Counting Beats, Taals, Tihais, Chakkardars

From my experience, many people get impatient with themselves when they listen to Indian Classical Music because they don’t understand what’s going on.
It’s actually very easy to understand if you ask the right people.
Even if you have NO clue about the technicalities of what Raag is being played, I think you can thoroughly enjoy a performance if you can follow the beat.
I know that’s how I started.

This workshop is for you if you

  • * want to understand how Taals work in the Indian system of music
  • * as a listener, want to be able to count the beats so you know what’s going on – you’ll enjoy all the Indian Classical Music concerts you attend from now on because you can follow the beat. You’ll appreciate the millions of Indian Classical Music videos on Youtube much much more.
  • * easily learn to count the more complex cycles – like Vilambit (VERY slow) ektaal… and beats with fractions like “10 3/4 (10.75) beats” —– apply the same concepts when you listen to any other Vilambit taal or other cycles with 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 fractions.
  • * Learn how Tihais and Chakkardaars work so you can enjoy them more
  • * and Finally: learn a very simple system for creating your own Tihais

Everything in this workshop will be explained it to you in a way that’s straightforward, practical, and simplified as much as it can be.

This lesson is available for purchase but you need to login or register first.
Cost: 18USD . You will have access to the content for 150 days.

We think 150 days is plenty of time for you to Really 'get' the lessons in this particular workshop. It will be our responsibility to make sure you get answers to your questions + feedback within the given time limit.

Raag Bilawal

This particular composition is the tune for the Shabad “Tere Gun Gavan Deh Bujhayee” .
I accompanied Beant Singh, Birmingham Wale on Tabla as he sang this in a casual, private ( 3 persons ) , Kirtan session at the GNNSJ Gurudwara on SOHO Road in Birmingham.

It’s been stuck in my head ever since (in a good way).

Beant Singh said it’s a modified version of a composition he heard from recordings of Ragi Samund Singh Ji.

It’s Quite upbeat , and yet touching If you read the meanings – I love it . Anyway , here’s whatever I remember from what Beant Singh sang + a few improvisations + a few mistakes. Link to the Shabad & It’s interpretation in English:

Kesariya Balam Aao Ni Padharo Mare Des

I first heard this Rajasthani Folk tune sung on SaReGaMaPa 2007 by Raja Hassan. Fantastic Tune, and Fantastic singing.
Here’s what I could manage to play after re-listening to it just twice. I added my own random alaaps and mistakes 🙂

Personally I’m happier with the Audio recording in the previous post, but this still feels quite OK, so I’ve put it up.

I read in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, that true mastery of a skill is only achieved after about 10,000 hours of practice. Makes great sense.
After some rough calculations, I’m guessing that I have only about 800 hours worth of practice, including all my lessons.. hahah. ( But in all fairness, I spend quite a lot of time listening to Indian Classical Music. Ustad-ji says listening and trying to pick up nuances from other great musicians is very, very important. )

I’ve come up with 2 conclusions.
1) I can really appreciate the effort and dedication that professional musicians must to put into their practice.
2) As an enthusiast, I’m very grateful for whatever I can do now.

Lessons: Update

The basic structure of the system I will be using to serve online workshops has been put in place.
No obligations. Learn what you want, when you want, if you want.
But please carefully read through the “learn-online” page at the top first.

There are 3 free lessons up for beginners who have some experience with the Indian system of music , have had some contact with Dilruba / Esraj before, and want to just ‘figure it out’.

* Detailed Lesson on tuning for people with no previous knowledge of the Indian music system is complete for now, but may be added on to based on your questions.
It includes an introduction to the Indian notation system with nice illustrations and simple video demonstrations + detailed illustration for tuning + high quality audio of my Esraj being tuned.

1 workshop to build your note-matching skills and develop your ability to play from any scale ( A#, C#, D# ) without retuning have been put up.
1 workshop consisting of Exercises for Beginners has been put up.
1 Intermediate workshop (Meends) has been put up.
1 Composition in Raag Yaman / Tintaal for beginners – It’s a nice fun composition you can use as a Shaan. It will also challenge your accuracy as you try to play it at faster and faster speeds.

Lessons for proper sitting position and proper hand placement on the playing string are also in the queue.
By Proper – I don’t mean right or wrong. I simply mean, Ustad Piara Singh -> Ustad Baljeet Singh -> Ustad Maiya Singh — their style… which is the TarShehnai or Gayaki (Singing) style.
This is a big deal – because it took me a very long to get it right. Once you do, playing embellishments and adding ‘mithaas’ (sweetness) to your music becomes much easier.

More content will be organized and put up on an ongoing basis.
See the Lessons section on the right – to get a list of what is currently available.

RiyazStudio is definitely worth it.

I bought a RiyazStudio license over the weekend.

I think it’s definitely worth it. The best thing is that it feels alive compared to the physical Tanpura and Tabla boxes. The Tanpura sounds very realistic. The Shruti-box type drone helps add to the atmosphere. Tabla accompaniment works great as expected.

