Learning Raga Music


First of all we need to understand what is learning. And what for we learn.

Learning is a process to discover and understand our own limits about the subject. Subject can vary. Once we know the limits it is much easier to think about to cross the limits. We know that, we have the same body. Whichever subject we are going to learn we always will use the same body with same features. All the natural features which we can't change. We need to be wise to use it all in a good direction.

So, how to get the direction?

Here we need a master of the subject who had discovered, understood and experienced the subject and the human body relation to the subject.


Our body is all about Sound energy. It functions with or within the sound zone. From early age we give these signs of relation towards Sound. So someone from family or society recognise the relation and the potential. Gradually as our body grows the body needs are also developed. Our body needs a contineous/constant Sound feeling around us. So then the decision is clear that we should learn to discover about sound and the relation between body and the Sound.

So, we go to the master of this subject. But, question remains the same. How to learn?

Because no one can teach music even the master.

So, what about the master? What he can do with us?

He can first consider you as a person who would like to discover the relation of sound. As we are going to use our own body to learn about the Sound, a big clean up is so needed to enter in the zone of discovery of Sound.

So, master teaches the basic scale of seven normal notes. Some bodies are naturally tuned because of genetic data and mental state of mind. it is always noticed that, a child who has received enough love and care from parents and the family his/her body is naturally balanced and tuned for the sound production.

If parents could not give the necessary balance for their child then child's body is somehow unbalanced for several things as in early age child can't identify the symtoms.

Here actually it's masters work to understand the basic thing of the body. If master has access towards these things then things can be easy for the person to learn properly. If master doesn't know these things then student needs lot of time for to discover the unbalanced things and to act on that first then sounds.

Before music we need to discover that, our body can discover, identify and create a proper sound and the compositions of sounds. And this happens only if the body is balanced. It is nothing related to the intellect. To create a good sound is a complete body business. A balanced body always creates a balanced tuned sound.

In traditional way of learning or teaching master ask the student to sing/practice a single line of notes for hours. Sometimes just one phrase for 3/4 hours. Purpose is to bring the capacity of understanding own body system. This is a method of  big clean up which is  so necessary in the beginning. 

Body is build or dependent on breathing. Breathing is a life source for the body. So, every structure of notes, compositions are organised according to the body of the student. Not all compositions student can sing or practice. If the compositions are against the natural process of the students body, it may harm the body, emotions and voice too. So, master should be responsible to understand the basic things of body.

There are lot of examples where the master and the student could not solve the basic things or they both could not understand the body features so, things remain unsolved and student remained with the master for more than 30 years. Actually they become a couple. They like to see each other or to be with each other so they just spend time without knowing. The subject of music becomes silent and their own story continuous. Finally they become good admiring friends one is admiring other as master and other is admiring other as student and actual music subject is forgotten.  

There are lot of examples where some masters began to learn from other bigger master and in two years the master lost the voice.

Why and how it can happen?

Actually it is not possible even to think a master can lose his voice. But it happened only bacuse the other big master wants to rule other body by his own breathing which is so different than the student master. So, if we create and try to install a new data base or new method of breathing, naturally body will first get confused and then body will try to adjust by understanding and may be some bodies will never understand why and how come suddenly breathings pattern has to be changed so it will create a tension first on breathing and it will affect the vocal cords so student may lose his voice. It is so simple to understand this. But some masters are so ignorant that they prefer to lose the voice against so called knowledge. They should understand that knowledge comes from breathing. If he can't match other type of breathings he should not go that way.

Music is not just a knowledge. Music is a key which bring awareness of how to operate your own body system.

Gharana or Music Schools

In Raga system there are different Gharana or schools of music are established.  

What is Gharana and what for it is? 

India is a Nation with 30 regions and every region has different food. So the music. So, every region has different sound or in other way different sounds support the specific region and the body which takes birth in this specific region.

Basically every region and every body from the specific region has different and specific breathings pattern. Gharana is based on the breathing pattern of the body of this specific region. Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur, Kirana, Patiala.

If we see the difference between the regions we will understand the basic body comes from these region are built according to the local weather, water and the food.  All these elements are deciding  the basic breathing of the body. So the sound of the body. if we notice clearly, each gharana has a specific breathing pattern than other gharana.  

Till now no one could cross the limit of learning and to master every gharana style and to become a performer of all gharanas. Because it is not possible for our body to breath in different style in a same life span.  We can copy some patterns of other gharanas but not a complete style. If we understand this then we understand that music creation is a completely body business. So we should respect our body and its natural skills. We can create  and perform great music if we stay in the limit of our natural body skills. 

Those who understood these basic things they sang for life those who could not understood or got tempted by other styles or masters they even lost their voice.

The only thing is in our hand is to respect natural body gifts and the limits. We are beautiful within limits. 


