The following points are taken from an interview session with Maestro Chitravina N Ravikiran on the topic of Voice Culture. Additional lessons on the topic of Voice Culture are found on Acharyanet in all categories from Basics to Advanced. These links will be provided at at the appropriate places in this article. We will continue to delve deeper into this topic to recommend specific exercises to develop various aspects of the voice within the Carnatic idiom. Please subscribe to our Free mailing list to get more updates on this topic. (Find the subscribe button on this page )
Some insights on Voice Culture in Carnatic Music by Chitravina N Ravikiran
What is Voice Culture ?
Voice culture is essentially culturing the voice to execute what the mind desires. Therefore it follows that mind culture is essential to voice culture. Unless the mind is trained to understand the values of the system, it is not possible for the voice to follow the lead. The requirements of voice culture are different for various systems of music. It is also important for the singer to be aware of the specific requirements of their particular system. Universal values required by all systems might include tuneful singing, good rhythmic sense, pleasant tone production, and clarity in pronunciation.
Lets now discuss the specific requirements of voice culture in Carnatic Music.
- Gamakas – Carnatic Music is based on ragas which in turn require a deep understanding of Gamakasor or ornamentations. This includes understanding the type of oscillations, whether these are carried out on a particular note (kampitam) or in between notes. (Jaaru). Some phrases may be rendered gracefully while others forcefully based on the context and the raga. The degree of oscillation also varies largely depending on the context of raga and tempo.
- Sustaining Notes – The ability to sustain long notes is also known as singing with long kaarvai. Developing good breath control helps the voice execute and navigate phrases from compositions as well as improvisation with ease. The voice should be able to sing both plain and oscillated notes clearly.
- Ragas – A good understanding of Ragas are essential. The mind has to be trained through instruction from a good guru and listening to great masters to develop a proper understanding.
- Tempos – The voice should be able to easily navigate between different speeds or tempos without compromising on the raga or rhythm.
- Range – A good voice should be able to traverse atleast 2 octaves. With training, even 3 octaves can be achieved easily.
- Modulation – Voice modulation plays an important role in developing a good aesthetic appeal. The ability to modulate the voice for different voice level and dynamics is important.
- Akaara – The ability to sing akaara phrases with clarity and speed is also an important aspect. When practicing Akaara phrases, one may experiement with various mouth adn jaw positions to see the effect of tone and volume.
- Understanding the nature of one’s own voice – Every voice is different and it is essential to understand one’s own body constitution, mindset, preferences and mould the voice training accordingly.
Here are some ways to achieve the specific goals listed for voice culture.
- Learn from great gurus who can inculcate the right values and foundations for Carnatic Music. They will also be able to provide relevant feedback to guide the student in the right path.
- Listen to great masters to understand the intricacies of ragas and the voice dynamics employed by them.
- Read books and improve your knowledge.
- Practice with the right mindset to achieve your goals.
Here are some specific ways Acharyanet can help you with Voice Culture
- Free Voice Culture Videos on Tuneful singing, Akaara Practice, Plain and Oscillated Notes, Range extension etc can be found in the Varisais section.
- Watch video interviews with top singers like Ranjani Gayathri, Abhishek Raghuram, Unnikrishnan to get valuable insights into this topic.
- All lessons contain an introduction to the Raga which is useful for students. The 28 Geetams covered in the Perfecting Carnatic Music Level 1 are a great way to understand the requirements of a Raga at the simplest level. At the advanced level, The Model Raga series goes in-depth into alapana techniques for specific ragas.
- The Varisais and Alankarams are a great way to practice tempo variations and Akaaras.
- Acharyanet has conducted many lec-dems and master classes with top Gurus on the topic of voice which can be found in the Webcast section. These recorded video sessions can be downloaded in their entirety.
- Check out Chitravina Ravikiran’s Voice Clinic is an archival of common issues and questions faced by students of Carnatic Music answered by the Guru himself. If you would like to join this Telegram group, please email email@example.com.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in specific groups on FB and Whatsapp where you can interact with the Guru directly and post your questions.
- Subscribe to our Mailing List to know more.