FAQ

This page is an attempt to summarise my responses to the most common questions asked about the instrument, the music and in some cases, about me:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How do I learn the sarod?

A. The sarod is a classical instrument which means that it takes time and effort to learn it. Please see my post on the basics of getting started

2. How long will it take to learn the sarod?

A. Classical arts take a long time to gain proficiency, so it depends on the goal of the student. If the objective is to play in a household setting, then 3-5 years of regular study and practice will get you there. For serious players, this is the task of a lifetime. It will benefit you enormously if you undertake vocal music and tabla training prior to taking up the sarod – it will cut down your learning time by at least 50%. Guitar training is also useful.

3. Where can I get a sarod?

A. The best places of getting sarods are in India. Delhi Music Stores, Hemen & Co, Dulal and a few others make such instruments. Rikhi Ram in Delhi also makes a few. Do not buy over the internet without consulting a sarod player

4.Are there any books/DVDs on how to learn the Sarod?

A. I have written possibly the first ever book on how to play the sarod – targetted at the adult learner who has no access to a teacher. Unfortunately, as is often the case with North Indian classical music, the art form is poorly documented and only available via teachers. Books are useless by themselves, as the student cannot see the concepts demonstrated, hence, my book links to a video library where all concepts are illustrated in practice.

5. Which type of sarod shoud I get: Amjad Ali Khan, Shahjahanpur or Maihar?

A. If you are just starting out, it really doesn’t matter. However, if you prefer one of these styles, then it’s best to get a sarod for that style (and a teacher in that style).

6. How long should I practice?

A. From my own personal experience, the minimum amount of practice required is at least half an hour every day. I practice between 90-120 minutes each day with 2-3 hours a day on the weekends. However, I did have a phase earlier on where I would practice 2-3 hours a day and about 6 hours on the weekends and that really helped me. And, please practice with the tabla at all times.

7. How should I structure the practice session?

A. Sarod practice should be at least 50% scale practice to maintain accuracy of notes. The rest of the time, one can try compositions learnt in various ragas. If you are playing the sarod in the Amjad Ali Khan or Shahjahanpur styles, scale practice becomes even more important due to fast left hand work (called ekhara). At such speeds, accuracy becomes paramount and unless regular scale practice is undertaken, notes will go off tune.

8. I’d like to play Alaaps only – I love the sound

A. Unfortunately for most western students, Alaap playing is “allowed” by the gurus even before the student has mastered the basics of the instrument and the rhythmic cycle. Playing alaaps earlier on is an easy way out as it reduces the strain of having to conform to taal- and is not recommended at all. Don’t take my word for it – read this interview of sitar maestro Pt Nikhil Banerjee who was advised not to play alaap until the end of his tutelage. In general, if you can’t play with the tabla with a reasonable degree of competence, you alaaps are going to be mindless meanderings and “broken”. Playing a good alaap requires more focus and concentration than playing basic compositions, which comes from experience of the raga, age and time.

9. Can I learn via Skype?

Yes, a passionate and dedicated student can learn anywhere, anytime. If you are just starting out, it’s best to have face to face lessons if possible.

10. Should I take lessons from visiting Indian musicians ?

Yes, by all means. If possible, it is better to have consistency in training wherever possible.

11. But this is all very hard work – I want something simple

A. Classical art forms of any kind (dance, music, painting) are hard work. That’s why they last throughout the ages and are called Classical. Indian music and the sarod are no different.  If you want something simple, go for some popular instruments, not classical ones. Classical music separates out those who are passionate about the music, and those who are dabblers or worse, forced into it by their parents.

12. Who is the better sarod player? Ustad A or Pandit B? Which Gharana is better/original/advanced etc?

A. One thing to avoid at all costs is flame wars about who’s better. As students, we should learn from everyone, past and present. Only trolls and negative people write long critiques on the internet running down other musicians and proclaiming their style to be the best. You will notice that these people are not active performers – and their English is better than their music.

Modern day sarodiyas from all gharanas are rapidly embracing the positives from each gharana and taking it to new levels, even though their gharana may not have those traits to begin with.  Technique and sound is also being refined by these talented musicians.This is very welcome and will lead to a new generation of master sarodiyas free from the burdens of strict gharana lines and closed minds.

Personally, I play whatever I feel is beautiful, irrespective of which gharana it comes from. I have been known to play a Vilambit gat from Maihar, Madhayalaya from Shahjahanpur or Amjad Ali Khan and a drut from Etawah/Imdadkhani (Sitar) style, whatever brings out the essence of the raga.

