Learning Carnatic Music

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Read this excerpt on Learning Carnatic Music from the Perfecting Carnatic Music Level 2 Book published by IFCM.


Carnatic music is a highly organised system, easy to learn with a rational approach. But it is also very intricate and demanding, and full of subtleties.One needs musical aptitude, patience, perseverance and focus on quality. Above all, one needs to possess and display the right attitude towards the art and the teacher. The compositions of celebrated composers like Purandara Dasa, Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi and Tyagaraja are perpetual testimonies to their exemplary attitude. Most top-calibre artistes are success stories not only due to their talent but also because they possessed the desirable mind-set. This is essential for the students’ progress and for the welfare of the system.

The correct approach

The first step is to display complete trust and respect for the teacher’s judgement. One must steer clear of getting impatient and trying to rush the learning process. Living in the 21st century, a period synonymous with the space age or cyber age, often makes people want to acquire or master skills at break-neck speed. Even those with natural talent need time to hone their skills and gain expression. A good teacher alone is qualified to decide how, when and what to teach, because artistic knowledge is not always tangible and quantitative.
It is also imperative to note that monetary investment alone cannot buy artistic skill or discernment. A time vs money approach or attempts to impose artistic decisions on the guru are hugely detrimental to the students, who will fail to imbibe essential intricacies that constitute good artistry. This is comparable to dictating treatment methods to a doctor just because one is paying the necessary fees.

The correct approach also includes:

1 - Basic humility where the art is concerned
2 - A positive attitude
3 - Enthusiasm to learn and practise with sincerity and patience
4 - Constant effort towards perfection with correctness
1 - They must monitor the practice of the students regularly, and brief the teacher about any difficulty he or she faces while learning.
2- They can share their inputs about their long/medium term (say 2-5 years ahead) plans with respect to their child’s progress, but leave the details of teaching and short-term decisions to the teachers.
3 - They must not pressurise the teacher to move on to more complex lessons, or suggest alternate methods.
4 - They must not push the students to perform at public events before getting the go ahead from the teachers.
Most good teachers are only too happy if the student makes not merely fast, but solid progress. They normally make every effort to teach as sincerely, thoroughly and also, as fast as possible, keeping the students’ best interests in mind. But they will be able to take teaching to greater heights if they can also
1 - Endeavour to follow the goal of perfection with correctness and completeness, and also inculcate this spirit among the students
2 - Strive to instil a sense of pride and self-enjoyment in every student
3 - Aim to not merely teach Carnatic music but also what it represents – the finest aspects of refined culture
It is recommended that students also read more on this subject in the first chapter of Perfecting Carnatic Music – Level 1. If you need help to find a teacher to learn online, please see details on this page.
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