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.

Make your Own Esraj!!!!

Interested in trying to make your own Esraj / Dilruba ?
Instructions by Mr. Dennis Havlena.
Be sure to check out his Youtube videos and subscribe to his channel.

Once you’re looking at the instructions there one point to keep in mind:

  • My personal opinion is that, a lighter, less dense bridge would help give a bigger/louder sound. Check out instructions by David Courtney.
    However, if i remember correctly, Dennis mentioned that he broke one bridge because it wasn’t strong enough. So if you’re not in the mood to experiment, go exactly as per his instructions and use the big bridge.
  • Before putting together plans to make the proper one, Dennis showed me a simple Esraj with a cookie-tin soundbox (without sympathetics) as a draft. I hope he puts instructions up for that as well. It’s a simple instrument and is nothing to boast to your friends about, but it will play just fine and get a lot of beginners started.

    You can also make a basic Taanpura if you’re interested. Of course it wont compare to a traditional Taanpura, but judging from the audio sample Dennis has on his website, it sounds good enough to use on stage for casual gatherings.

    Recommendations on Buying an Esraj or Dilruba

    If you ask me “Where can I buy a Quality Esraj or Dilruba?” (as seen on my blogspot blog)

    Earlier , I would have told everyone : ” Err I don’t Know – Mine is from Raj Musicals in Delhi, so I suppose you can get one there ”

    Their instruments are good, and I have nothing against them. I just wish they would pay more attention to details and give the ‘average’ customer better service. It’s best to have someone who knows how to inspect instruments properly pick it up. OR, if you are friends with a famous or semi-famous musician – ask them to place the order for you.

    Note: Raj Musicals in Dehli is different from “Raj Academy” which is based in the UK. Their instruments will most likely be OK because they have been inspected thoroughly.

    Anyways.. Now I have someone else I can recommend with confidence.
    Check out Monoj Kumar Sardar & Bros – in Kolkata.

    My good friend Angad bought an Esraj from him. I have seen photos, and heard it on Skype. She’s a beauty !
    Best of all , it reached him with everything taken care of nicely. Nothing needs to be adjusted or messed with.

    I hope they always give all their customers – newbies, amateur and professional – fantastic workmanship and great service.

    *Update May 2008: My friend Sarab Singh also ordered one from MKS. He has just received it, and is very happy with it.

    Call Mr. MONOJ KUMAR at the office number, tell him Angad from Singapore recommended him.
    Don’t bother emailing – just CALL .

    Office Telephone: +91-33-2237-5835
    Showroom Telephone: +91-33-2248-4519

    Their Basic Site: Monoj Kr. Sardar & Bros.

    * RIKHI RAM is another big brand name used by several professional Hindustani Classical musicians. Seek them out and ask them too. I think they’re Delhi Based.

    * If you’re ready to invest in a TOP NOTCH, traditional Sikh Instrument (Rabab, Taus , Dilruba, Saranda, Jori, etc.): Get in touch with Bhai Baldeep Singh

    A few personal recommendations:

    1) I suggest you buy an ESRAJ rather than a DILRUBA because the main playing string of the ESRAJ is further away from the edge, and it’s just more comfortable to play. (For me at least)
    He’s got 3-4 different grades of Esraj – so you can order one that suits your budget.

    If you felt like you NEEDED this information, I’d say you don’t really need an instrument made of teak, so go for the Toon Wood.

    If you’re picky – A One-piece Toon Wood Esraj will do fine. If you want to watch your Budget , go for a two piece Toon Wood Esraj.
    I’m sorry I don’t quite know the proper English name for Toon wood – if you do , post a comment.

    Order machine head tuners for the main strings and sympathetic strings, because if you’re tall and get a small Esraj with big wooden tuning pegs, you wont be able to sit properly.
    They’re just easier to tune.

    *** I visited Singapore in Dec 2007 and got a chance to play Angad’s Esraj. See Videos from January 2008. His Esraj is smaller than mine, and the big wooden tuning pegs for the main strings go behind my neck when I play – so I can’t sit straight. Other than that It’s a brilliant Esraj though – I like it.
    Except the tension on the main playing strings are not very high, which makes it a quiet instrument. You can instruct the manufacturer that you want the instrument to be a little louder than Angad’s – so he should increase the string tension a bit – maybe 20% . He will probably do this by putting a taller bridge or putting slightly thicker stings. I’m not sure – ASK him. ***

    Under the bridge of your instrument – there MUST be a leather strip that goes across the sound-box, over the first layer of skin. For Reinforcement.
    Because of the nature of animal skin and the way it is attached to the Soundbox of the instrument – it will stretch and “sink in” somewhat after a while. A layer of reinforcement is highly recommended.

