Indian Classical Music

Key facts and extra detail from the GCSE OCR Music textbook and revision guide

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Indian Classical Music
Indian classical music has a history tracing back over 3000
years (roughly 1700 BC).
Students of Indian classical undergo a type of apprenticeship
with a highly regarded performer know as master-student
The music is learned by ear and performed from memory.
Sitar: a plucked string instrument with frets, a very long
neck and over 20 strings.
Only 7 of the strings are used to play the melody; 4
play the melody itseld and another 2 0r 3 play the
The rest of the strings vibrate in sympathy; meaning
they are not touched but vibrate because the other
strings have been plucked. This creates the
distinctive shimmering sound
The frets on the neck are moveable, allowing the
sitar to be tuned to the raga
The strings are plucked with a metal plectrum, while
the other hand presses down on the strings to create
a characteristic pitch bend/slide
Sarod: Similar to the sitar, but the sarod has no frets. This
allows the player to slide between notes, which easily
creates glissandos
Sarangi: a bowed string instrument
Bansuri: a bamboo flute
Tabla: a pair of small, single headed drums. One is slightly
larger than the other
The tabla is played with the fingers and the palm of
the hand
The drum has a varied texture, with a black surface
in the middle which is made of a paste of iron filings
and starch. This adds a hard surface to the drum,
creating a wide range of sounds to be produced

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Tanpura: Similar to the sitar, however it only has 4 strings,
usually tuned to the notes of the raga
the strings are plucked repeatedly to maintain the
Indian classical music usually has:
A single melody line (raga)
A rhythmic pattern (tala)
A drone
The melody is based on a scale of notes called a raga
There are over 200 ragas and many are associated with a
particular time of day, season or mood.…read more

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Each piece is based on a cycle of beats called a tala
There are hundred of different tala patterns in Indian
classical music
The first beat of the tala is called the sam
The sam is the most important beat.…read more

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There is no tabla in this section, creating the free
time feeling and ease for the melody instrument to
Gat ­ middle section
o the tabla enters
o tempo increases
o greater sense of metre
o more elaborate improvisations and
Jhalla ­ final section
o the final section is based on a fixed
o the music becomes very fast
o complex rhythms
o complex melody
o the sitar and tabla player often have an
energetic dialogue involving
question-and-answer phrasing and imitation
Famous…read more


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