Playing Raga in Piano

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Playing Raga in Piano

Post by dibyenduseal » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:06 pm

I am a moderate keyboard player and having a digital piano in my home. However I am aligned towards Indian Classical Music than western music. I always try to play raga in my keyboard as well as in Piano. My question is what formal instrument should I learn in order to play classical music in piano. Would it be classical piano or Harmonium.. what?

Also what scale generally I would be playing in Piano? I came to know from one of my friend (Who is in classical music) that if I play Yaman in C# scale notes, thats easier and subsequently Desh in the key of D# etc.

I really needed some guidance..
Thanks in advance.

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Re: Playing Raga in Piano

Post by nicneufeld » Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:07 am

Initial preface...not an opinions worth no more than what you pay for them :)

Piano, and more controversially perhaps, harmonium aren't really great instruments in my opinion for playing raga music. The harmonium is certainly much more prominent in ICM, but in most incidences, as an accompaniment instrument to that chief of all ICM instruments...the human voice. It is a Western instrument imported to India and adopted probably for many good practical reasons, but a keyboard based instrument is generally incapable of providing the meend and delicate ornamentation that ICM thrives on. I saw a "fluid piano" or something like that that has moveable blocks to adjust pitch, but honestly it sounds like a lot of work to adapt an instrument not ideally suited to the music.

That said, being a complete amateur myself on piano, I will still sit down and tinker with a raag, usually after first learning it on sitar...using the left hand to play the notes of a low tanpura drone, and developing the notes of the raag slowly with the right hand. You have to adopt a bit more of the style of the santoor, a sort of indian hammered dulcimer, which doesn't allow for meend but thanks to a few stalwarts (such as Pt Shivkumar Sharma) it has become a noted solo instrument for raga music. Sustain pedal basically stays down and you approach it much like a hammered dulcimer. Can be in whatever key you like...key is basically unimportant in this music, it is relative pitches that are key. I usually use C as my Sa.

Depending on how much you wish to learn the music...I think, unless you are already leaning towards another Indian solo instrument (sitar, sarod, bansuri, veena, sarangi, etc), it could be beneficial to start learning it from a vocal perspective. You don't necessarily need a great voice...Lord knows I don't have one...but I've long been of the opinion, as much as I love, and honestly prefer, instrumental ICM, the cornerstone of any great raag is in the classical vocal music. And if you lack a physical instrument, you can still learn the raags with your own voice, which can then be transcribed to your instrument.

Also, immerse yourself in the music. There's no excuse these days...the amount of ICM available to us in the modern age, for free, across the internet is far beyond what we could probably listen to in a lifetime. Listen to the music, and while you listen to it, look up which notes are in the raag, read about it, and listen actively til you get to the point where you hear a phrase in yaman, and you know it was Ni Re Ga Re Sa without having to do conversions in your head. At some point it will be natural. Took me a couple months before it felt really natural and you sort of instinctively know what the notes are that are being played/sung.

Of course, having a good teacher is the best and most traditional option but not always in the cards for all of us.

Good luck!!!

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Re: Playing Raga in Piano

Post by povster » Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:04 pm

I was going to bring up santoor as an example of an instrument you may get some piano ideas from, but Nic covered it nicely. I would suggest searching youtube for "santoor raga". You'll get a lot of examples.
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