Is absolutely not allowed while learning. We believe that, thinking has some importance and it has to be used when it is essential. Not all the time. if we keep our body system only in thinking mode/zone body will lose the qualities to function well as per its nature. So, Thinking is actually forbidden during learning.

Practice brings us every answer of every question which we face during learning. Even sometimes dialog is not maintained between master and the student because student should go through the practice and practice should make understand everything. 


Raga music is a language of emotions. Every language has its own grammar to define. Raga music has a grammar of emotions and mathematic of breath. The perfect use of emotions in a certain duration of breath is Raga music.

In traditional learning system before all these things Tanpura a simple four string instrument plays a big role to understnd, discover and to establish lot of things.


A four string instrument which is normally tuned from first string to Pancham (fifth note) middle two string for Shadaja and the last string for lower Shadja.

Simply played by two fingers with proper pressure and the space, which creates a continuers drone or a circle of sound which supports complete body system to breath and to activate it on several levels.

Sound or circle of Tanpura sound brings awareness of each emotional movement which is going on in your own body. You will have vision, images and the flash back of past as well as future too. The power of Tanpura sound brings you at another level and open up your own consciousness to the higher level so that, you can develop a fine awareness of yourself and your potential which was silent. Tanpura sound can awaken your total existence.

Tunning of Tanpura

Tanpura is a simple instrument but very sensitive/delicate to tune as it's strings can lose the pitch by just a rise or fall of temperature. A little plus pressure of your finger on the string can change the tuning. So master always keep saying that, if you know how to tune Tanpura and if you can maintain the tuning while playing for longer time you know 80% of sound and music which is true.


Resolves all past stories. It helps you to evacuate and balance your unbalanced emotions. We should admire the creator of Tanpura a simple instruments which works to build and direct a musical life of an artiste.


Once the base is build with normal scale with different type of compositions of notes then the next step comes to deal with the Rhythmic structure.

Indian Rhythm are complex. We always hear that. But, where the complexity comes from? if we see clearly all the musical structure comes from the nature which this region is experiencing. The bright Sun. Sun rules the life. Sun rules the bodies. Sun rules the emotions, Sun rules the food.

All Rhythmic patterns are coming from the breathing pattern which we experience during pranayama.


Yogic system is discovered and established in India. Yogic system is based on the Breathing.

Pranayama is the best example to discover your body and system and to keep it in control.

Life, Nature and our body has a specific normal Rhythm which we follow in day today's life. If we are not maintaining the relation of this Rhythmic cycle then we may disturb everyone.

Because of Pranayama and by developing a deep understanding of the body and the emotions in the silence and in different cycle of Rhythm we could develop a unique method to express our own feelings in four times less Rhythmic cycle. Which we call as vilambit means very slow.

To learn the system of vilambit we should experience the silence of body and thoughts. To attain the state we need to go through the deep experience by rendering a sentence for four hours. So body understands the proper breathing required for a particular phrase or a composition of notes or a longer sentence of notes. Once you experience the silence and what's going with you during practice and after practice it is much easier to move to the next step.

Basic exercises

To learn properly we need musical training and regular practice. Besides music there are lot of things which can use as practice for musical growth. First of all we should understand that, Music is not a special thing it is very normal thing to sing or play an instrument. 


We all know that, We are using the space of 2.5 seconds for breath in and 2.5 seconds for breath out. Actually our body life is just 2.5 seconds. Everything happens in this 2.5 seconds or in the extension of 2.5 seconds. If we know how to use the breath and how to extend and to feel the breath then learning Raga music is much easier.


is a powerful tool which can be used as a practice tool for musical growth other than musical practice. I would recommend a easy way. Choose your birth day. let's consider your birth date is 17th which comes every month. So, every month on 17th you are going to experience silence for yourself. No communication with anyone. All is on silence. You can sit, you can go for walk. Be a observer but in a silence mode.

If you practice this at least once a month by following your birth date you will resolve lot of things within you which will naturally help you for musical growth. Silence brings sharpness within you. You are becoming more and more sharper for sounds and the emotions behind each sound. Which is so necessary for Raga music. Because Raga music is based on human body emotions. Each and every emotions you can sketch by your perfect voice. 


As a child beginning period we spend time to imitate our parents. The easy way to learn or adapt language or mannerism which we observe regularly. Same thing happens when we go to the master. The first basic step is to imitate the master. And what we imitate? We imitate the breathing of the master. So you will see some students are walking, sitting, talking and singing like their master. As they imitate the breathing of other body they copy all the things which are not necessary. So, the master should keep the awareness saying that, yes, you should imitate but what? It has to be describe well otherwise copy will be created soon. and once it has been created it is hardly possible to change the features of the copy.

For this reason a normal dialog should be established between master and the student. Indian system doesn't allow the basic dialog because some master doesnt know what it is. So they avoid the dialog. They are scared to lose their mastership. In such case both master and the student are suffering. Normally student gets impressed by the fame of the master. It doesnt mean anything how famous is master. May be he doesn't know the basic things because, may be he became a copy of his master.

