September 24, 2021

Sargam Lessons

Hindustani classical music has seven basic notes called swars. These are called Shadj, Rishabh, Gandhar, Madhyam, Pancham, Dhaivat and Nishad. In short words we call them as Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. Sa is the root/base note and the reference point based on which an octave is defined. Together, they are known as the sargam. In our harmonium lesson we have explained in detail about sargam basics.

Sargam : Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa Dha, Ni, and Sa’

Sargam Practice: We can learn how to play with keyboard or harmonium but without practice of sargam we cannot sing-along while playing harmonium or keyboard. Practice of sargam is very important for a harmonium or keyboard singer.

Raga Kalyan Sargam

We can learn how to play music with keyboard or harmonium but without practice of sargam we cannot sing-along while playing harmonium or keyboard. Practice of sargam is very important for a harmonium or keyboard singer.

Every thaat is also a Raga and Raga Kalyan is derived from thaat Kalyan. In raga Kalyan Madhyam is Tiver and all other notes are Shuddh (full). Raga Kalyan is an evening raga. It is also denominated variously by Yaman, Iman, Eman and Aiman.  Although the Raga is as old as the hills, its historical antecedents are not easy to pin down. Traditionally rendered in the first quarter of night, Kalyan achieves its potent effect with tiver madhyam and shuddh nikhad forming a graceful symmetry amidst the other five-shuddh swar of the saptak, and shuddh gandhar serving as the vaadi and nikhad as samvaadi. The derivative ragas out of this structure are grouped under the broad head of Kalyan Thaat. Here its jaati is kept sapooran-sampooran for sargam practice only. Thaat Kalyan ascending and descending notes are shown in the below given diagram.

Arohi: S-R-G-M-P-D-N-S’ (ascending)
Amrohi: S’-N-D-P-M-G-R-S (descending)

Exercise Raga Kalyan Sargam

In this exercise we will practice Raga Kalyan notes in madh saptak. Kalyan is derived from thaat kalyan. In our notation system tiver notes are shown in capital letters and with red dot. Achal (fixed) notes are also shown with capital letters but with blue dot.

SRGMPDN
AchalTiverTiverTiverAchalTiverTiver
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Sit beside harmonium/keyboard properly as explained earlier. First you have to practice Arohi of kalyan sargam, which is ascending order as (S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S). The arohi of sargam will be taught in ten stages. After completing ten stages of arohi you will practice amrohi, which is descending order of a sargam as (S, N, D, P, M, G, R, S). You have to spend five to ten minutes on each stage for practice. Our practice of arohi and amrohi will be in madh or middle saptak.

Below given diagram is showing kalyan notes in all three saptak. Kalyan is the best to start with. Raga Kalyan notes are shown in all three saptak with finger numbers.

Finger Numbers

Thumb 1, finger 2, middle finger 3, ring finger 4, little finger 5

Sargam Exercise 1.  (Raga Kalyan Arohi)

First Stage – Sa (index finger 2)

We will begin our practice in middle saptak that is best for beginners. Press note of Khraj, which is ‘Sa’ with right hand index finger number 2. With the voice of harmonium note try to synchronize your voice with it by saying ‘Sa’ for at least five seconds. Keep pressure on the note while pressing bellow of harmonium with your left hand. You have to practice at least 5-10 minutes on this first note of Sargam. In the beginning you may feel difficulty in synchronizing your voice with harmonium but gradually you will overcome this difficulty. Khraj note that is ‘Sa’ is shown in the diagram with a blue dot. All our basic lessons in Raga Kalyan will begin from middle or madh saptak.

Second Stage – Re (middle finger 3)

Press note of Rekhab, which is ‘Re’ with right hand middle finger and do not displace your finger from Khraj note and only decrease its pressure from the note. By pressing note of Rekhab say ‘Re’ and try to synchronize your voice with the voice of harmonium as explained in the first stage. Say ‘Re’ again and again until your voice is fully synchronizes with harmonium. Your index finger and middle fingers must remain over the notes. In the picture below Rekhab note is mentioned with red circle. You should keep in mind that all above stages are linked and only one note is added in each stage.

Third Stage – Ga (thumb 1)

Raising your finger from Rekhab note press note of Gandhar (G), with your thumb by twisting your thumb beneath your hand. Do not raise your second finger much higher over Rekhab note and only decrease its pressure while approaching Gandhar. Now again try to synchronize your voice with Gandhar note and repeat this practice again and again at least 10 minutes. In the picture below Gandhar note is mentioned with red circle.

