Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to Practice Carnatic Music

Here are the answers to a  few frequently asked questions:

Why Practice?

Carnatic Music education has three main ingredients - maintaining a good voice, perfecting the shruthi and laya and building ones repertoire.

Voice is a muscle and the more consistently you use it, it becomes better trained to produce good sound.
Daily doses of consistent practice are very important for developing the voice and maintaining it.

The next aspect is perfecting shruthi and laya. Shruthi perfection also means that you maintaining very close swara sthanas when you practice and develop a very sensitive ear to figure out the right way to produce the sound you need. Laya perfection involves not only the act of putting tala correctly, but also imbibing the rhythm so much that the laya is ingrained in the body.

Lastly, to build ones repertoire is like collecting tools to complete a project whether it is a gardening project or some other project. Each piece we learn, whether it is an exercise piece, or a varnam or a krithi, it has a very specific purpose. So it is important that we keep these tools sharp and available for use. For instance, if you have learnt 10 varnams, now you have 10 tools in your tool bag to use, in case you need to sing. Practicing them regularly keeps them fresh in your memory and prevents you from forgetting them. If you practice pieces many times right after you learn hem, it will be easier to recall them when needed.

When should you practice?
Everyday! To quote Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, "Practice only on the days you eat."

For how long should I practice?
For at least 30 minutes for beginner to intermediate students. As students advance, practice times may increase to more than an hour or two. 

What is a good time to practice?
Whenever you can find time is a good time. But practicing first thing in the morning or right after you come home from school are good times before you get distracted with other things. If you are a night owl, night may be good for you. It is best to find time when your surroundings are quite and you have the energy to focus on practice.

How to practice?
Always practice with Shruthi and maybe a metronome if you are working on strengthening your laya.
Ease your voice into a practice mode by starting slow and then building momentum.
Try to practice at the same time everyday,s o it becomes consistent.
Sit on the floor in your singing position when you practice.
Maintain a log of what you practiced for the day, what was your goal for the practice session and for how much time you practiced.

What should I include in the log?
Date (when)
Start Time, End Time
What Did You Practice?
What was your goal?

What should I practice?
A 30 minute practice should be roughly divided into three parts:
1. Exercises such as saralis, jantas, alankaras, daatu varasas and their akaaras.
2. Review of old material
3. New lesson
Rehearse saying the raga name, tala name, arohana and avarohana and other theoretical facts for everything you practice. For instance, it might help to remind yourself what swarasthanas are featured in the raga.

What if I am sick or travelling?
If you are sick, instead of watching TV, close your eyes and listen to Carnatic Music. That counts as practice.
If you are traveling, you can either listen for the day or do mental practice, where you challenge yourself to recollect an entire piece by humming to yourself without disturbing fellow passengers.

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