each other with leather straps around the circumference of drum. These straps are put into a state of high tension to stretch out the circular membranes on either side of the hull, allowing them to resonate when struck. These two membranes are dissimilar in width to allow for the production of both bass and treble sounds from the same drum.

The bass aperture is known as the thoppi or eda bhaaga and the smaller aperture is known as the valanthalai or bala bhaaga. The smaller membrane, when struck, produces higher pitched sounds with a metallic timbre. The wider aperture produces lower pitched sounds. The goat skin covering the smaller aperture is anointed in the center with a black disk made of rice flour, ferric oxide powder and starch. This black tuning paste is known as the satham or karanai and gives the mridangam its distinct metallic timbre.

The combination of two inhomogeneous circular membranes allows for the production of unique and distinct harmonics.

Immediately prior to use in a performance, the leather covering the wider aperture is made moist and a spot of paste made from rice flour and water is applied to the center, which lowers the pitch of the left membrane and gives it a very powerful resonating bass sound. The artist tunes the instrument by varying the tension in the leather straps spanning the hull of the instrument. This is achieved by placing the mridangam upright with its larger side facing down, and then striking the tension bearing straps located along of circumference of the right membrane with a heavy object (such as a stone). A wooden peg is sometimes placed between the stone and the mridangam during the tuning procedure to ensure that the force is exerted at precisely the point where it is needed. Striking the periphery of the right membrane in the direction toward the hull raises the pitch, while striking the periphery from the opposite side (moving away from the hull) lowers the pitch. The pitch must be uniform and balanced at all points along the circumference of the valanthalai for the sound to resonate perfectly. The pitch can be balanced with the aid of a pitch pipe or a tambura. The larger membrane can also be tuned in a similar manner, though it is not done as frequently. Note that since the leather straps are interwoven between both the smaller and larger aperture, adjusting the tension on one side often can affect the tension on the other.

Flute

flutes

The flute is a family of musical instrument of the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge blown aerophones.

A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, a flautist,a flutist or less commonly a fluter. The term flutenist, found in English up to the 18th century, is now virtually obsolete.

A flute produces sound when a stream of air directed across a hole in the instrument creates a vibration of air at the hole. The air stream across this hole creates a siphon.This excites the air contained in the usually cylindrical resonant cavity within the flute. The player changes the pitch of the sound produced by opening and closing holes in the body of the instrument, thus changing the effective length of the resonator and its corresponding resonant frequency. By varying the air pressure, a flute player can also change the pitch of a note by causing the air in the flute to resonate at a harmonic rather than the fundamental frequency without opening or closing any holes.

To be louder, a flute must use a larger resonator, a larger air stream, or increased air stream velocity. A flute’s volume can generally be increased by making its resonator and tone holes larger. This is why a police whistle, a form of flute, is very wide for its pitch, and why a pipe organ can be far louder than a concert flute: a large organ pipe can contain several cubic feet of air, and its tone hole may be several inches wide, while a concert flute’s air stream measures a fraction of an inch across.

The air stream must be directed at the correct angle and velocity, or else the air in the flute will not vibrate. In fippled or ducted flutes, a precisely formed and placed windway will compress and channel the air to the labium ramp edge across the open window. In the pipe organ, this air is supplied by a regulated blower. In non-fipple flutes, the air stream is shaped and directed by the player’s lips, called the embouchure. This allows the player a wide range of expression in pitch, volume, and timbre, especially in comparison to fipple/ducted flutes. However, it also makes an end blown flute or transverse flute considerably more difficult for a beginner to produce a full sound on than a ducted flute, such as the recorder. Transverse and end-blown flutes also take more air to play, which requires deeper breathing and makes circular breathing a considerably trickier proposition.

Generally, the quality called timbre or “tone colour” varies because the flute can produce harmonics in different proportions or intensities. The tone color can be modified by changing the internal shape of the bore, such as the conical taper, or the diameter to length ratio. A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple of a lower register, or “fundamental” note of the flute. Generally the air stream is thinner (vibrating in more modes), faster (providing more energy to excite the air’s resonance), and aimed across the hole less deeply (permitting a more shallow deflection of the air stream) in the production of higher harmonics or upper partials.

Head joint geometry appears particularly critical to acoustic performance and tone, but there is no clear consensus on a particular shape amongst manufacturers. Acoustic impedance of the embouchure hole appears the most critical parameter. Critical variables affecting this acoustic impedance include: chimney length (hole between lip-plate and head tube), chimney diameter, and radii or curvature of the ends of the chimney and any designed restriction in the “throat” of the instrument, such as that in the Japanese Nohkan Flute.

Aside from the voice, flutes are the earliest known musical instruments. A number of flutes dating to about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.

Devotional Carnatic Music

Carnatic music is considered one of the oldest systems of music in the world. Carnatic music is a very complex system of music that requires much thought, both artistically and technically. The basis of Carnatic music is the system of ragas (melodic scales) and talas (rhythmic cycles). There are seven rhythmic cycles and 72 fundamental ragas. All other ragas are considered to have originated from these. An elaborate pattern exists for identifying these scales, known as the 72 Melakarta Raagas. Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, the three saint composers of the 19th century, have composed thousands of krithis that remain fresh among musicians and rasikas.

The most important specialty of Karnatic music is its highly devotional element. The concept of the compositions are set entirely against a devotional outline. The notes of Carnatic music is “sa-ri-gaa-ma-pa-da-ni”. These are abbreviations of the real names of swaras which are Shadjam, Rishabham, Gandharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatam and Nishaadam.

