Saturday, April 24, 2010

Keyboard Harmonium Lessons


Desi Style assumes you have no prior knowledge of music or playing the keyboard or harmonium or you play without correct approach. This book will show you:

How to play keyboard in desi style?

Difference between tiver, komal & achal swar

About Thaat/Scales

Ragas formation.

How Raga based film songs are formed?

What is taal/rhythm?

How to play music notations?

Vocal Training

The book also features about thaat, ragas and raga based songs. All music players should know all of the information contained in this book. The best and fastest way to learn is to use this book in conjunction with: Buying midi music of your favorite songs from the website Practicing and playing with other musicians. Learning by listening your favorite Indian Pakistani midi music provided in the Internet and ragatracks. Be practical in the early stages, it is helpful to have the guidance of an experienced teacher. This will also help you keep a schedule and obtain weekly goals.


From the beginning you should set yourself a goal. Many people learn keyboard or harmonium because of a desire to play old songs of sub-continent. It is important to have a correct approach to practice from beginning. You will benefit more from short practices (15-30 minutes per day) than one or two long sessions per week. Correct approach is learning with the thaat and raga concept in which melodious film songs are being composed. First learn octaves/saptak, names of notes that is achal, komal and tiver notes, and then learn thaat/scale and practice few days with thaat sargam. After learning thaat sargam its fingering practice in all three octaves is also necessary. In the beginning try to play songs in a particular thaat and after that listen and learn Ragas and play songs with ragas. Listen and play raga based film songs with notations provided with the book. Do, not try to play raga-based songs in the early stage of your learning. While practice, try to take help from the book repeatedly. I am sure within few weeks you will be able to play your favorite tunes yourself without any help but ragas require additional practice. In the end do not forget to learn taal or rhythm theory along with melody. Gradually you will become master. If you want to become a singalong singer then practice sargam. Sargam lesson book of 80 pages with exercises and diagrams of notes is also available from ragatracks.


It is recommended that you have a copy of the accompanying compact disk that includes all the ragas and their khyals. Midi music will sound identical to keyboard instruments in your computers if you play it in Yamaha XG Player with windows 98 only. Midi music can also be played with a floppy or in USB equipped keyboards. In the keyboard you will listen real voice of Yamaha XG. Windows XP does not support Yamaha XG Player that produces real voice of midi instruments in your computer. Midi music is a digital music with 16 individual recorded tracks that you can edit or change in your own computer using cubase or cakewalk. You may sing-along with midi music in your computers and record your own compact disk of your favorite songs using suitable computer recording players.

Najib Khan


Harmonium is a keyboard, and so these lessons apply equally to the harmonium as well as to the electronic synthesizer keyboard. The important difference is that you can - and do play the keys with your left hand also; but for harmonium, your left hand is used in pumping the bellow to force air under pressure into the inside of the harmonium. In keyboard our left hand is used for chords. An ordinary keyboard is sufficient to master all the lessons that will follow. If you already have a keyboard, you do not need to buy anything else as of now. For solo performances, you may use a synthesizer keyboard or a harmonium, depending upon your taste, convenience and availability. Harmonium traditionally suits better for accompaniment during performance of Ghazals, Thumri, Indian Pakistani classical music, and some other types of Indian music.

For accompaniment to movie songs, and all varieties of songs, the synthesizer keyboard is the preferred choice. Keyboard offers a wide variety of instrumental sounds. The instrumental sound you choose is called a voice. Before you play a song, choose a voice that you like. Practice selecting different voices, and remember the setting for the ones you prefer. Look your keyboard owner's manual to help you. When you play the songs you can use any sound you wish. The rhythm controls provide drumbeats to play along with. These rhythm beats are also called styles. The drum rhythms can be changed to suit the kind of song you are playing. Moreover you will find tabla styles like kehrva, dadra, teentaal, rupak and jhaptaal in ragatracks website. If you have a keyboard equipped with floppy drive or USB memory then you may copy these styles in your keyboard user memory to play along music. Melody keys are used to play the tune of the song with your right hand. The chord keys are used to play chords with your left hand. This makes the song sound full and beautiful. If you do not know how to play chords then you may use auto chord along with the melody.

Harmonium Playing Positions

There are two common sitting positions, a standard position and one used by qawwali singers. The standard position is simple. One simply places the harmonium on the ground. The right hand plays the keys while the left hand pumps the bellows. This is the most common position used in India and Pakistan today. There is also a position used by qawwali singers and folk musicians. For this position one end of the harmonium rests on the ground while the other end rest partially in the lap. The position is reversed for left handed musicians. In such cases the right hand pumps the bellows while the left hand plays the melody.

Learning Music in Desi Style

Harmonium and keyboard are similar for Indian music. For harmonium we have to blow air all the time when we play. For Keyboard it is not required. For keyboard we have to select the best sound out of 100 or more available. The sound should be pleasing and continuous. Suggested sounds are Flute, Synthetic Reed etc. Every keyboard is different; therefore select sounds or voice yourself. For harmonium first open at least 3 big knobs and then Blower (dhokni). In some there is straight dhokni, which is to be opened from both sides and in other it should be opened only from left, for right handed people from right. In all lessons we have shown lessons for right handed persons. In harmonium never press dhokni (or blow air) until any note - black or white is pressed, otherwise air will not be able to go out from anywhere and the harmonium will start leaking air from sides or anywhere. Use right hand thumb to play white keys only and adjacent three fingers on black and white keys both. Thumb is very rarely used on black keys. For harmonium you need to use right hand only and all lessons are same for harmonium and keyboard.