Live your own life

As in life we live our own life. We never copy even our father or his life. Similarly, We should follow same rule while learning from the master. Your body has different breathing. Different parents, different stories, different cultural base, different food even. Considering all these things master should take care what to teach. Because everyone is different.


Raga music is based on the emotions which we express in day todays life or in the moment. So, to learn or to perform one should be always connected toward his/her every emotion. Should develop a own method to recognise and to experience each and every emotion which we go through during just walk, talk, meet or to observe from morning till evening what happens inside and outside.


We should be vigilant towards what's happening with us when we see other person, group of people. Sometimes we just walk and someone crossing may disturb us or our feelings. So what's happening? What it means? What actually disturbed us? All these questions should be answered by ourself not master. So we can be a good in singing Raga music and may be we could express well our every emotions of every notes and compositions of notes in different Rhythmic cycles.


Become a observer. Observe everything. I would say even observe how you sit and walk. If you are walking like your parents or one of the parent just Stop. To change it, practice with a mirror. Spend time to observe yourself in a mirror. And if you found out that one of parent is present in your walk style then you should first stop and bring change which respects your own body. Remember it's your body not parents. It's totally different body with different features than your own parents. You are the next. So, you do not have any rights to go back to your last generation. these all things matter while you learn Raga music.  


Experience all type of exhibitions. Painting/Sculpture. Painting is breathing. Observe the strokes of each colour. It is not mere an imagination of the artiste. It is the state of mind and it is a actual breathing happening in that moment with the artist.  So, the colour, the space and the length of the stroke of each colour in the painting.

Observe jewellery. How delicately it is designed. It is all about the breathing. Experience the breathing pattern which has been experienced by the designer during making of such designs. 

Actually if we take time to observe and experience the beauty fo every natural expressions it may help us to grow in Raga music. Our body, Its design similarly observe different bodies. Observe carefully the delicate design of some specific fruits.

Observe birds. what happens with them while they fly. These all things matters while learning Raga music. 

Voice problems

Normally we all face voice problems during learning. Basically it comes from the body. If body is tiered voice should get tiered. So it is our own duty to take care of our health. Enough rest or sleep is playing the main role in maintaining health. Good and healthy food helps our body to sustain the energy level.

Some misunderstandings

People always keep saying that, if you are learning music/singing you should avoid some food products which may harm the voice. These are completely false based information spread by the completely scared people. All natural products  will never harm body or particularly voice. Frozen products or bitter products sometimes may disturb voice if you do not have a habit of consuming frozen products. Body will react if you are not used to for such products. Plus we need to understand that its totally mind game.

We keep hearing the same things from people about voice and the products. Those who spread such things they never learnt music or singing but they have informations to spread. So please never believe such information. Believe your own body. Understand your own body. Observe  its strength and the minus points so you can decide everything about food which you can consume well. Voice never have a problem. 

Human body is a complete device with unbelievable active features. We just need time to know and feel it so that, we can use it completely for the life and for singing Raga music.

A organised rest is the answer to have always a fresh voice.

To be humble

Indian traditional learning teaches us to stay always humble towards the master. Because we believe that, master is not just a person who we can consider as a friend. To be true, master has always an access to one kind of special energy which we cannot guess or it's always invisible.  During learning we need the special energy of master which brings lot of things in us during transformation period. Raga music is transferring data from the masters body to the students body. So for this, both bodies should get tuned on the same mode.  To attain this we need to spend time with the master. It is a natural process to be with a master.

After learning the first step is to teach what you learnt.

Why one should teach others?

As you spent time, energy,  with your master and now you are becoming master of this art and you are about to begin your carrier as a performing artiste of Raga music before that one step you should experience is to teach this music to some one. By this act you are again going through a deep experience which you had experienced when you had began with your master. You are understanding other person, body, emotions and you are developing your own technics to deal with it.

Also by beginning teaching you are experiencing the  support or belief of one person on you. Which is so important in this phase. By this experience you are grooming yourself for the next step which is performance. 


Learning Raga music is similar to living own life. It is not complex or something different or something special. If we consider something special is your body and its resonance power with a beautiful sound. Which you can use for musical creation and musical expression through performance of Raga music. As I described above some bodies are naturally tuned so their voices are tuned and whatever they sing becomes a melodious.

The process of transforming untuned to tuned body is called learning Raga music.

You are not only tuning your body you are tuning the emotions your body and the life.

The master and student relation ends once this state of mind is been acquired.

Learning process never ends.

In the new phase learning becomes understanding. Let us not keep saying that, We keep on learning. Instead we can use we keep discovering and understanding.

The new stage begins where you can experience and experiment whatever you learnt through the continuous performance.

In the next post we will see about performing Raga music.


#learning #raga #music

#Zero Thoughts

Pandit Shivkumar


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