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last updated May 6, 2011
   
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Understand Rag
  Understand tal
Improvers
Know the scale on which the Rag is based

Each rag is based on a scale. A first exercise in learning any new rag is to practice its scale and alenkar in that scale. Not all the note sequences in alenkar patterns will be permissible in the actual rag, but the technique thus developed is fundamental to being able to play fluently. So for example, Rag yaman is based on the following scale:

Whereas Rag Bhairavi is based on:

You will need to tune your sitar, perhaps moving some of the frets around, and tuning the taraf and other drone strings correctly for the scale and rag you are practicing in.

Practice all the scale exercises and alenkar whenever you start learning a new rag, or in preparation for going back to a rag you have learnt earlier. Eventually you will be able to switch rags and retune quite quickly, but nevertheless it is good to spend a little time getting yourself 'tuned in' to whatever rag you are going to play next.

 

Play simple paltas in the Rag

A palta is an exercise that you practice many times. In this case the palta provides basic material in the rag which you need to practice until it becomes automatic. Like everything else it provides basic raw material for improvisation. The simplest form of this is a scale like passage which fits into 16 beats and which you can use to practice your technique and establish key aspects of the rag in your mind. Here is a simple example for rag yaman.

 


Intermediate
Understand the basic rules of the rag

A rag cannot be learnt from rules, but you do need to know the basic rules of each rag.

For example, in Rag Yaman you cannot play:

Instead you have to play something like:

Think about the rules, compare them to phrases in the gat and tans you have learnt, make up small phrases yourself that conform to the rules and experiment with them on your sitar.

 

Hear and imitate short phrases in the rag

This is the best way to learn a rag. Your guru or someone who knows the rag well will sing or play short phrases. You should copy them preferably singing them first, naming the notes and playing them on your sitar. For many rags meend and ornamentation are essential parts of the character of the rag - these can only be learnt by the oral method of listening and copying.

 

Play the palta for the rag

It is a very good practice to learn a palta which covers all the main phrases of the rag in all the registers. This helps develop your technique, gives you raw material for improvisation, and is a quick way of getting the rag back in your head when you want to play it. Here is such a palta for rag Madhuwanti.

 


Higher
Abiity to sing short phrases and then imitate them on the sitar

Sing short phrases in the rag and then copy them on sitar. You should include meend where appropriate and other simple ornaments in your phrases once you have mastered these techniques. But you must always be clear exactly what you are playing. It is a good idea to check up on this from time to time by analysing an ornament into its component notes.

 

Ability to improvise within the rules of the rag

Practicing free improvisation within the rules of the rag, at first without tabla, so that you don't need to worry about tal is useful. Concentrate on sticking exactly to the rules. It is a good idea to practice this saying/singing the names at the same time as well as just playing on your sitar. Invent phrases in the rag as if you were playing alap, as if you were beautifying a gat or as if you were making up tans.

Include meend and murki as you master these techniques.

 

Library

Rag Bageshri
   
Scale
Ascending and descending palta

Long palta
Basic rules

Pa is avoided in ascent and used infrequently in descent
Re is is avoided in the ascent - so phrases such as Sa Re Ga must be avoided
in descent the melody often uses the characteristic phrase Ma Pa Da Ma turning back on itself
the main emphasised notes of the raag are Ma and Sa
the note Dha also tends to be rested upon

Tuning for front strings
Tuning for taraf
Tuning for tanpura
Gat Vilambit gat set in tintal
  Drut gat set in ektal
  Drut gat set in rupaktal
   
Rag Bhairavi
   
Scale
Ascending and descending palta
Basic rules

Bhairavi is commonly performed introducing other notes of the scale - for example shuddh Re.

Tuning for front strings
Tuning for taraf
Tuning for tanpura
Gat Vilambit gat (to be completed)
  Drut gat set in tintal
   
Rag Gujri Todi
   
Scale
Ascending and descending palta
Basic rules

Komal Re is emphasised

Tuning for front strings
Tuning for taraf
Tuning for tanpura

A main palta for practice



Gat Drut gat set in tintal
   
Rag Jhinjhoti
   
Ascending and descending palta
Long palta
Tuning for front strings
Tuning for taraf
Tuning for tanpura a
Gat

Vilambit gat set in tintal

Drut gat set in tintal

   
Rag Madhuvanti
   
Ascending and descending palta
Long palta a
Basic rules

Rag omits Re and Dha when ascending.

Tuning for front strings
Tuning for taraf
Tuning for tanpura a
Gat

Madhya gat set in rupaktal

Vilambit gat set in tintal

   
Rag Yaman
   
Scale a
Ascending and descending palta a
Basic rules

Rag omits Sa when ascending from the lower octave.
Rag omits Pa when ascending.
Characteristic phrase Ni Re Ga

Tuning for front strings a
Tuning for taraf a
Tuning for tanpura a
Gat Vilambit gat set in tintal
  Madhya gat set in tintal
  Drut gat set in tintal
   

 

 

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