Techniques For Playing Gamakams Or Oscillations On The Chitravina

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Sangita Kalanidhi Chitravina N Ravikiran talks about the essential techniques of playing the fretless slide instrument, popularly known as the Chitravina. In this video, he explains the techniques for playing gamakas or oscillations on the chitravina. After one masters the technique of playing plain notes on the chitravina, gamakas or oscillated notes may then be attempted. The gamakas or oscillations in Carnatic Music are very different from those used in other musical systems like jazz, pop or even western classical. There are 3 factors that govern the nature of gamakas in Carnatic Music. They are :
  • Speed of the oscillation
  • Frequency of oscillation
  • Amplitude of oscillation
This is demonstrated by Shri Ravikiran in the video lesson. Plucking or pulling of strings are not required to produce the gamakam on the chitravina, only a simple lateral movement. This gives the chitravina instrument player a significant advantage in terms of ease and precision. Shri Ravikiran demonstrates the gamakams in the raga Todi

It is important to produce the gamakam by oscillating the notes within the correct range in order to be tuneful. Its also important to practice slowly and understand the range of the movement before increasing the tempo. Vocal students have a good advantage as many of the techniques can be mastered intuitively. Learning vocal before learning any instrument is always preferred and desired. One should also be aware of how notes are connected in Carnatic Music. Some notes are given a force, this refers to a musical force not a physical force. 

In the chitravina the force on a note is produced by the left hand glide movement. Example of this the gamakam known as sphuritam where force is given from the previous lower note to the second note in a set of double notes as in the Datu Varisai exercises. Another advanced gamakam used in carnatic music is called the glide or jaaru used in ragas like Anandabhairavi. Notes fall into the category of plain notes, oscillated notes which require grace and notes given with force like sphuritam, tripucham, ahatam and pratyahatam. Ahatam refers to double notes playing successively where force is given on the opening note in the ascent. When the same technique is performed on the descent its called pratyahatam.
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