    My own Esraj/TarShehnai is a two piece model from Delhi’s Raj Musicals. I don’t know what wood it’s made of. I didn’t have much input when ordering it. It’s a little bit large – 70cm string length from the point where it is suspended until where the bridge starts. String tension on my instrument’s main string is about 30% higher than Angad’s. (personal estimate)

    You can order a two piece or one piece from MKS. One piece is more expensive, but should sound slightly better and theoretically be more solid/longer lasting.
    Like I said: Toon wood will work just fine. Go for Teak later when you don’t need my advice anymore.

    Let MKS know that you want to be able to tune the main playing string to play a range of Sa = C to D#

    If you are tall, tell the manufacturer how tall you are – so they can make an instrument that suits your size.

    If you’re seriously planning to get one – Write all this stuff down ?

    2) Secondly, Order the TarShehnai Horn/Soundbox. He charges only a tiny bit more, and it will be like you are buying 2 instruments in one.

    3) Regarding the TarShehnai Horn – ask him for a horn that is SHORT and WIDE. It is my observation that they sound a bit deeper/sweeter than the Long/Narrow ones. But double check with the seller about this.
    If possible, the Horn should be detachable from the Soundbox. If it is , order 2 horns – It WILL make a difference to the sound. Options I suggest you choose from:
    * Light/Wide/Short
    * Heavy/Wide/Short
    * Light/Tall/Narrow
    * Heavy/Tall/Narrow

    But of course, in the end, the best thing is for you to get what YOU really want.
    The above is just to just give you some guidelines based on what I know and like.

    About Ustadji Maiya Singh

    Ustad Maiya Singh

    Maiya Singh is based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has devoted his life to Kirtan and Music.

    He has studied under

    Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra (vocal)
    Pt. Siyaram Tivari (dhrupad)
    and Ustad Bhai Baljeet Singh (TarShehnai)

    Check out my youtube channel for samples of Ustadji playing Esraj / TarShehnai .

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    What is a Raag?

    This is how I understand it simply: A Raag is a set of rules for creating music/melody.

    The rules of a Raag will determine things like:

    * which notes to skip and which notes to use – overall
    * which notes to skip and which notes to use when you’re ascending from low to high
    * which notes to skip and which notes to use when you’re descending from high to low
    * what pattern of notes must be included in the music you’re creating
    * what pattern of notes must be avoided in the music you’re creating
    * which notes you can emphasize (hold longer – extend)
    * which notes not to emphasize (just touch that note and move on)

    I have also seen documentaries where Great Masters ask their students to pay attention to
    * volume control : which notes can be played loud , which notes should be played softly – to enhance the effect of the Raag

    Staying within the rules of each Raag – you can improvise as much as you wish.

    That’s basically it.

    I have learned that it’s commonly accepted that Raags have a prescribed time interval during the day/night during which they are ‘best’ played/sung/heard.
    Personally, I do agree with the system somewhat because I have felt the amplified impact when Raags are played at the ‘correct’ times. But then again it could be because of my mood at the time, because I have also played/sung/listened to Raags at the ‘WRONG’ time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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    Awesome old Picture

    A Friend found this beautiful image in an old book on World Music.

    Starting from left:

    1st guy is holding an Esraj. Looks like there are no sympathetics. And there seem to be sound holes on the top section of the sound-box as well. very interesting …

    2nd guy’s instrument looks to be a Sitar.

    3rd guy’s looks like a Veena – although I am not certain.

    4th guy is holding a Taus. Doesnt look like the ones you see nowadays – but very cool nonetheless.

    Posted by Picasa
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    what’s a Tar Shehnai? an Esraj? a Dilruba? Taus?

    Dilruba is a 200-300 year old stringed instrument that looks like a smaller version of the Sitar, but is played with a bow like a Cello. Another appropriate description is “a Dilruba is Half a Sarangi and Half a Sitar”, as you can see from the videos on this site.

    An Esraj is essentially the same as a Dilruba, except for a few minor differences: the shape of the soundbox, the position of the main playing string, and the way the resonating strings are arranged behind the playing string.

    An Esraj becomes a Tar-Shehnai when a mechanical amplifier is hooked on to the main playing string to produce a high pitched Shehnai type sound. This is a relatively new development from the early 1900s.

    The modern Taus is essentially an extra-large Dilruba which is constructed to artistically resemble a Peacock – which is what Taus means.

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