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I play music, I write music. I drink coffee. I eat pizza. PM for session work or commissions.

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Composition Advice (#4)

2015-07-01 14:35:31 by frootza

Composition Advice (#4)

Karnatic Rhythmic Subdivision ***

Karnatic subdivision is a really interesting concept to delve into. I first heard this kind of music when I would listen to artists like Ravi Shankar, and first seen it live when I went to a Diwali festival with an unbelievable Sitar and Tabla player who were writing their own music and playing some classical standards too.

Karnatic Subdivision is found in Classical music in Southern India. What fascinates me about it, well one of the things anyway, is how they can seamlessly transition between these very intricate time changes. I'm going to attempt to explain this as simply as I know how, though I might expand on this later with notation *Yoink, I did, it's at the bottom! *

You can also include KS in Western music! It isn't restricted to that region, and certain artists have began implementing these rhythmic techniques into their playing.

You have probably heard of a triplet, sextupet, nontuplet even. This, in it's most basic sense, is what karnatic subdivision is. In fact, if you look at a Whole Note, you have probably heard a whole note like this. Speaking in 4/4 time.

Whole Note: 4 Beats
Quarter Note Expressed:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Simple right? It isn't as hard as you would think, but counting it can get very difficult.

*This simple form of subdivision is referred to as Chatusra*

My point being is that when we begin so subdivide beyond this, it starts to look a little bit different. To elaborate...

Quarter Notes:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 -


This is the basic triplet illustrated textually, where each set of three (123) is linked to 1, 2, 3 and 4 (beats) respectively. *This is known as a Tisra in Karnatic music*

Quarter Notes:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 -


This would be a quintuplet. Again, the subdivision going to the quarter notes. *This is called the Khanda in Karnatic music.*

*Misra is 7
Sankirna is 9
Tisra second speed is 6
Chatusra is four
Chatusra half speed is 2
Chatusra second speed is 8*

In order to start implementing this into your own musical writing and playing, it might be a good idea to practice counting these subdivisions to a metronome, as slowly as possible at first. The reason being is because you need to be able to feel the subdivisions of the beat, as they aren't going to be handed out to you like they usually are with a metronome or a drummer.

BEYOND the basic subdivision, are the permutations of the beats themselves. By that I mean, you can still count the subdivision, but it doesn't mean that your notes must fall on the subdivision since you can rest, and play with the note order while still subdividing the beat.

I'm not an expert on Karnatic musicby any stretch (yet!), as I've just discovered it recently and have began studying it recently as well. But, I do hope that you found this read interesting and may consider implementing some of these concepts into your own writing as well.

Take care! I'm going to be including a quick illustration of KS at the bottom, or somewhere in this newspost for you guys to peruse. Later I might delve into sequencing KS (which can be tricky), but as I was writing this I thought it would be more useful to explain these concepts first. Enjoy, and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask. This is not a subject that can be so easily glanced over in my opinion, and takes time to understand and implement into your own playing and writing.

Check out this blog, where Mr. Alder, someone much more experienced in this subject explains this in much greater detail than I could in a newspost!



Pretty cool example of some of this stuff being utilized in a jazz-improvisational format.




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