Musical Thoughts

How can I benefit from learning Carnatic Music?

Among the traditional art forms chosen for their kids, Carnatic Music has been the popular choice for the South Indian diaspora. The reasons could be many. Parents themselves may have learned music while growing up and wish to pass on the joy of learning this captivating musical form to their children. Then there are others who look to Carnatic Music as a way to connect with culture and tradition with an ancient art form that thrives, flourishes and nourishes globally even today. Whatever the reasons are, the benefits of learning music are plenty and Carnatic Music even more so.
Lets take a look:

 1) Stress Relief
Its a known fact that music calms and soothes the soul and scientifically has been proven to lower one’s blood pressure. When one is learning music with concentration and focus, all other mundane thought disappear. The disciplined practice regimens adopted by music learners allows them to feel the same beneficial effects of yoga or even meditation. After all, singing involves breathing and regulating the flow of air in an out of the body. The vibrations and sound energy of Nada Yoga has been known to have positive influences on the physical and spiritual well-being for many centuries.

 2) Developing Hand Eye Coordination and Motor Skills
Learning an instrument demands skills that develops the fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Learning instrumental techniques pertaining to both hands along with the ability to communicate musical thoughts effectively requires discipline, patience and perseverance.The process is similar to other physical activities like sports or even dance and therefore it is often not unusual for a music learner to develop talents in other related areas as well.

 3) Sharper Brain Functions
  Learning music can help improve the brain functions like memory, hearing, concentration and motor skills, the effects are often long-lasting, helping to even protect the brain against the ravages of old age. A student of music develops the ability to listen keenly, understand, internalize and execute with precision. In Carnatic Music, which comprises equal parts pre-composed and improvised music, memory plays a very important role. A good musician is expected to have atleast 1000 compositions committed to memory and render at will anytime. Having an inherent knowledge of the scale and movements of atleast 200-300 ragas is also a must in Carnatic Music. So the requirement for good memory is probably as demanding for a Carnatic Musician as that for a medical practitioner!

 4) Improves Mathematical Skills
If Sruti (melody) is considered to be the mother, Layam (Rhythm)is equally important and considered to be the father. The ability to maintain the integrity and beauty of these two very important elements in parallel while performing music is an important skill and must be nurtured and developed from day one. One must be able to internalize and visualize the placement of notes within the rhythmic structure when learning compositions or even while improvising. When performing kalpana swaras, (a form of improvisation that explores a raga with solfa syllables) a Carnatic musician may choose to present simple or advanced concepts often creating intricate mathematical patterns on the fly, adding a cerebral touch to the whole presentation.Its no wonder that a good Carnatic Music learner who is acccustomed to playing with numbers and cooking up formulas in their head in a matter of few seconds, scores well in Math!

5) Improves Listening Skills
An often heard saying in the Carnatic Music circles is “Kelvi Gyananm’ is more important than “Kalvi Gyanam” meaning that for a serious music learner , the practice of listening to great masters is as or even more important than what one learns from the guru. A good music learner develops the ability to discern the nuances in music in terms of pitch, melody, oscillations (gamakas) and tempo. As ragas form the crux of Carnatic Music, one must not only develop the ability to differentiate between these but also develop an internal aesthetic calibration of what sounds nuanced and aesthetic and eschew the rest. The auditory skills developed over a period of many years of music training benefits one in old age even when hearing difficulties arise.

6)Improves Cultural Understanding
The songs of Carnatic music are peppered with mythological references, which initiate students to the key parables of our South Indian traditions. Whether it is songs set in the architecturally and spiritually important temples such as that to be found in Srirengam or Mylapore, philosophical questions and answers, singing and playing  Carnatic music gives practitioners a powerful sense of connection to time and place and preserves this rich culture for future generations. Similarly the Raagas are evocative of times of day and moods, which have the ability to transport the practitioner to these places that resonate with the soul.

 7) Improves Self-Discipline and Perservance
The best musicians in the world have one thing in common, hard work , perseverance and being masters of discipline. Anyone learning music knows how challenging it can be to present even a small composition or musical piece without mistakes, to make it look effortless and touch the souls of the listener at the same time! The practice routine evolves as one matures as does the performance skills. This requires patience and perseverance even when one feels like giving up altogether. Being open to constructive criticism, continuously looking for ways to improve yet remembering to keep a good humor about it all can certainly go a long way in strengthening ones resolve and character!

8) Provides a medium for self expression
Carnatic Music inherently provides ample scope for self expression and creativity through numerous avenues. A vocalist and instrumentalist might choose to express the same musical piece in completely different styles and accents. The beauty of carnatic music lies in the fact that a learner has the freedom to mould their musical style according to their comfort and preferences without comprising the core musical values. The result is a delightful mix of styles and personalities that makes Carnatic Music vibrant and dynamic, constantly evolving to suit the tastes of not one but many over a period of many centuries. Since improvisation isas important in carnatic music as composed pieces, a skilled musician is able to reach into their deep reservoirs of knowledge accumulated from years of dedicated learning and create unique masterpieces almost everytime! The possibilities of creative expression are infinite!

The benefits of learning Carnatic Music are immense and with the immense resources available today, both online as well as the real world, it is not as difficult sa it was in the older days. One is never too young or too old to learn, and we hope that this article motivates you to start learning if you haven’t done so already!



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