It’s a great tool for practice.
Thanks Jackson for pointing it out to me, and Thanks to Jonathan for a very useful product.

I made a couple of recordings:

The warm up – hadn’t practiced this for a while, and just felt like playing it today. The mistakes you hear are due to indecision on my part.
Jamming – Composition for the Shabad, Mouli Dharti Moulia Akaash in Raag Shudh Basant , DeepChandi taal.

Second Tune:
Jamming – Tune for the Rajasthani folk song Kesariya Baalam

How I recorded these

I couldn’t record myself on a new track over the digital tabla recording because I don’t have a microphone attached to my computer.
RiyazStudio was playing on my speakers, and I positioned my portable recorder close to my Esraj – you’ll have to turn the volume up quite a bit in order to hear what the software Tabla and Tanpura sound like.

Taanpura and Tabla “Box”

Jackson from the USA got in touch with me 2 days ago through Youtube. He mentioned a software program called RiyazStudio.

What is it ? It’s a software version of the tanpura box and tabla box most people use to practice Indian Classical Music. Having RiyazStudio is like having both the Tanpura and Tabla boxes in one program.

I’ve got to say, the audio samples on their website sound excellent.

The price is also very attractive: you save about US$250 if you buy RiyazStudio instead of two

Anyway, here’s what Jackson said to me about it ..

I asked: Do you have it?

Yeah I do have it. It’s really an awesome program. The sound is amazing. The current “semi-classical” version is much improved in functionality over the screenshot on the website.. It’s more than just a few loops now for each taal, it’s all these variations with more or less detail and at different tempos, and it’s programmable. The guy that created it is always updating and always lets you know and emails you a link to download any new versions.

I said: I’m on a Mac at home, and that crossover thing sounds like a headache, does it work well?

I’m actually on a mac too, but I found Crossover … works just fine (as long as you have an Intel mac). It was a little odd to set up but not a challenge. Actually using it is as easy as opening the Riyaz program.

Anyway if you need any help or anything let me know. I highly recommend trying the program.

So there you go, if you’re looking for a Tanpura and/or Tabla box – he’s an interesting solution.
Thank you Jackson.

** Update **
Check out RiyazStudio’s youtube channel.

Raag Sarang and Raag Tilang

I’ve been working on different bowing exercises for a few weeks now.
Recorded myself playing Raag Sarang recently. This composition is the one I was taught (By Ustadji Maiya Singh) about 4 years ago for the Shabad Aisi Hoi Paree

I think it’s a bit too rushed.

Tried again with Raag Tilang after a couple of days. This is what I remember from Bhai Avtar Singh Ji’s CD Set: 31 Ragas .. Shabad: Halle Yaara Halle Yaara Khushkhabri. May not be entirely accurate as I didn’t look it up before recording, but I’m quite happy with it.

As far as I know, the version of Raag Sarang in the first video is called Brindabani Sarang. ( which means other variants of Sarang also exist ).

Raag Tilang in the second video, I think, is not entirely correct either – so let’s just say it’s semi-classical eh? 🙂 Dha Shudh and Re shudh were used for embellishments – I’ve been told that they should be avoided if you’re playing the proper, classical Raag Tilang.

Anyway, the point I want to make is: did you notice that Raag Sarang and Raag Tilang are similar?
By my estimates, the rules and structure for both Raags are 95% identical ; the key difference being ONE note.

Used the Iphone to record these two videos – I wont be doing so again, volume is a little too low.

Gurmit Singh Shaant with Ustadji Maiya Singh

Kirtan Program at my place in Bangkok, Thailand
15 Jan 2009

Bhai Sahib Gurmit Singh Shaant
Ustadji Maiya Singh on Esraj
Bhai Manjit Singh on tabla – he’s using the big tabla that sounds like a Phakavaj, but a regular Duggi.

in 3 raags and 3 different Taals: Panj Taal 15bt, Ik Taal 12bt, and Tin Taal 16bt.
Shabad + Meaning: Basant Chariya Phooli Banraie.

I think it’s Raag Bihagra. Roopak 7bt.
Shabad + Meaning: Ratte Ishq Khudaaie Rang Didaar Ke

Raag Tilang. Tintaal 16bt.
Shabad + Meaning: Meera Daana Dil Soch

Thumri . Sounds like it’s based on Raag Patdeep – but he uses every note and every combination of notes possible. Too good!
Shabad + Meaning: Har Bin Bail Birani Huihai

Playing in Different Scales without re-Tuning

Imagine, it is 1 year from now, you have developed your skills by leaps and bounds and are in demand as a Dilruba player.
You are invited to a Youth Kirtan* program (*religious music).
You have been requested to play Dilruba for all 10 Jathas (groups) performing that day.
From experience, you know that if there are 10 Jathas in the line-up, you’re going to have to re-tune your instrument at least 7 or 8 times to match their scale and Raag.
Which means you’re going to extend the 2 hour program by approximately 25 minutes, just by having to re-tune your instrument over and over again.
Interested in a more efficient idea?
It’s better if you practice this exercise early on – you will also find a very interesting use for these exercises when you get more advanced.