13. You mention that you learnt for free – why are fees being charged now?

A. I learnt in a bygone era, where people were not as focussed on income as they are now. While I did learn for free, I performed other duties at my teachers’ homes. Nowadays, you simply pay for time. I must mention that my learning was driven by me, not by my teachers. I learnt through observation, practice and sitting in on the training sessions of their progeny, and for that, I’m very grateful to them for giving me exposure to their “core” material.

14. I am not happy with my progress – should I change my teacher?

A. It is likely that the root cause of your lack of progress is you, not the teacher. With wide availability of compositions, videos, music downloads and books, a determined student can make significant progress after learning the basics. Before blaming your teacher, look at yourself first.

While leading maestros claim to have learnt from their teachers, the fact remains that they are responsible for their content. The gats that Ustad Amjad Ali plays were not composed by his father. Ditto for Pt Nikhil Banerjee, Pt Bhimsen Joshi etc. They paved their own path.

The teacher simply shows the way. Beyond basics of notes, ragas, instrument handling and technique, anyone should be able to make rapid progress using publicly available resources. Guidance of a committed teacher will help enormously, but the Ekalavya method will also work (read the legend of Ekalavya)

15. How can a sarod player learn from a sitar player and vice-versa?

A. Beyond the basic instrument technique, the teacher imparts knowledge about the music. This is independent of the instrument. For example, Pt Ravishankar and Pt Nikhil Banerjee learnt from a sarod player. Most of the instruction is imparted through singing, not the instrument. I myself continue to receive guidance from Pandit Sugato Nag and Ustad Shahid Parvez, both sitar exponents. I often play compositions taken from sitar, sarangi and vocal music – due to my preference for vocal based music. (see some of my videos).

16. Should I play in concerts?

A. Yes, absolutely. There are two reasons for this. Concert playing is a completely separate field by itself. It forces practice and preparedness. The key  is to record yourself during the concert and listen to it again. That way, we can identify mistakes and improve them. Also, live tabla accompaniment is great for the music.  There is no better way of progress through deadlines by committing yourself to a scheduled performance. In this, I differ from traditional gurus who would not let students play until ready. That is because the students were learning to be professional players.

17. How can I measure my progress?

A. Ustadji (Amjad Ali Khan Saheb) is a great believer in planned progress. The key is to set out goals and achieve them. Without deadlines and goals, too much time gets wasted (I am myself guilty of this) without focussed practice. The steps I recommend are:

1. Select a raga and compositions

2. Select a timeframe e.g two -three months

3. Schedule a performance with friends/family to render that raga in front of them.

4. Repeat

Perhaps the greatest test of your progress is to record and upload to Youtube/website. It takes great courage to do it. If you can do it raw (e.g without editing our your mistakes) and understand areas of improvement, you will find that progress will be much more rapid. The fiercest critic of a musician is their own self.

18. Why do you keep insisting that I sing? I never learnt singing and don’t have a “singing” voice

A. Singing achieves two objectives (a) Gets you closer to the mood of the raga and (b) allows you to think about the raga in your head even though you are not practicing with your instrument. Again, this method is recommended by traditional gurus, and really assists in the learning process. You do not need a singing voice to sing the raag – this is purely for musical learning purposes.

 

 

 

37 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. Very helpful FAQ. Do you know any Sarod teachers in Kolkata/around, who may provide lessons over intetnet or directly at their place?

    Many thanks again for creating this wonderful site, which provides sample sarod playing along with notes. Just one point regarding the notes, can you please include the minds/krintans/cuts and da-ra-diri etc. in the notes as well? This will help the beginning learners to understand it quickly.

    • Hello there Sarodlearner- there are dozens of very competent sarod teachers in Kolkata- you need to probably choose which style you’d want to learn under as the instruction is going to be very different. Shri Tejendra Narayan (Maihar), Shri Debashish Bhattacharya, Shri Prattyush Banerjee (Shahjahanpur) or Shri Debojyoti Bose (Amjad Ali Style) are well known. If you are just starting out, they may refer you to their senior disciples first. I don’t think many of them do Internet classes as they are busy performers as well, but face to face is always preferable when starting out. Most of those who provide Skype lessons (such as myself) are not based in India.

  2. Thanks Rahul for your reply. My sarod is of Maihar gharana. If you have the contact no./email of the sarod teachers at Kolkata (of Maihar gharana), can you send it?

