Distance Learning in Indian Classical Music

Pragya Thakur: As a musician can you tell me why a rhythmic cycle of 16 beats is called teen taal?
Pragya Thakur: How does that math work out?
Richa Dubey: well – I hardly qualify as a musician
Richa Dubey: but from what I know
Richa Dubey: the teen tal is divided into 4 sections of four beats each
Richa Dubey: beginning with the sam
Richa Dubey: dha dhin dhin dha
Richa Dubey: then
Richa Dubey: a repeat for the second
Richa Dubey: the third is also called the “khaali”
Pragya Thakur: Then?
Richa Dubey: and thus demonstrated while keeping beat with the hands by timing this particular section with the back of the hand rather than the palm
Richa Dubey: or just leaving it in the air
Richa Dubey: and the bol is dha thin thin ta
Richa Dubey: the last is ta dhin dhin dha
Richa Dubey: essentially the khaali is matras 9-12
Richa Dubey: several taans begin with the khaali
Richa Dubey: as also the sam
Pragya Thakur: Wow! Thanks! And is this easy to spot when listening to classical music that says it’s in teen taal? I have a Ravi Shankar CD where he even counts and I still cant keep track!
Richa Dubey: fairly
Richa Dubey: once you attune your ears
Richa Dubey: see – once you figure out the bandish and where he is picking it up from
Pragya Thakur: Ok….stop…two new words – taan and bandish?
Pragya Thakur: I mean..I’ve heard them but what do they mean?
Richa Dubey: oh dear – I am QUITE the wrong person to be attempting an explanation
Richa Dubey: esp since I am rather unclear myself
Richa Dubey: but anyway
Richa Dubey: a bandish is like a composition
Pragya Thakur: I am so going to save this chat!!
Richa Dubey: with a sthayi (like a refrain)
Pragya Thakur: ok
Richa Dubey: and antaras (stanzas if you will)
Richa Dubey: the way I have learnt it
Richa Dubey: in both ek taal
Richa Dubey: and teen taal
Richa Dubey: the bandish begins with a sthayi played twice
Richa Dubey: and then an antara
Pragya Thakur: ek taal is?
Richa Dubey: and the sthayi played twice again
Richa Dubey: one of the several mind boggling taals
Richa Dubey: 12 matras
Pragya Thakur: Ok.
Pragya Thakur: And again the math beats me!
Richa Dubey: it is maddening
Pragya Thakur: 16 : 3, 12:1 —How??
Richa Dubey: I keep fumbling
Richa Dubey: see – a bandish in teen taal
Richa Dubey: cannot be played in ek taal
Pragya Thakur: ok
Richa Dubey: though with a bit of chopping and changing and so on, you could attempt it
Pragya Thakur: Maybe they try in Bollywood music
Richa Dubey: (
Richa Dubey: so that was a bandish
Pragya Thakur: I need to save this chat on my blog! (if you don’t mind)
Pragya Thakur: My distance learning of music!!
Richa Dubey: most welcome
Richa Dubey: hey – on your blog?
Pragya Thakur: Yes..no?
Richa Dubey: please get someone like VM or someone who KNOWS something about music
Richa Dubey: for all I know I am probably getting the explanation all wrong
Richa Dubey: anyway… a taan has to necessarily keep to the same taal
Richa Dubey: so say if I have a bhupali bandish in teen taal
Pragya Thakur: Yes..
Richa Dubey: which goes S S D P (1,2,3,4)
Richa Dubey: G R S R (5 6 7 8)
Richa Dubey: D D S R (9 10 11 12) – (this is the D in the lower octave which I cannot make the notation for in this format..)
Pragya Thakur: ok
Richa Dubey: G R G _(13 14 15 16)
Pragya Thakur: The – is?
Richa Dubey: _ means the note is extended so teh G is not broken in this case but holds for that beat – stretches to accomodate the space, if you will…
Pragya Thakur: I see…I think
Richa Dubey: that is the sthayi for a bhupali teen taal bandish
Richa Dubey: now, the same raag,
Richa Dubey: when it is “bound” or “nibaddh” in ek taal
Richa Dubey: changes
Pragya Thakur: How does it change?
Richa Dubey: SSDDP_ GRSRG_
Richa Dubey: that’s twelve matras
Pragya Thakur: Ok!
Pragya Thakur: That clearly shows the difference.
Richa Dubey: and often the laya (tempo) will change
Pragya Thakur: So do they even sound completely different in the two taals?
Richa Dubey: yes – in the manner in which the same notes are approached.
Richa Dubey: not completely different
Richa Dubey: but say in this case, the ek taal bandish in bhupali – because it is played in the Drut laya (quick tempo)
Richa Dubey: is more upbeat and even playful
Richa Dubey: while the teen taal
Richa Dubey: being performed in a slower tempo, is more serious
Pragya Thakur: Ok!
Richa Dubey: eg. There is a “meend” or slide on the violin (to extend/ play out/ hold a note)
Pragya Thakur: And do all instruments have something like that?
Richa Dubey: on the Ds in both octaves in the teen taal bandish
Richa Dubey: the equivalent in terms of performance, yes…
Richa Dubey: I guess…
Richa Dubey: at least string and wind instruments
Pragya Thakur: Ok.
Pragya Thakur: Do you play any other instruments?
Richa Dubey: I have both hands full (quite literally) with the violin
Pragya Thakur: (
Richa Dubey: considering I just began recently, I have HUGE amounts of catching up to do…
Pragya Thakur: I should get me a harmonium..that’s what VM recommends.
Richa Dubey: and trust me to pick the most difficult instrument I could
Richa Dubey: yes – a harmonium is good for recognising notes
Pragya Thakur: What got you interested?
Pragya Thakur: Yes, recognizing notes is quite a challenge.
Richa Dubey: well – I had done a year of vocal classical as a kid
Richa Dubey: of course it was pretty pointless
Richa Dubey: takes time… I make errors EVERY single time and feel like an utter idiot
Richa Dubey: anyway, I was doing some research on music as relevant to the baramasa
Pragya Thakur: Persistence!


  1. Lol, why don't you save our chats? =PKidding. Nice, though I barely understand it.

  2. you actually posted this! I hope I am not shot down totally!

  3. Thanks. Very informative.J.A.P.

  4. This is wondefully funny. Reminds me of the time some friends of mine in college tried to teach me bridge: they gave up and retired to Siberia.

  5. Pragya,in a general way (and I speak as an "interested amateur" pseudo-connoisseur-in-training), one of the best ways of absorbing an overview about taals (not in quite the detail that Richa gives with her two forms of a bandish) — a nice way in terms of basic learning, and also in terms of basic enjoyment of music, is to form a habit of "keeping taal" when attending concerts. This is conventionally done by hand gestures, essentially a kind of tapping or waving of the fingers, where one marks the divisions of the given cycle — and, especially, the appearance of the saam [beat #1] each time it cycles around.The keeping of taal is found in both Hindustani and Karnatic music, although as an audience-participating activity, I don't think I would be amiss to say it seems sometimes more prevalent in the south Indian audiences (this a highly anecdotal, to the point of being dubious observation). In any case, you're apt to find somebody keeping taal at nearly any concert (house concerts in particular). So you buttonhole this person and ask them to teach the beats of the given cycle (a thing which can be conveyed in 15 seconds). One's grasp of the music is tremendously heightened by the simple but fundamental observation of the rhythmic cycle. Then, once one has listened to various raags (in various taals) and has kept taal, presto! some things that may seem arcane and ungraspable, become automatically rather lucid.cheers,d.i.

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