INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question


Author Message
The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 16, 2002 03:38 p.m.

Still being a sitar neophyte. Can anyone explain to me The Why's & The Wherefore's of note bending? I am not asking how to bend, but rather - are there certain places where it's done? Certain notes? Certain areas of the rag - Alaap, e.g.? It's frustrating... I do not know when to bend. IOW, are there any basic rules of thumb to follow? Or is it totally dictated by the feeling and emotion of the moment. HELP!

Part two of the addition to Meend, what other techniques, if any, give the rag that uniquely Indian sound.

Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 17, 2002 07:08 a.m.

Hey Neal,
You've asked a huge question. As far a Meend goes there's a Meend that occurs from a higher note descending to the thematic or target note, and a Meend that begins from below the target note. But that's not all: there are Meends that are quick little twangangy things and slow ones, ones that are, oh well there's this book that helped me a great deal as I'm all over the embellishments as being what gives the Sitar it's special sound. This is the same with bagpipes, so embellishments are a definite key. Anyway the book is available from PeterC and is great, "The Sitar, The Instrument and it's Technique", has a complete chapter on ornamentation, with names and explainations, of all the embellishments.
But only being shown so that you can see/hear the subtle inflections will really get you there. I'd say, unless your some kind of musical genius, slow down a bit. One embellishment, such as Meend might be able to be done rather easily on first look but can be done in myroids of "feels" .
What I've seen, just on Meend, is that you can do this anywhere, everywhere, just a wee bit on nearly every note of your raag. You've got your Passionate phrasing, your mournful phrasing, I've also been told never to hit the tonic note (Sa) straight on but always Meend to it. Anyway you will love the book, great exercises and all of the embellishments. Good luck . . . ken (another newbie to Sitar, but not to stringed instruments)
Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 17, 2002 02:34 p.m.

would this go same for one playing guitar in indian classical?
Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 19, 2002 12:21 p.m.

From what I know of ICM on guitar (not much) there are a lot of the same techniques. Remember, the sound "effect" is what your looking for and you certainly can bend notes (of course not to the same extent), hammer on and off and of course use a bit of slide guitar technique all emulating what goes on on Sitar. I'd recommend Manfred Junias (hereafter known as "Manny's book) book to anyone interested in Sitar. I also recommend a visit to that has gobs of info on ICM. Good luck...ken
Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 19, 2002 01:34 p.m.

Whoa! Neal, when to play a meend is mostly a matter of what kind of emotion or "feeling" do you want to create. Like Ken says, you can meend up or down, a couple or several notes. There's also a quick quarter-note, repeated type of meend called a gamak that is frequently used as well. That's all generally called ornamentation, and to a large extent up to the player. But not to use these techniques is to play boring music! So, experiment Neal. Listen to a lot of records/CDs/tapes and try to emulate what you hear the best you can. That's basically how I learned years ago. Play, play, play!

Monk, ever heard of an album called "Call of the Valley"? Came out circa 1968, featuring the debut of Shivkumar Sharma (on santur) and Mohan Bhatt (on Indian guitar). Mohan does an absolute fantastic job of playing Indian slide guitar, emulating not only vocals but veena as well. That album has become a classic, and came out on CD two years ago as well (check I recommend getting that one for the slide alone.

Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 19, 2002 02:02 p.m.

Thanks guys, Russ Ill definatly check out that album, I have heard Mahan Batt at alot, he is great. Theres alot of recordings of indian artists, northern and southern and not just classical music at that webpage if you guys are interested in checking it out.
Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 25, 2002 07:31 p.m.

Thanks Ken,

Does that book - <"The Sitar, The Instrument and it's Technique"> - also have a chapter on ALAAP ? Maybe some generalities? Rules of thumb? Helpful hints? Neal

Alaap is another mystery to me.

Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 26, 2002 06:40 a.m.

Not an entire chapter but a very helpful "Glossary of Terms" in which Alap is explained in detail. He also includes a 5 page description of a Sitar performance which I found particularly helpful in understanding how a Raga is structured.
This book helped me to understand why several of our "Ragamaniacs" here like Nikhil Banarjee more and more over Ravi Shankar (myself included, not that I don't consider Ravi one of the most superb musicians I've ever heard, sweet, smooth, and genuine genius) as Nikhil has more of a tendancy to play a "full" Raga while Ravi seems to play a foreshortened version, no doubt to be more comprehensible to the western ear.
Anyway, a personal note, remember that Raga's are a very, very astute example of being so well grounded in the theories and the basic movements that each melody (even though set within a structured form) is a distinct and individual improvisation which may be affected in the same performer by any number of things: emotional interference, physical ailments (or lack thereof) a cloud passing over the sun, in point of fact anything that affects your feelings will affect how the Raag is played. So the better grounded in all aspects of the music, like listening to other forms of ICM, flute, vocal, dance, and especially do not overlook Hindu philosophy as an insight to the "feeling"nature of the music and how deeply the human spirit affects the outcome of a performance.
As a performing artist for many years I can certainly attest to the absolute fact that your personal feelings are projected on the audience tremendously, so much so that if you are upset you might as well not play because everyone listening to your performance will be affected by your emotion. Same goes if you are overwhelmed with happines, so will they. So the study of ICM as it applies to Sitar is multi-faceted unless of course your intent is merely to play American popular music on the instrument in which case the most cursory study will suffice.
Manny's book is a veritable gold mine for any of us that are just starting. His insights and exercises are great IMHO. Good luck Neal.....ken
Re:The Why's & Wherefore's -Open Question Mar 27, 2002 10:31 a.m.

Indeed. Anytime you're performing for other people, how your day is going will affect what your audience perceives. And their response to you provides a "feedback loop" which further affects your behavior. I'm also an instructor, and if I'm not feeling 100%, my instruction suffers and the audience perceives it, providing negative feedback which further hurts me. Playing music for others is no different. That's another reason why the same raga will be better on some days than others. If possible, better to not play at all than put out forgetable garbage. Oh well, enough of Behavioral Psychology 101!
Ravi over Nikhil? I like them both and don't want to rank them. How do you compare two diamonds? Listen to some of Ravi's early works. Even Nikhil had to admit Ravi was actually better than himself regarding proper alap production! But things did change after Ravi met the Beatles. Not the same music or the man anymore.
Neal, most of the questions you ask are answered at length in a range of books out there. Manfred's sitar book was well known many years ago, and is now back in print. I recommend you pony up the cash and buy it. I use a much older work called "Techniques of Sitar" by Alludhin Khan's (Ravi's guru) oldest survivng disciple, S. Bandyopayaya. Many pages in there, detailing classical alap production, but it is definitely a reference for scholars. Manfred's book might be easier to get through! If you go for the Techniques book, its usually available from, but it is fairly pricy.
[Previous] [Up] [Next]