Practice: Layakari And Melodic Variation Within A Bandish

When students remark that they “don’t know how to practice,” I usually interpret it as meaning that they haven’t yet internalized the processes of time allocation and work analysis to make the best use of their limited practice time — and they wind up doing vaguely “sloppy” practice and feeling guilty about not being more rigorous.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place for relaxed, sloppy practice. If all your practice is rigid and meticulous, you’re missing out on the serendipitous possibilities of musical free inquiry.

But instructions as to the methodology of messing around are a different order of being, and that’s not what this posting is about. Just as a singer should spend a certain amount of time in free play, he or she needs to put in some regular time on building the skills that will ensure easy, consistent and correct performance capability.

Probably the easiest of these skills to teach through a blog post is layakari, the manipulation of rhythm in interesting patterns — which is why previous practice postings have focused on this area. Today’s is no exception.

I will present another reductionist approach to developing layakari skills within the confines of a teentaal bandish.

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Layakari Practice: The N+1 Game

Here’s another installment in my series of practice materials. This is another approach to the mastery of layakari in the 16-beat teentaal cycle. I call this the N+1 Game.

The object of this exercise is to explore a rich yet tightly constrained set of melodic materials in a variety of rhythmic phrasings. The same melody is sung in thirty-six slightly different rhythmic variations, each one fitting neatly into one cycle of teentaal.

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The Half-Speed Switcheroo: Rhythmic Cycle Practice in Exhaustive Detail

Let’s go back into the problems of working within rhythmic cycles (too many climate-change letters makes a dull blog, I know).

One of the most productive strategies for practicing rhythmic awareness is the half-speed switcheroo (note: I am not a nomenclatural traditionalist, so if you need paramparik lingo you’ll be disappointed). In this type of practice, a composed line is moved in and out of half-speed, first at the most important points of the taal (in tintal, that would of course be sam and khali), then at secondary, tertiary and quaternary points.

Let me demonstrate.

We’ll continue working with the simple sargam composition in Bhoopali:

The melody begins at khali, so the first shift into half speed will happen there, too. I’m just going to notate the transform using the first line; you can do the second line yourself (or make your students do it). Paper notation is useful but not really necessary; it’s a very good exercise to go through every aspect of this without writing anything down, keeping it all in your head, ears, voice and hands.

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