The Learning Curve Series - Introduction


The Objective of this Series

The objective is not to make you an accomplished carnatic musician. A web-page cannot really substitute a 'flesh & blood' real time guru. The focus here is on helping common listeners appreciate usage of carnatic ragas by our beloved maestro ilaiyaraja, without having to bother much about the grammar (swarams/scale/notes etc). The plan is to keep this very simple, for everyone. So this series will also help you understand how much fun learning is, with raja's music.

;-) Aint this then akin to maestro's philosophy of reaching out with high quality music at the doorsteps of the common man. Ok, time to get started.

Where Do I Start?

There are two options to learn how to detect ragas in film songs...

a) Take a list of "raga based film songs" (being raja fans, you can start here a particular raga (e.g. Kapi). Put all kapi raga songs as a list and record the list as a cassette / CD. If your recording shop guy has couple of keerthanas in the given raga (e.g. enna thavam seithanai for kaapi), you can add them to your list too, as it will give you more understanding of the flavour of the raga...


Once the cassette / CD is recorded, just LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN again...the raga will just seep in deep and you will automatically LEARN the little nuances of the raga. Believe me, heart is a better receiver of music than brains. (Music was never meant for your brains, anyway !!) Just trust that you can understand ragas by this simple way, as i have seen this to be a very practical method that many have successfully used to get a hang of a particular raga.

This second method given below may cost a bit...but its worth it, let me assure you...

b) Take a list of "raga based film songs"...Also download raga scale definitions ...then u need to invest around Rs.1500 for a miniature Casio keyboard. Thatís almost a lifetime investment (keyboards rarely retire....atleast very late). Download the notes for the song that you want to play (e.g for notes for raja songs, click here).


Thats about all you will need to get started. Just start playing the swaras of the ragas, looking at the raga list and try-out playing some film songs on the same raga referring to the song will see the connection, and will understand the raga better...This may take months, but you will soon be playing songs very well...and as you play one raga scale or a song, another song in the same raga will pop up in your mind, as your mind starts picking up related songs relatively more easily.

Do u notice a set pattern of 12 keys repeating in ur keyboard? For that matter any keyboard..that is the 12 swarams that u r going to use irrespective of any raga u r planning to play...
In this set of 12 keys, the black keys would be 5 in number ...the rest are white keys.The first white key in this set is ur Sa..(Sa in carnatic is C in western...for the time being, we are talking western)
Starting from 1 key = Sa (C in western), the rest 11 (total in 12 as i said) would be as follows,
1   2    3    4    5    6     7   8   9    10   11   12
S  R1  R2  R3  G3  M1  M2  P  D1   D2   D3   N3
         G1  G2                               N1   N2
(above graphix
So the third key of the 12 (the second white key) as mentioned above stands for R2 as well as how do u decide if it is R2 or G1?  Very simple...if the song u play uses second & third key, u just cant call it as using R1 & R2 but u call it R1 and G1...similarly, if the song used 3rd & 4rth key, u dont say R2 & R3 but R2 & G2...the same logic applies to swaras D & N (the 10th & 11th keys)...[Note: but u can have R1 & R2 in a given ragam...but then these will have to choose their place to stay either in arohanam or the avarohanam...both wont appear together in arohanam or avarohanam...]
Just in case there is a doubt, arohanam  = ascending progression of the raga...avarohanam = descending flow of the raga...
e.g. take mohanam...
arohanam = s r2 g3 p d2 s : avarohanam = s d2 p g2 r3 s
You can go through this excellent site which will clear ur doubt once for all...see the "KEYBOARD MAPPING" given in this page
Hope this is just enough to get started...pls go ahead and take the plunge..lets celebrate IR's music even better..

To appreciate magical creations of ace composers (read raja) with a bit more conviction and especially if you are someone who loves to be defeated by the intellectual puzzles that ilaiyaraja poses with each of his songs, the above two methods are good proven ways to start and are adequate.

But obviously, if you are looking at hardcore learning (like you want to be a singer, musician, composer) then a guru is very much needed. Personally to me, spending a lifetime in understanding ilaiyaraja's compositions is a better preposition that becoming just another "run of the mill" musician/composer/singer or whatever. 


Just my thoughts - no offence meant to anybody :-)  



- The Learning Curve Series - Part 1  - Having Kapi with ilaiyaraja !!


- The Learning Curve Series - Part 2  - Simple Introduction to Raja's Sindhu Bhairavi. 


- The Learning Curve Series - Part 3  - Musings on Brindhavana Saranga and Madhyamavathi . 


- The Learning Curve Series - Part 4  - Melancholy, Moutain breeze and the Mystic (chakravagam, malayamarudham and rasikaranjani). 



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