Join acclaimed vocalist Ramneek Singh as she walks students through a tutorial of classical Indian music focusing on three aspects: Melody, Rhythm and Aesthetics.
Melody covers the Raag and it’s patternwork, Rhythm covers the rhythmic movement in which the melody can progress and Aesthetics covers the lyrics and the cultural aspect of poetry and Indian culture.
This video not only provides a brief overview of classical Indian music, but it also serves as preparation before students watch Singh’s musical performance video located at the bottom of this page.
These terms are defined in the video and can also be found in the Tutorial Transcript located below.
Want to learn more about Ramneek Singh? Visit her website for her biography, performances, email, and more musical videos!
Tutorial notes on Indian Classical music, “A Glimpse”
Music basically involves the creation of emotionally pleasing effects by means of sound.
The basic elements of Indian Classical Music that combine and attempt to achieve this effect are “Melody” and “Rhythm”.
The melodic part of Indian Classical Music is called a “Raag”.
Every Raag consists of a fixed and unchangeable set of notes, presented in the ascending and descending scale called “Aaroh” and “Avroh“.
In Raag music, there are a number of rules that explain the nature of a Raag and differentiate it from other Raags.
Within the Raag, there are notes on which one should rest, called the “Nyaas” notes. There are also notes within every raag that are the most important and special, called the Vadi and Samvadi notes. These jointly build the character and the movement of the raag.
Other things that help with decorating the raag are gentle and sudden sliding, gliding, and oscillations within the raag notes that utilize the micro tones within the scale to improvise and embellish the raag.
Lastly, an important rule kept in mind when building a raag is that any raag must consist of at least 5 notes, up to a maximum of 7 notes.
Keeping these basic rules in mind, one is free to create or improvise a mood or sentiment, which can interestingly vary according to the mood of the performer that day. This is what brings about the variety and freshness in the raag every time each musician performs it.
In music, rhythm or time measurement is based on the principle of repetition. In Indian Classical music, this repetitive rhythmic cycle is called “Taal“, which contains a number of beats.
Just like a raag has a fixed number of notes to create melody, a “Taal” has a fixed number of beats that make a rhythmic cycle. It could be a set of 6,7,8,10,12,14 or 16 beats. One of the most common Taals in Indian Classical Music is “Teentaal“, which has 16 beats, and is equivalent to Western Music’s 4/4 time signature.
The perfect combination of raag and Taal, or tone and time, becomes a medium for expressing thought and feeling.
I would briefly like to explain the genre that I specialize in. It is called the “Khayal“, which is a very important genre that was created in the 13th century by Amir Khusrau.
The word Khayal means imagination, thought, or idea. Within the restriction of the melodic structure of the raag and other rules, the khayal has the liberty of elaborating the pattern work of the raag along with lyrics or short 4 line poetry that enhance the mood of the raag.
The other classical genre that I perform is called the “Tarana“, which is primarily a Persian couplet or song woven into a Raag. It is very similar to a Khayal and is spiritual or Sufiana in nature.
The other genre that I perform is called the Shabad-Kirtan and Bhajan, which is spiritual and religious in nature as the lyrics are poetry written in praise of God.
Another genre that I have added to my repertoire is a semi-classical genre called the “Thumri“. This light classical form is the closest to Jazz, as you can take up a tune in a raag, and you have the liberty of going out of the fence of that raag into multiple other raags to portray the emotion of the poet, which is primarily romantic in nature.
Lastly, I also like to sing folk music which has lyrics in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu and depicts the rural, cultural traditions and classical poets of India.
Anyone wanting to reach me can email me at