How to do Riyaz?

Sharing a few tips for doing tabla riyaz, written by RS Ananda Murthy. 

How to do Riyaz?

by R. S. Ananda Murthy (rsamurti@gmail.com)

1. Try to do riyaz in a very private place where you are alone. Do not let others to come or observe your riyaz.

2. Your attitude towards your instrument has a great impact on the effectiveness of your riyaz. Do not try to conquer your instrument. Try to seek your instrument with love and respect. Riyaz is actually meditation with lot of love, respect and perseverance. Single word for all this is bhakti. So, cultivate this bhakti towards your instrument. Flow of knowledge is analogous to flow of current. Just like current that flows from higher potential point to a lower potential point, knowledge flows into you if you are humble and at a lower level than the source of knowledge. Therefore, in our tradition, we respect our Gurus and we always place them at a higher pedestal. Remember source of knowledge can be any where. It can be even a person unknown to us. This is very true in todays’s digital age.

3. Set your metronome to a comfortable tempo such that you will be able to play clearly each syllable or akshara at single speed and also at double speed. The base tempo could vary from person to person. Therefore, you need to adjust it for your self. Over a period of time, try to increase your base speed.

4. Take any basic or advanced exercise. This can be to strengthen right hand, left hand, or to develop co-ordination of both hands. Write it down. First recite it along with the metronome at single speed and also double speed. Repeat this several times. Preferably repeat this for about 10 minutes. Keeping 10 minutes duration for each exercise has been found to be very effective by many achievers.

5. You may repeat your 10 minute sessions with small breaks in between for any length of time depending upon your convenience. Try to cover all aspects of playing of your instrument during each day of your riyaz. This may be difficult if you have a very busy schedule. But still try to do this as much as possible.

6. You may try to keep a diary of your riyaz sessions to monitor your progress over a period of time.

7. When you are practicing, observe your self for any stiffness or strain in your hands, shoulders (this is very important), or in any part of your body. Strain or stiffness in the body is unique to each person. Therefore, you need to observe yourself and keep your body relaxed throughout your riyaz. While doing riyaz also observe your breath. Ensure that you are not holding your breath and that you are breathing normally in a relaxed way.

8. Note that the goals of your riyaz in the order of priority are to achieve — clarity, stamina, and speed. If you try to develop stamina – i.e., the ability to play with clarity for longer duration – speed will automatically come.

Concert with Pandit Bharat Bhushan Goswami

Last weekend I had the good fortune to accompany a renowned maestro of the sarangi Pandit Bharat Bhushan Goswami-ji at his Melbourne concert.

Sharing below links to the video recordings of the concert.

First half:

The first half featured bada and chhota khayals in raga Puriya Kalyan, followed by a light piece (I believe it was a Dadra, not to be confused with Dadra taal of tabla).

Second half:

The second half featured a traditional Thumri of Benares, followed by a folk item known as a Chaiti. I’ve had very little experience playing with light classical genres so this was a learning experience for me! I had to learn the Jat Theka for this performance which is used for Thumri accompaniment. It is essentially a variation of slow Teentaal.

It was a wonderful experience to accompany such an august and senior musician. Panditji plays sarangi in the Benares style. His repertoire includes core classical material (khayal) as well as light classical genres such as thumri, dadra, chaiti and others. His mastery of the instrument and the various genres of classical music were evident.

Further information about Goswami-ji can be found on his website:

http://bharatbhushansarangi.com/

Memories of Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan

Ustad Shaukat Hussain was an excellent and well-known tabla player from Pakistan, known as a guru-bhai of Ustad Alla Rakha and as the guru / ustad of Ustad Tari Khan. He was also the guru of UK-based tabla player Shahbaz Husain.

Some years ago I came across a well-written essay by Pakistani journalist Ally Adnan sharing memories of Ustad Shaukat Hussain. I am sharing the essay here in PDF form for those interested:

Memories of Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan by Ally Adnan

“The Art of Tabla Playing” book by Prof. Sudhir Varma

Prof. Sudhir Varma was the head of the faculty of percussion at Bhatkande College of Music, Lucknow and was the student of Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa for 15 years. He has written a book “The Art of Tabla Playing”. It contains information about the general basics of tabla, however also contains a number of compositions given in different taals.

I am sharing a PDF copy of the book here for those interested:

The Art of Tabla Playing by Prof. Sudhir K Varma

Prof. Varma is the person seen sharing memories of Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa in the YouTube video provided in my previous post: The 3 Types of Tabla players according to Utd Ahmedjan Thirakwa.

Posture and technique for good tabla playing 

The below video clip of my guru Pt Abhijit Banerjee illustrates a good example of ideal posture and technique for tabla playing:

The angle of the video clearly shows that Panditji’s left shoulder is doing a lot of the work when playing the bayan. This is an important point. Many beginners struggle to get good volume and tone out of their bayan. One of the reasons for this is the incorrect assumption that tabla is played with fingers and hands alone – this is not true. 

Fingers and hands alone do not have much strength and power. For good tabla playing the ideal technique is to use the muscles of the back and shoulders to generate most of the power, which is transmitted by the fingers and hands to the drum. 

If one watches and observes Panditji’s movements closely one can see his shoulders (and ultimately the muscles of the upper and lower back) are generating most of the force and power. By contrast, the fingers and hands are relatively relaxed. 

One can also note the overall solidity and steadiness of his seated posture. There is very little extraneous movement when he plays – only the arms and shoulders are moving. This is another core principle of good tabla playing – efficiency. Making the minimum movements required to play the strokes, while generating maximum power by use of the shoulders and back. 

(Would like to acknowledge my guru-bhai Farid for posting the above video to YouTube)

Pandit Sankha Chatterjee

Pandit Sankha Chatterjee is a very senior tabla player, currently in his 80s, who had the distinction of being the disciple of both Ustad Karamatullah Khan and Ustad Masit Khan of the Farrukabad gharana, as well as Ustad Alla Rakha of Punjab gharana. 

In a series of 3 videos, he has shared a lifetime of wisdom and experience regarding music and tabla, which are well worth watching:

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:

He has a very engaging and humorous style and discusses a range of topics from the traditional way of teaching tabla, the differences between gharanas, tips for good tabla accompaniment and many others.