Chitravina – Left Hand Playing Technique

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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 left hand techniques. The Chitravina does not have frets like the veena, guitar or sitar and also does not require the technique of pressing the finger against the finger board like the violin or sarod. The technique is relatively easy and involves the act of gliding the slide across the string as the right hand performs the plucking motion. 

The first step is to learn to hold the slide in such a way so as to produce a melodious sound. The slide is made of teflon but in the older days other materials such as bison horn, ebony, or would were also used. The legendary Gottuvadyam Narayana Iyengar and subsequently his son the maestro, Shri Chitravina Narsimhan experimented extensively on the design of the instrument and subsequently from the late 80s the teflon material for the slide has shown to produce the best sound musically. Its important to learn to hold the slide correctly and firmly and once the grip is comfortable, then one may attempt to place it on the string. 

The open string is the tonic note also called the shadjam. Place the slide over the strings so that it lies perpendicular to the length of strings and touches all the 6 strings. Although the slide touches all 6 strings the sound produced depends on the actual string that is plucked on the right hand. It is also important to sit in a posture that is fairly centered wrt to the instrument and ensure the right distance from the instrument. 

The hand, elbow and arm should be able move freely and swing across the length of strings comfortable without stretching or cramping. Ensure that the left hand thumb does not touch the string on the right side of the teflon. Place the slide on the instrument touching all strings and slowly increase the pressure till you get a good tone and pitch. Do not press too hard or too lightly. Pressing lightly will produce a buzzing sound . Play each note slowly and repeat couple of times. Start with plain notes first and master them comfortably before proceeding to play oscillated or gliding notes. Tala strings can also be learned at a later stage when the basic notes are comfortably produced. Remember to use the ring finger to practice damping. 

Start playing single notes, then double notes and slowly increase the level to play other exercises. Try slowly and patiently, its important to master the fundamentals to make solid progress.
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