Fourth Stage – (Kalyan Arohi) Sa, Re, Ga  (fingers 2,3,1)                                     

In this stage we will practice all three notes together, which we have already practiced. Press Khraj note ‘Sa’ with index finger and say this note for about five seconds. Then by pressing note of Rekhab say ‘Re’ for about five seconds and try to synchronize your voice with the voice of harmonium. Raising your finger from Rekhab note press note of Gandhar, with your thumb and say ‘Ga’ for five seconds.

Fifth Stage – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma (fingers 2,3,1,2)

Now we have to learn four swars together and fourth swar is ‘Ma’. Saying note ‘Ga’ from previous stage bring your index finger on Madhym note and say ‘Ma’ for about five seconds. Now again bring your index finger back on Khraj note ‘Sa’ and after five seconds of vocal synchronizing press note ‘Re’ and keep practicing these four notes again and again with your particular fingers. This repeated exercise from Sa to Ma should not be less than ten minutes of duration. It should be remembered that we would stay on each note for about five seconds.

Sixth Stage – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa (fingers 2,3,1,2,3)

Keeping in view fifth stage add Pancham note ‘Pa’ in your exercise. By raising your finger from Madhyam note press Pancham note ‘Pa’ with your middle finger and say ‘Pa’ for about five seconds. Keep on practicing Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa again and again for about 10 minutes. Do not forget to stay for five seconds on each note in each exercise while synchronizing your voice with swars.

Seventh Stage1 – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha (fingers 2,3,1,2,3,4)

Connecting your link from sixth stage add note ‘Dha’ in your exercise. By pressing ‘Dha’ say this note by synchronizing your voice with it. Now you have to practice Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha for about ten minutes.

Eighth Stage – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni (fingers 2,3,1,2,3,4,1)

Press Note ‘Ni’ with your thumb by turning your thumb under your hand and say this note for about five seconds. Soon after that position place your index finger No.2 again on the Khraj note ‘Sa’ and practice Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni for about ten minutes like previous exercises of Sargam.

Ninth Stage – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa’ (fingers 2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2)

Continuing your lessons from previous stage bring your index finger on Khraj note ‘Sa’ in the third octave and try to synchronize your voice with the Khraj note while note is pressed. Duration of pressing each note in all above stages is not less five seconds. You should keep in mind that all above stages are linked and only one note is added in each stage.                                                                  

Tenth Stage – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa’ (fingers 2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2)                      

Now you have to practice all these eight swars, which are given below:

Arohi: S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S’ Play left to right

Arohi of Sargam is ascending order of Sargam notes. The above sargam initiates from ‘Sa’ note of middle saptak and ends to ‘Sa’ note of third saptak. You should practice arohi of sargam until your fingers are not used to play notes without hesitation and confidence. One should try to practice Arohi without time limitation until perfection arises. Proper synchronizing of voice with swar is very important.

Sargam Exercise 2  (Raga Kalyan Amrohi)

S’, N, D, P, M, G, R, S (fingers 2,1,4,3,2,1,3,2)

After getting proficiency in Arohi you have to practice Amrohi, which is descending notes of a Sargam. You also have to practice Amrohi in stages as you already did in Arohi of Sargam but now in descending order from Taar (upper) Saptak towards Madh (middle) Saptak.

Amrohi: S’, N, D, P, M, G, R, S Play right to left
<<<<<<<2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2

Do not forget to stay for five seconds on each note in each exercise while synchronizing your voice with swars. There is also no time limitation for Amrohi practice but it should be continued until you get acquainted with the voice of notes. Fingering will be same as selected in Arohi practice but in reverse order. There must be a gap of one and half second between swars to breath.

First Stage – S’, N, D, (fingers 2,1,4)

In all these six stages you will have to practice as explained in earlier exercises of Sargam. You have to remain for five seconds on each note while saying relevant swars and by synchronizing your voice. The gap between each note must be one and half second in this initial stage. Total time of practice must be between 5-10 minutes.

By adding note ‘Pa’ practice all four notes all over again and again for ten minutes and synchronize your voice with swars.

Third Stage – S’, N, D, P, M Ü (fingers 2,1,4,3,2)

By adding note ‘Ma’ practice all four notes all over again and again for five to ten minutes and synchronize your voice with swars.