  3. Nice effort.For many you have been doing this.And nobdy like u is so open. I and my students obviously little boys and girls in kolkata generally visits ur website for reference.In youtube I have uploaded some videos and in face book also there is page which contains this videos are provided.My father was a disciple of Baba alauddin khan saheb so far so much I have learnet is put in that home made video.Please provide some uncommon raagas like manj khambaj,Zila kafi etc whose proper notation is very rare to get. Thaks a lot for ur work. SRIMANTA PUSHILAL

    • I don’t know of any who provide classes at their students home. I recommend going to a teacher’s place because you will also get the required vibe to understand a whole lot of things. For example, you may meet other students and listen to other people learning and practising. Those are invaluable as well.

    • Hi Sandip,

      In case you’re still looking for a Sarod teacher in Mumbai:
      Suresh Vyas is an exemplary Sarod player based in Mumbai, who also comes highly recommended as a teacher. He belongs to the Maihar Gharana and has been a direct disciple of Annapurna Devi for several decades. Here is his website: http://www.sureshvyas.com/suresh_vyas.htm

      Hope that helps!

  4. Very helpful FAQ.Many thanks for creating this wonderful site, I want to learn Sarod and I don’t have a musical ear. When i buy a Sarod ,due to my work i can learn to play it only on alternate days.That too for 1 hr or so.Everytime we play sarod is it necessary to tune all the 23 strings especially in Mumbai weather ? Also can i tune them with the help of a Yamaha electronic
    keyboard -psr i455 or will I have to buy an electronic tuner?. I dont know any sarod teacher near my place and also i doubt if he will accept me as his student due to my poor recognition of ‘sur’. pl guide.
    thks once again.

    • Hello Madhav, I’ll just say to you ” Start and keep going”. You are going to have several problems to solve, but each can be solved. As the Chinese say “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step !”.

    • I used “Korg Sledgehammer Pro Clip?on Tuner” and attached it al the time to one of the Chikari tuner. This helped me a lot not only during the tuning phase but also during the playing the notes perfectly without any marking on the Sarod initially. But I totally agree with Rahul that once you start going after few months you can just close your eyes during practice and your hand and ear will guide you to the correct position. Not sure though this is recommended but it helped me immensely.

  5. Hi, I’d be interested in buying your book. If you are still selling it, could you email me directly, please? Thanks,
    Adam

      • Also, another sarod teacher is Shri Mukesh Sharma, also from Ustadji’s style, or Shri Biswajit Roychoudhury – all three are senior exponents of this gharana

  6. Sir, Do you know of any guru of Sitar aur Sarod in Dehradun, And can u pls explain difference in styles(Sarod) aur gharana(Sitar) actually means. I know you love everything but name of the S&S which are most versatile

  7. Dear sir, I am very new to this instrument and I am thinking of learning sarod. I have been practicing guitar for over 5 years now. I live in tamil nadu, india. I am not aware of any sarod teachers or shops here. Would you know a place I can buy a good quality sarod from? I do not want to purchase it online. Hence it would really help me if you could guide me to a place I can trust. And sir, it would be great if you happen to know some one who can teach me the instrument. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you sir.

  8. Hello Rahul,

    Thank you for a brilliant website. How do I find learning resources for hindustani classical/tabla/sarod/sitar in Hyderabad/Secunderabad.

    Also Chennai/Pondicherry area will be appreciated as well. I travel there as well every year.

    Regards.

  9. I am a retired person.started learning 10 months ago.visit my Guruji once a month.the sound is not coming clean bit rusty.will increasing the frequency of my visit to the Guru improve quality of sound

    • Thanks…also, disciplined riyaaz of 1-3 hours a day of palta practice will help. Remember, the guru can show the way but practice is 99% of the challenge. Most people do not have the discipline to do it as needed by the high degree of difficulty presented by an instrument like sarod.

      • Is it necessary to be strong physically to play jhala or staccato da ra stroke.I suffer from occasional giddiness.after one year,my da ra(staccato) strokes are not coming properly when played in fast tempo.

