Classical Vocal

The Gandharva Veda is a Sanskrit scripture describing the theory of music and its applications in not just musical form and systems but also in physics, medicine and magic.[9] It is said that there are two types of sound: āhata (struck/audible) and anāhata (unstruck/inaudible).[9] The inaudible sound is said to be the principle of all manifestation, the basis of all substance.[9]

There are three main octaves: low (mandra), medium (madhya) and high (tāra).[9] Each octave resonates with a certain part of the body, low octave in the heart, medium octave in the throat and high octave in the head.[9]

The rhythmic organization is based on rhythmic patterns called tala. The melodic foundations are called ragas. 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 musicians name these pitches using a system called Sargam, the equivalent of the Western movable do solfege:

  • Sa (ṣaḍja षड्ज) = Do
  • Re (Rishabh ऋषभ) = Re
  • Ga (Gāndhāra गान्धार) = Mi
  • Ma (Madhyama (music) मध्यम) = Fa
  • Pa (Pancham पञ्चम) = So
  • Dha (Dhaivat धैवत) = La
  • Ni (Nishād निषाद) = Ti
  • Sa (ṣaḍja षड्ज) = Do

Both systems repeat at the octave. The difference between sargam and solfege is that re, ga, ma, dha, and ni can refer to either “Natural” (shuddha) or altered “Flat” (komal) or “Sharp” (teevra) versions of their respective scale degrees. As with movable do solfege, the notes are heard relative to an arbitrary tonic that varies from performance to performance, rather than to fixed frequencies, as on a xylophone. The fine intonational differences between different instances of the same swara are called srutis. The three primary registers of Indian classical music are mandra (lower), madhya (middle) and taar (upper). Since the octave location is not fixed, it is also possible to use provenances in mid-register (such as mandra-madhya or madhya-taar) for certain ragas. A typical rendition of Hindustani raga involves two stages:

  • Alap: a rhythmically free improvisation on the rules for the raga in order to give life to the raga and flesh out its characteristics. The alap is followed by a long slow-tempo improvisation in vocal music, or by the jod and jhala in instrumental music.

Tans are of several types like Shuddha, Koot, Mishra, Vakra, Sapaat, Saral, Chhoot, Halaq, Jabda, Murki

  • Bandish or Gat: a fixed, melodic composition set in a specific raga, performed with rhythmic accompaniment by a tabla or pakhavaj. There are different ways of systematizing the parts of a composition. For example:
    • Sthaayi: The initial, rondo phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition
    • Antara: The first body phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition
    • Sanchaari: The third body phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition, seen more typically in dhrupad bandishes
    • Aabhog: The fourth and concluding body phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition, seen more typically in Dhrupad bandishes
  • There are three variations of bandish, regarding tempo:
    • Vilambit bandish: A slow and steady melodic composition, usually in largo to adagio speeds
    • Madhyalaya bandish: A medium tempo melodic composition, usually set in andante to allegretto speeds
    • Drut bandish: A fast tempo melodic composition, usually set to allegretto speed or faster

Hindustani classical music is primarily vocal-centric, insofar as the musical forms were designed primarily for a vocal performance, and many instruments were designed and evaluated as to how well they emulate the human voice.