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John

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Reply with quote  #1 
I know it sounds like a silly question.... and probably is, but I'm curious.

I've just started learning my 2nd raga - Kafi - and I've been spending a few hours working out an aouchar alaap based on the chalan shown to me by my teacher. Now, the last (& first) raga I was shown (& continue to work on) was Bhimpalasi, which belongs to the Kafi thaat. I seem to be spending as much time thinking about Bhimpalasi & avoiding IT'S chalan as I am about Kafi. :|

Is this what happens? Kafi seems like quite a crowded place. When I'm navigating a crowded place, I think as much about avoiding other people as I do about where I'm trying to get to.

Previously, when all I knew was Bhimpalasi, I'd sometimes just gaze out of the window at the birds or on to the sides of the valley or whatever. I record any practice sessions where I'm playing everything in the style of a performance & I've actually done some of my best playing (which is still pretty bad ) doing this.

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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi John,

Practice should be like meditation. Try to NOT let the mind wander away from whatever you are working on (birds, sun, dogs upstairs :roll: ) This music requires absolute concentration, especially when you get into all the meend techniques where you are not just playing on the frets. The predicament of having to concentrate in order to not break the raga is one that will be with you for years! They are very delicate characters, and a small error can break them. However, as you progress in your studies this will become less and less stressful. In fact, it can become so right now. Eliminate the notion of zoning out while you play (make it inconceivable, I dare you!), and instead take a maximum interest in what you are about to practice. Become fascinated with what sets Bhimpalasi and Kafi apart (and alternate practicing them). They are beautiful ragas, my first two as well, can't wait to revisit. Make this music a journey inward, not outward- the birds will appreciate the depth of your riyaaz Be present in your practice.

Cheers and best wishes,
Tomek
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John

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks Tomek.

When I say I'm gazing out of the window, I didn't mean that I'm not thinking about what I'm playing, quite the opposite. I meant I'm not looking the sitar & listening more! Like the valley & the birds are the audience - that's how I like to think about it. ops:
A friend & I were watching a DVD of Ustaad Vilayat Khansaheb (Darbari Kanada) & my friend commented on how 'detached from what he was playing' Khansaheb looked during the alaap. It must be strange for an artist to perform in such large venues with all the lights & everything, music which is (from what I gather) traditionally performed in small venues.
I've noticed (& friends I've taken along to concerts have commented on this) that in smaller venues, the artist looks around at the audience and actively takes in audience feedback, both verbal & non-verbal.
My girlfriend once said, when we were at a Khayal vocal performance, that the artist's hand gestures in the alaap were like the audience was being 'offered' the swara by the artist. A sweet observation.

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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #4 
And I didn't mean to imply so strongly (re: "zoning out").
Quote:
I meant I'm not looking the sitar & listening more!
Right, focusing on an object outside of the music one is practicing, will ultimately decrease how present one is in his/her practice, no matter how grounded we think we are! As for not looking at your sitar, specifically, well- try practicing blindfolded and see how your attention (ears/hands) increases 1000%!

Isn't it wonderful how the masters can invite us into that tapestry they weave before us? It is because they are living inside it continuously. A result of strict concentration in riyaaz!!!

I do not mean to speak as if I am the perfect student, there's no pedestal here. Just felt like sharing what I have come across in my own reflections.

Cheers
-Tomek
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mhamlin

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Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "CheesecakeTomek"
As for not looking at your sitar, specifically, well- try practicing blindfolded and see how your attention (ears/hands) increases 1000%!
Sometimes I do just that! I practice after a full day of programming work so my mind is often a bit fatigued and somewhat unfocused. I find that playing with a blindfold does wonders to remedy that focus problem.
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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #6 
Isn't it beautiful how well this works? Even if you are singing, where you are the instrument, removing sight elevates your focus so much!
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musicslug

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Reply with quote  #7 
once the rasa has been well-established, the best thing the ego can do is step aside and let things flow - too much thinking just impedes the process. if you have a solid riyaz, the musical ideas that come up don't need any intervention from the ego anyways. all of which is to say that, IMHO, the best thing to think about is... nothing.
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trippy monkey

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Reply with quote  #8 
Good post this.

