new ideas on veenai inovations needed

Ideas and innovations in Indian classical music
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baradu2
Posts: 35
Joined: 28 Jun 2009, 09:37

#1

Post by baradu2 »

hi everyone.
i am a music lover and am learning Veenai formally. i have a few innovative thoughts in mind which i wood love to share. please correct me if i am wrong

1 veenai is made in many states of India ranging from Tanjore to Bobili of Andhra and Mysore.
2 veena is mainly made from wood and that too mainly from jackwood.
3 the instrument Veena is synonymous of lord Saraswathi.
4 assumption is that the instrument was born from the prehistoric instrument Yazh. (i hope i am correct)
5 the instrument is supposed to resemble the human voice
6 the human voice has the capacity to reach a maximum of 3 to 4 octaves which is the main reason (i am assuming) for the instrument to have 4 main (5 in some cases) and 3 side strings but not more.

my questions are,
1 why is veenai made from wood and why not something else?
2 why use a magnetic pickup from an acoustic veenai when there is an electric (or is it electronic) veena already available in the market?
3 what is the real sound of the veenai?
4 i am repeating the 3rd question. is it the real sound of the veenai or the real sound of the jackwood from which the veenai is made and the other extra stuff like frets in stainless steel, bellmetal, brass, copper etc?
5 coming to the melam part, it is a known fact that veenai has fixed frets and sitar has movable frets. why not try movable frets for veenai also?
6 why make veenai melam with wax? why not think of permanent solutions for this problem of searching for the right, knowledgable and experienced good veenai melam maker.why not try out something else? say like rubber or powered wood or pvc pipes etc? this i thought because as far as i have seen, i cant find much of good complete veena makers or veenai melam makers. one who knows to cut the wood knows just that and nothing else. one who knows to do the polishing and decoration work knows just that and nothing else and one who knows to set the mixture of wax and other stuff does not know about the swarasthanam. this bad experience i had when i went to tanjore.
link to pics i took while there
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dOuVSco0Sc

Nick H
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#2

Post by Nick H »

Sorry, this will sound flipant... but, if a musical instrument is made from different materials, its sound is going to be altered.

I don't know if this is true always, say of the metal tubes that comprise brass and some wind instruments. There is reverence (and very high cost, of course) attached to a silver flute, but does it sound different to a chrome-plated brass instrument? My suspicion is that, to the experienced flautist, it probably does.

However, when it comes to wooden instruments, I think that the materials really count.

I have to admit that I share your curiosity on item 6. It seems strange that something so potentially fragile, and so subject to temperature change, should be used as a major component of a basically stable wooden body. I look forward to enlightenment!

So far as veena makers and maintainers are concerned, I am sure the veena players here can help. That does not include me, although I happen to know one man in Trivandrum, who comes recommended by Rama Varma, who, I think, does the whole process in his workshop.

By the way: welcome to the forum :)

srinivasrgvn
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#3

Post by srinivasrgvn »

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Last edited by srinivasrgvn on 27 Dec 2009, 12:40, edited 1 time in total.

srinivasrgvn
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#4

Post by srinivasrgvn »

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Last edited by srinivasrgvn on 27 Dec 2009, 08:02, edited 1 time in total.

baradu2
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#5

Post by baradu2 »

dear all, thanks a lot for your opinion. i have a whole load more of doubts. will post them shortly.

srikant1987
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#6

Post by srikant1987 »

[quote]"I’m told that the retail price for an ottu veena can be anywhere between Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000. (Lakshman Sruthi Musicals of Chennai says top-quality veenas sell at Rs 50,000 a piece.) And the ekanda veena costs three times more. On an average, the cost of making a veena is Rs 1,500. And I can’t sell it for anything above Rs 2,000."