        Now I am beginning to have doubts wheather I will be able to learn Sarod at all

  10. Hi,
    I wanted to learn Sarod all my life and recently I got a Sarod from someone who no longer practice the art here in US. I already bought your Sarod book and downloaded the videos. I have one major problem that I need your help. The Sarod I got is from WestBengal and made by Kanailal & Sons. Cosmetically it looked nice but the 3rd string can’t hold the tune. It keeps sleeping even after I applied a sufficient amount of carpenter’s chalk. Can you please provide your guidance what to do regarding this? I will really appreciate your help. Thanks

      • Thanks for your response. Actually I figured this out. The trick that worked for me is to put a lot pressure on the Pegs as if I am putting it through the hole while turning. Overall though I need to make little adjustments to the tune ever so often. I am coming from years of experience in guitar playing hence the fingering becoming my next major challenge. What’s happening is the flesh part of the finger behind the nail keep touching the string and impacting the sound. May be I need to increase the nails little longer. Anyway I am watching your video everyday and trying to learn from it. I will keep you posted. Thanks.

  11. Hi I have a new issue and seeking your guidance. One of the Tarab string is broken in my Sarod. I got the string and there is a elongated loop looking thing came with the Sarod but I am not sure how to string it. Can you please help.

      • Yes, that’s pretty much the way to do it.

        Pre-requisites: A wire hook (I have a picture of that on the site and in the book), string, wire cutters.

        Step 1: Remove old string and extract the corresponding tarab peg. If the string has snapped, follow it through the holes on the bridge and remove it. Remove any last remains of the old string from the tarab peg, using cutters.
        Step 2: Prepare the new string: tie a loop knot on one end of the string, and thread the other end through the bridge (which rests on the skin) through the same hole as the old string. Insert looped end into the steel bead at the skin end of sarod where all strings are fastened.
        Step 3: Insert the other (free) end into the same hole as the old one.
        Step 4: Insert the hook into the hole and “fish” for the string. When you find it, pull it up via the hole. Holes further away from the steel fretboard take a bit of effort to fish out the sting from.
        Step 5: Insert the free end of the string, now coming up through the hole, into the peg’s hole. Wrap around and twist to create a knot (look at your intact strings as a guide).
        Step 6. Insert peg back into it’s hole.Start tightening. The loop that you inserted at the other end will start tightening as well.
        Step 7 Tune up to get the necessary note.

  12. I have three questions and hope to get some guidance.
    1. I read that people use coconut or palm oil in their left hand to help with the Meer and Gamak. Do you suggest this? If so which one? Also is there any best practice on how much etc.

    2. As I am practicing paltas I am thinking I would like to try some Ragas. My plan is to start with Durga and you have some excellent guidance for that. My question is before I get to a stage where I can start improvising myself on the fly can you point me to the notation of a full length Raag such as Durga with all the parts. I am looking for at least good for playing 10 to 15 mins.

    3. I also read from an Interview excerpts of Nikhil Bhattacharya that practicing Aalap should not be attempted till you have complete mastery of the Raag. What is you suggestion on that?

    Thanks again in advance, really appreciate your help.

  13. I am trying to learn to play Darbari Kanada from your youtube performance.

    I am able to get some parts of it right but will greatly help me if you can share the score of the entire performance. Please help.

    I am also listening to another performance of Amjad ali Khan

    And he tuned his Sarod to B Flat (Sa Strings) that gives a little more bass especially for the lower notes. What is your opinion about tuning Sarod to B Flat as oppose to C, just wondering.
    Thanks.

  14. Dear Rahulji, Namaskar, Am at New Delhi looking for a Guruji. Please help me with contacts.
    warm regards,
    sumitro Dhar
    09810381466

  15. Hello, I recently was given a sarod from a friend who never really touched it, when I got it there were some strings missing here and there so I ordered some and just got them in the mail a couple days ago. Here’s my problem, I can’t find any tutorials anywhere online on how to change strings on a sarod. The sarod I have has 19 pegs and every tuning diagram is made for a sarod with more so I’m not sure what goes where and all that… Do you know of anywhere online that shows how to restring a 19 string sarod? Or if there’s anywhere in the state of Georgia that I could take it to have it done? I just really want to play this beautiful instrument asap!!!

  16. Hello Rahul,
    I’m an Australian who has recently returned to Oz after 8 years in India. I was studying dhrupad vocal with the Gundecha Brothers in Bhopal for half that time. I have a sarod from Rikhi Ram in Delhi which I’ve been playing (but without any training) and I’m wondering if you are still in Melbourne and giving lessons (perhaps occasionally). I have just arrived in Tasmania for the first time and am still getting settled, so at the moment I am simply wondering if tuition from you is possible.

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