Fourth Stage: S’, N, D, P, M, G Ü (fingers 2,1,4,3,2,1)

Fifth Stage:  S’, N, D, P, M, G, R (fingers 2,1,4,3,2,1,3,)

Sixth Stage – S’, N, D, P, M, G, R, S Ü (fingers 2,1,4,3,2,1,3,2)

Now it is the stage of Amrohi, add Khraj note ‘Sa’ in your practice.  In the sixth stage there is no fixed time period for practice of swars. You may increase your time if you feel you are not perfect in fingering or vocal.

Sargam Exercise 3 – Kalyan Arohi Amrohi  

It is the time when we will practice complete sargam in ascending and descending order. This exercise is very important for harmonium students for basic music learning. Proper synchronizing of voice with swar is very important in this lesson. It is better to stay on each swar for five seconds and gradually decrease your time to four seconds and in the end half second. At least half an hour continuous practice is important but you can increase your practice time according to your capability. Now you got familiar with Sargam notes in ascending and descending order so, we are going to write arohi and amrohi of sargam in normal style. Now notations of Raga Kalyan sargam will be written from left to right but will be played according to direction of arrow as given below:

Arohi: S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S’ ascending order
Amrohi: S’, N, D, P, M, G, R, S descending order

Try to remain on each note for half a second, which is the perfect speed for practice of Sargam. If you get bored then take rest and divide your practice time in parts or play in front of friends or family members.

ALANKARS

Alankars are different sets of the swars that will enable you to practice and familiarize yourself with the different sounds. You should practice these till you can play them correctly without looking at the keyboard. While you practice, please sing along with notes so that you can improve your voice.

The term Alankar literally means an ornament or decoration; it is the repetition of musical notes from a Raga in a particular pattern.

Alankars are of four types: 

  1. Asthai Alankars, which returns to the initial note
  2. Arohi Alankars, which is a ascending sequence of notes
  3. Amrohi Alankars, which is a descending sequence of notes
  4. Sanchari Alankars, which combines elements of the above types. 

Alankars are extremely useful for practice and are a great way of getting familiar with your keyboard or harmonium.

Here are some more Alankars for practice; try to play them continuously for an extended period of time; its extremely important that your fingers move smoothly on the keyboard because when you are playing a metered melody, an extra second’s hesitation is enough to send you out of synchronization with the taal or rhythm.

Practice according to above diagram of Kalyan. Play in madh saptak:

  1. S R G M P D N S’
    S’ N D P M G R S
  2. SS, RR, GG, MM, PP, DD, NN, S’S’
    S’S’ NN, DD, PP, MM, GG, RR, SS
  3. SRG, RGM, GMP, MPD, PDN, DNS’
    S’ND, NDP, DPM, GMP, MGR, GRS
  4. SRGM, RGMP, GMPD, MPDN, PDNS’
    S’NDP, NDPM, DPMG, PMGR, MGRS
  5. SG, RM, GP, MD, PN, DS’
    S’D, NP, DM, PG, MR, GS
  6. S R S S R G R S S R G M G R S S R G M P M G R S S R G M P D P M G R S S R G M P D N D P M G R S S R G M P D N S’ S’ N D P M G R S

This might look extremely difficult, but its not, its actually a sequence of Asthayee alankars.
If you break it up you will see the following pattern:


S
S R S
S R G R S
S R G M G R S
S R G M P M G R S
S R G M P D P M G R S
S R G M P D N D P M G R S
S R G M P D N {S}, {S} N D P M G R S

  1. S G R M G P M D P N D S’
    S’ N D P M G R S
  2. S’ D N P D M P G M R G S
    S R G M P D N S’
  3. S G R S S M G R R P M G G D P M M N D P P N D N S’ S’ D P M G R S
  4. S’ D N P P D N M M P D G G M P R R G M S S R G M P D N S’
  5. S D P M R N D P G D P M M N D S’
    S’ D N P D M P G G P M G R G R S

Practice according to above diagram of achal, komal and tiver notes:

12.       S r g M P d P g M  d n  S r S g r S n d N S M P d n d P M S r g M g r S

Based on these lines you can create any number of alankars. These will help in improving your ability to play the instrument and also improve your voice. When you sing the alankars saying SRG… it is called singing in sargam. You can practice singing the same alankars in Aakar, ie., singing Aaa, Aaa, Aaa… instead of SRG… We have explained Aakar in sargam lesson earlier.