When I'm really 'in the mood' of what I'm playing I suddenly start to, at least initially, mentally drift off but yet feel & know what's happening to me. I begin to feel a kind of communication opening up through my music & mind to something 'out there'!!!!! Call it God if you like. 8)

My hands seem to be connected to something else although I 'know' I'm 'in charge'. My eyes close & my head lowers a little almost in deference to the sound. The sound, like a kind of penetrating cloud, floats in and around me. And this is WITHOUT any kind of noxious substances. HONEST!!!!

Hinduism has ALWAYS known how INCREDIBLY strong a power sound, especially music, has. The famous statue/murthi of the great Lord Shiva as Natraj or Lord Of The Dance holds, in his left hand the fire of destruction or dissolution & in his right the DAMARU or SOUND PRODUCER!!!!! LIFE & CHANGE in perfect balance.

Sound means movement & movement means life!!!! 8) Quite simple really!!!! :wink:

Oh now back to the 'hippy' stuff.
I often feel like I've been on a kind of journey after this.

Ustad Shahid Parvez asked me what I thought of music when my teacher, his student, Padmabhan Singh & I visited Maihar last year to see him in concert.
I managed to get a little chat before a herd of Indian cows entered to vie for his attention.

I replied in the same way about a kind of 'passageway' opening up between me & 'something else 'out there'. His eyes widened & his head nodded in a kind of recognition of what I felt.
That really meant something to me.

Nick
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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #9 
Hey good points you guys, this is really thought-provoking. I did not mean to imply egotistical thinking, although it certainly wants to be there! (BAD! Get back in your box!)

I suppose what I was really getting after was being present in your practice, as stated in the last sentence of my first post. If you are practicing a simple alankar, become engulfed in the pattern. If you are practicing alap or a chalan, invite its essence into you so you can feel it completely. Yes, musicslug, I think you boiled right down to it- "nothing." Free yourself from thought and let the music take over.

Keeping with that, the point of my original post was making sure John wasn't putting the music in the background while thinking aobut the birds in the valley or whatnot, a point that he cleared up immediately!

I think we're all on the same page here. Trippy, thanks for sharing that heart-warming anecdote.

Cheers,
Tomek
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anju831

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Reply with quote  #10 
What an interesting topic...

...honestly, its kind of hard to answer. I dont really think of anything, but rather feel more than anything else.

Also, I thought not concentrating too hard was a good thing. I think i remember reading an article of Pandit Arvind Parikh about riyaz. He said something along the lines of practicing loosley allowing the mind to wander (i forget the exact words).
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John

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Reply with quote  #11 
Thanks folks!

Great to hear your 'thoughts' on the matter. :wink:

Seriously though, I'm really becoming aware of how important it is to be of a certain frame-of-mind when playing. It always seems, to me, that the 'good stuff' happens when my mind is at that point between wandering off & concentrating. Hmmm... that's not a very good description. Its almost as my thoughts have a 'sweet spot' where it all seems to slot into place - I hit the swara-s on the nose in a meend, I play taans at speed (relative to me) & with clarity and I get tuned in to the taal better....
Perhaps what I'm describing is 'a good day' , but I think there's more to it than that because when I'm in 'that place', if my thoughts move a hair's breadth either way, i.e.; I start thinking too much about what I'm playing or too little - it all falls apart.
Does that make sense?

I'm rapidly coming around to the idea that 'where to put the mind', so to speak, it just as important as where to put the fingers. But how to control it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by "musicslug"
once the rasa has been well-established, the best thing the ego can do is step aside and let things flow...
This is an intriguing point. Especially when you consider artists who are capable of drawing several rasa-s from one raga or the times when you hear a presentation that takes you in a new direction, but within the compass of the raag. How much conscious & SUBconscious input does the artist have into a particular establishing a particular rasa & how much comes solely from the raag?
Bloody hell, I'm confusing myself now! :? I think I'm in over my head with this one, so I'm going to bed...

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CheesecakeTomek

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "John"
I'm rapidly coming around to the idea that 'where to put the mind', so to speak, it just as important as where to put the fingers. But how to control it?
that's meditation, my friend
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John

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "anju831"
Also, I thought not concentrating too hard was a good thing. I think i remember reading an article of Pandit Arvind Parikh about riyaz.
Is this the article you are referring to?

http://sitar.kaleidoscope-multimedia.com/pdf/Sitar_Practice_and_Performance.pdf

Its a great article. If anybody hasn't read it, you really should! In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger - Do iiiiit! Do it noooow!
(there's a name I never thought I'd see on this forum...)

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