By learning keyboard in desi style you will be able to play Indian and Pakistani film songs. Harmonium, keyboard and synthesizer keyboard are taken to mean the same thing, and are called simply the "keyboard". The notations are used to describe the keys on the keyboard: For convenience, the reference note, called the tonic or the key or the Sa, is assumed to be the first black key, indicated in the diagram by the letter "S". If you want to sing you may assign any key as "Sa", according to your voice scale. The techniques how to assign any key as “Sa” will be defined later in detail. In this book the fingering of keyboard and harmonium is kept same. We will assign same fingers for playing keyboard as well as harmonium so, that we will not face any difficulty if we play both instruments. Most people who play harmonium are not able to play keyboard perfectly. But now you will be able to play both instruments with no difficulty.

Keyboard or Computer Music

Music can be defined as collection of small pieces of regular sound played at predefined time interval. It is the small water droplets that make the ocean, like wise music is also an ocean that is made up of small parts; it is called “note”. An ingenious collection of these notes played over a period of time results in a melody that could be R.D. Burman or Nisar Bazmi song. Hence both western and Indian or for that matter any form of regular music has a set of basic notes from which they grow, something like alphabets. There is a new concept evolving called “computer music” where a musician explores beyond the basic notes that is defined in music. In cakewalk studio it is possible to explore beyond basics. Today almost all the keyboards are computerized and produce midi music. Midi means musical instruments digital interface. Midi music can be edited in a computer or in a midi keyboard.

Let us see more on notes. “Notes” what are they? Note can be technically explained as a sound frequency. Actually the sound that is produced when you press a key on musical keyboard is called as “note”. It does not matter if you press the white key or the black key. Each key plays a predefined frequency. A frequency is number of cycles per second. The note gets its shape by the amount of time you hold down the key and release it. This is called the note length or duration. Hence to make a “tune” or a “melody” or “song” you should play a bunch of these notes at proper duration and length.

Western Music Notes Verses Indian

Before we can learn how to play scales it is vital that we learn the notes on keyboard and how they relate to each other. The best way to describe the notes on the keyboard is by comparing them to the notes of the alphabets. The first seven notes of the keyboard are ( A - B - C - D - E - F - G ). Each note differs with each other in sound. Notice that the seven notes of keyboard repeat themselves over and over again. The notes sound the same but the pitch differs. For example if you play C and move to the right until you find the next C, you will notice that if you play them simultaneously, both notes sounds the same but one is higher than the other.

Middle C marks the center of the keyboard. As you will notice the western C major scale is the easiest and simplest scale of the twelve. In C major scale you may play the song "Ik pyar kaa nagma hai". In western system it consists all the white keys from any starting C to the next octave C.

A standard semi professional music keyboard has 48 keys. You will see 4 sets of 12 keys. This 12 set of notes is technically called an octave. Why 12, why not 13?, Good question. The aim of this issue is to keep it simple; Western is based on logarithmic division. In Indian system of music you can start playing Indian or Pakistani songs from any note and starting note will always become our reference note or Sa. Remaining notes will be arranged according to achal komal and tiver system. It is recommended that you select first black key for learning keyboard or harmonium. In western music, Fifth note from C is as 5th. In Indian music “Sa” note is based on our reference note or the key we selected for starting point as Sa. We can further go in deep by playing songs in raga of that particular thaat. To play song in ragas need practice and concept of raga must be clear. In the western music system the “C note” itself does not change and “scales” denotes the pitch changes. Western music system has an “absolute” naming for the keys whereas in Indian the notation is “relative. Desi music has combined both by adding chords with melody. In the seven tone-scale the second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh notes can be sharp or flat, making up the twelve notes in the western scale. However, ragas can specify microtonal changes to this scale: a flatter second, a sharper seventh, and so forth. Furthermore, such variations can occur between styles, performers or simply follow the mood of the performer. There is no absolute pitch; instead, each performance simply picks a ground note, and the other scale degrees follow relative to the ground note.

Note: “Sa” does not “map” always onto “C”. It could start at F and still form S R G M P D N scale in which case the corresponding notes also changes. You may temporarily relate the “Sa” of Indian to “C#” of Western that is fortunately identical to each other. A Scale is a set of 7 notes in a proper order and interval. Or a scale is a set of 7 notes with predefined intervals. The distance between each note is called as interval. It is true that scales and ragas are not same. Apart from having seven different notes, there are not many similarities. There is a huge difference between a scale and raga in tonal quality or the sound density.

Melody and rhythm are the common grounds for music, be it western or Indian. Indian music is essentially monophonic (single melody format or homophonic) while Western music can be polyphonic (multiple notes played or sung in harmonized arrangement), monophonic or a combination of both. Western classical music is based upon the equal tempered scale, and rests upon melody, harmony and counterpart while swars and taalas are the two basic components of Indian classical music. Swars are the twelve notes and the intervening semitones, while a taal is a cycle of beats, starting with a stress point called the sam and ending with a release point called the khali. It is this (sam & khali) that brings life to a taal.

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