This lesson is available for purchase but you need to login or register first.
Cost: 23USD . You will have access to the content for 60 days.

We think 60 days is plenty of time for you to Really 'get' the lessons in this particular workshop. It will be our responsibility to make sure you get answers to your questions + feedback within the given time limit.

Learn Online

Online Esraj & Dilruba Lessons



Lessons are provided in the form of online workshops.
Each workshop consists of video demonstrations and text explanations.
Our workshops are compact and designed to teach you specific skills. Practice goals are provided.
Every workshop has a different, but generous, time limit depending on how much content is covered.
The listed cost includes feedback, as needed, for the duration of the workshop.

What kind of Feedback?

*   answers to relevant questions within the scope of the workshop you have purchased access to
*   if required, addition of new video demonstrations or audio explanations to answer relevant questions within the scope of the workshop you have access to
*   you make practice videos and send them in – they will be reviewed and you will be given tips on how to improve and suggestions of what to focus more attention on correcting.
Instructions for putting up private videos (for feedback purposes) are here.

Who will be giving feedback?

*  Manav Singh
*  if Manav is unable to answer then you will get feedback from Ustad Maiya Singh ji.
*  Ustadji will review your practice videos from time to time (irregularly)
* other participants will be able to see your questions, some may wish to help out and offer answers

If your goal is to develop your technique and be able to play fluently like Ustadji, or Manav even ( but hopefully you aim to emulate the Teacher, not the student : ) , then all the workshops will help you.
Of course, there is no obligation: You can learn what you wish, when you wish, if you wish.
Doing the Homework within the workshop’s time limit is your responsibility.
Giving you feedback within the workshop’s time limit is our responsibility.

It is our humble request that you respect our work and effort.     

By Signing up:

*) You agree not to share your username and password with anyone. 1 person per account please.

*) You agree not to download and save any of the video lessons. You agree to watch the video lessons online from the server only

* * ) You are welcome and encouraged to take notes.

* * ) You agree not to attempt to re-post our content on any other website or file-sharing service. You agree not to modify any of our content for redistribution.

*) You agree to keep download-able content from within the protected areas private – for your personal use only.

*) You agree to keep audio or video Recordings of yourself practicing the exercises you learn here private.



How to access the lessons?


1) Register as a “free user”  – you MUST first register as a free user in order for the system  to work properly.  Registration and log-in can be done in the log-in box you see on the right.
2) after log-in, you can access a few free lessons and/or buy a ticket to the workshop of your choice.
3) once Paypal payment clears, you’ll get immediate access to the lesson.
Want a skill assessment before taking any workshop?link a video of yourself playing as a comment on this page – and we’ll get back to you on what may be too easy or where you can start. Do mention your current goals as well.

Want to Change your password?

You can do it from your profile page.
Once that’s done – click on ‘VISIT SITE’ next to the word HARSANGEET towards the top, to come back.

For a List of Available Lessons:

Look through the LESSONS sections on the right



Please note, the intention of these workshops is to give you a basic to intermediate understanding of Indian Classical Music — the way WE have learned from our teachers, and observed from recordings of great artists.

I am myself a student. Ustadji himself says he is still a student and will always be a student. We do not claim to be THE experts or the know-all, final stop for all your answers. There is no 100% right or wrong.
We can do what we can do.
If you want to be able to get a similar result for yourself – you are welcome to learn from what we want to share. But a big component of your learning depends on you actually doing the exercises and being determined until you get it right. We will guide you the best we can.

We can get you to be able to enjoy playing Dilruba/Esraj/TarShehnai/Taus fluently and comfortably. — That is the limit of our promise.

You are encouraged to keep an open mind and be flexible. For example: if you learn something here, and later go to another teacher to further your exploration into music – be open to adjusting or even re-learning what you know. Indian Music has traditionally not been written down; as a result, a lot of different schools have different styles and interpretations of definitions.

Due to the digital nature of the content and service offered, there will be no refunds.

Workshop Costs, Workshop Access Duration, and Workshop Contents may change without prior notice. This is intended as a continuously evolving project.

Workshop flexibility

We are committed to you REALLY getting the workshops you sign up for.
3 Situations to keep in mind:
1) The lesson is too advanced for you .
If you can’t do the exercises at all – we’ll switch you to an easier workshop @ no charge.
2) The lesson is too easy for you.
If you’re a very quick learner and submit a video for review within 2 days – and your technique requires no modification or feedback … we’ll give you access to 1 more workshop to work on @ no charge. (only applies once per paid workshop)
3) You submitted a question or request for feedback within the workshop’s time limit – but we did not answer you on time.
You’ll either get an extension , or will be emailed a response.