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Learning Harmonium

Harmonium is a very recent addition, into the wonderful traditions of classical instrumental music of India as compared to the most of the other classical instruments. At Malhar Institute of Music, students mainly learn ‘Harmonium as an Accompaniment’ to the vocals. Right from the beginning, even young children learn Harmonium along with vocals training. With great results, we observe everyone gets skilled at both instrumental and vocals training together.‍ 


Students are introduced to harmonium and its main functioning parts. Names of the keys of its keyboard are learnt firstly by their western names due to the fact that it’s basically a European instrument adopted into Indian Music in 18th century. As soon as the students get the grasp on the western names of keys and about the intervals in between keys or notes, whole of the information is translated in context of Indian musical scales.  


Indian musical scales are sung with the names of swara-s (notes). Below is the table that describes the concept in short.

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In Raga music, any key on the harmonium could become the reference key or the Tonic to play and sing the melodies, that’s why students learn to play those keys which correspond to natural scale and are suitable according to their voice ranges. To understand the scale, they are taught the basic intervals of tones and semi-tones in between notes, which paves the way towards learning to exercise simple melodic patterns called Alankaar-s along with some fingering exercises to enhance the efficiency in playing. Learning to pump the bellow properly with one hand is emphasized as equally important as playing on the keyboard with the other hand.


After Alankaar-s are practiced and memorized along with their corresponding taal-s, students are provided with simple descriptions and least complicated compositions of Raga-s.


Harmonium plays a vital role in learning fundamentals of vocals for beginners, even though it does not provide the precise tonal frequencies corresponding with various melodic forms (Raga-s), the cause of which lies in the fact that Raga music is based on 22 micro tonal intervals in the Saptak rather than 12 semi-tones in one octave of the western music. However, recent developments in harmonium designs could provide us with ‘Shruti Harmonium’ which can support options to select right tonal frequencies permitted by the true Raga characteristics. 

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