Each note of the pattern (the swaraa) will have up to three varieties. The only exceptions for this are the two base notes shadjam and panchamam, sa & pa which have only one form, and madhyamam, the middle swara, which has only two notes. Spirituality has always been the prominent content of Carnatic music. The beautiful blending of the beauty and devotional element has made it extraordinary and divine.

The basic idea behind indian music compositions has been to see and seek the ultimate brahman or God. In fact, it has been told in Hindu scriptures that the easiest and best way to attain salvation is to sing the greatness of the Divine power. In Hindu scriptures, music and God have always been depicted together. Many deities have their own musical instruments and are all portrayed as lovers of music. Lord Siva or rudra is the embodiment of Nada (cosmic music) which is the first form of music.

Lord Krishna, the first of flautists, indicates his musical inclinations by the fact that he is the Sama Veda among the Vedas. While Lord Siva is the embodiment of Nada (cosmic music) and Tandava (cosmic dance),Goddess Parvathi is seen as the embodiment of Lasya, the feminine quality.

carnatic music muralsGoddess Saraswati, the source of wisdom is always associated with the Veena (known as Vipanchi, or vina a stringed musical instrument). Goddess Lakshmi, the source of wealth revels in music while Lord Vishnu, her consort, plays on the percussion. Among the saints as well, Narada and tumburu are found as Vainika-Gayaka (experts in music and Vina). Nandi, the holy bull of Siva, is the master of Laya. Demi-Gods like Yakshas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras are all proficient in music and musical instruments. In Hindu scriptures, music is known as Gandharva Vidyaa. Hanuman was proficient in the instrument Hanumad Veena and this is the first form of the present day Chitraveena.

The growth and development of Carnatic music through the centuries is a testimony to the greatness of the Indian mind. It needs to be taken to the international arena parallel to any other classical art form. This can be achieved if we understand it in the right perspective and do not lose it to religion.

Carnatic music, the representation of a rich cultural heritage of south India, the essence of spirituality evolved out of the heart and brain of the pious ones and the gurus of the past. Thus carnatic music of South India is the synonym to salvation and eternity. The Nada Brahma – God incarnated in a sonic form to save humans from birth and rebirths. This website aims at educating rasikas, providing them information on Carnatic music. Let us contribute to this rich tradition of Carnatic music. Let us take a pledge to keep the flame bright for the future. All efforts to support this idea are always welcome.

Hindustani Vocal Music

Hindustani vocal music or Bhartiya Shastriya sangit or the north Indian style of Indian classical music is practiced throughout the northern Indian subcontinent. It is a tradition that originated in Vedic ritual chants and has been evolving since the 12th century, primarily in what is now North India.

Earlier, Hindustani vocal music was not available to everyone and was confined to high society people like the ruling, administrative and business class only but because of two musicians & scholars: V. N. Bhartkhande & V.D. Paluskar, today it easily available to the common man.

One possible classification of ragas is into “melodic modes” or “parent scales”, known as thaats, under which most ragas can be classified based on the notes they use. Thaats may consist of up to seven scale degrees, or swara. Hindustani classical musicians name these pitches using a system called Sargam, the equivalent of the Western movable dosolfege.

The Hinduastani classical music concepts: Shruti, Swara, Alankar, Raga, Tala, Thaat and Gharana.

The Generes – Hindustani Classical: Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khyal, Tarana, Sadra and Semi classical: Thumri, Dadra, Qawwali, Ghazal, Bhajans (devotional), Chaiti, Kajri.

The Thaats: Bilaval, Khamaj, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairav, Bhairavi, Todi, Purvi, Marwa and Kalyan.

Light Music

Light music can be defined as the simple and commercial musical form irrespective of whether it is filmy or non filmy music. To make it simpler, anything pleasant to hear and suiting the occasion is accepted. It doesn’t impose strict rules that are applied for classical music. As the name suggests, light music is always sung light without any depth in singing. Mostly the sound emerges from the throat. However in carnatic, the sound emanates from the umbilical cord (Naabhi) and travels through the chest then to the throat. It is not compulsory that a student should have knowledge in classical music to attempt or learn light music. But people who are trained in classical have an edge over those who sing only light, especially in voice culture, knowledge, identifying swaras, and other technical aspects. They can adapt to light with ease.

Characteristics оf thе Light Music genre саn bе summarized аѕ follows:

  • A strong melody whеthеr “catchy” in itѕ simplicity, оr оthеrwiѕе “memorable” in nature.
  • Cоntаinѕ аn admixture оf elements whiсh hаvе bесоmе аѕѕосiаtеd оvеr time.
  • Nо pretense оf “serious composition” ѕuсh аѕ found with classical music аnd nо lоng sections оf improvisation.

Ilaiyaraaja, thе living legend hаѕ made enormous contribution tоwаrdѕ Indian light music. Hе iѕ regarded аѕ оnе оf thе finest music composers in India. Hе hаѕ composed оvеr 4500 songs аnd provided film scores fоr mоrе thаn 950 Indian films in vаriоuѕ languages in a career spanning mоrе thаn 30 years. Hе composed a variety оf nоn film music, including religious аnd devotional songs, аn oratorio, аnd world music . Hе iѕ uѕuаllу referred tо bу thе title “Isaignani”( A mаn with great knowledge in music), оr аѕ Thе Maestro.