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#7

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

A few clarifications - and questions too -
1. While srinivasgvn and Smt Gayathri are entitled to their opinions, there are many who believe that the electronic veena actually enhances the sound quality of the veena and the gamakams produced. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and what better example do we have than Jeyaraaj and Jayshri? Even die-hard traditionalists cannot find fault with their veena play as far as tradition goes. Further, the finer nuances and gamakams are actually audible to every member of the audience, wherever they may be seated in a large auditorium. The sound quality of the veena too is not at all compromised.
Basically, what makes the difference is the way you play ANY veena, even an acoustic one.
2. I do agree with Chitraveena Ravikiran - we tend to deify and ritualize everything in our lives.

My questions:
1. What is the 'original veena'? Surely not the current acoustic veena known as the Tanjavur veena?
2. If one views the development of all musical instruments DISPASSIONATELY and OBJECTIVELY, one can see that the veena, sitar, tambura etc (instruments using a hollowed-out sound box) were developed at the respecive historical periods by the scientifically minded researchers OF THAT TIME using the technology available to them AT THE TIME.
As time progresses, and the environment changes, one has to use the technology available to enhance the musical experience - hence the use of the microphone, recording devices, contact mike, magnetic pick up etc. So why say that 'this is not original' or 'that is not original'? Sirs, even the so-called 'original veena' is not really original at all, so what are we talking about? Why is it that all vainikas use the magnetic pickup happily for their concerts even though these pickups are very often guitar pickups (hence the 'guitar tone'in these veenas). And why is it that no one hears the guitar tone in these veenas or comment that they do not sound like the 'original veena'? Because the performer is APPARENTLY using an acoustic veena? But the PERFORMER IS NOT USING THE KUDAM AT ALL! Appearances can be deceptive. And unfortunately, our society goes by 'appearances' - therefore, an 'acoustic veena' fitted with a guitar pickup will be accepted as 'traditional', while the electronic veena (sans kudam but with a carefully researched and crafted suitable pickup, matched with the amplispeker) will not be accepted, only because it does not 'look' like the 'traditional' veena.
To this issue too - the looks, I would ask those who object to the looks as 'untraditional'and 'modern' to see these antique sculptures:
http://94stranger.files.wordpress.com/2 ... -nepal.jpg
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_xUJrI6cswLg/S ... C07335.JPG

Therefore my response to baradu is: There is no need to use the 'acoustic' veena if you are going to use a magnetic pickup. The electronic veena performs the same function.
Also to baradu - movable frets have already been provided on the electronic veena.
Yes, the acoustic veena as we know it today has a certain quality of sound that can be heard in its original form, only by listening to the instrument without any sort of amplification. Is this not true of all instruments including the human voice? Does the voice quality not change over the microphone? So why pick only on the veena?
So certainly, when one has a select audience of a few people sitting around the vainika in a small room, away from street noise, one can hear the acoustic veena's original sound.
However in today's world --- is it practical?

srikant1987
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#8

Post by srikant1987 »

How about this?

Can anyone provide recordings of
(a) the accoustic veena from near it,
(b) the accoustic veena from a distance, using the "pickup" for amplification and
(c) the electronic veena from a distance,

using the same recorder and post them without mentioning before hand which is which? We can then have fellow forumites try to see which of (b) and (c) resembles (a) more. :)

srinivasrgvn
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#9

Post by srinivasrgvn »

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Last edited by srinivasrgvn on 27 Dec 2009, 08:02, edited 1 time in total.

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#10

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

My respectful submission to srinivasrgvn - please read my post carefully, before commenting. I said:
"Why is it that all vainikas use the magnetic pickup happily for their concerts even though these pickups are very often guitar pickups (hence the 'guitar tone'in these veenas). And why is it that no one hears the guitar tone in these veenas or comment that they do not sound like the 'original veena'? Because the performer is APPARENTLY using an acoustic veena? But the PERFORMER IS NOT USING THE KUDAM AT ALL!"
Did I say the acoustic veena does not need the kudam? Of course not! Please, credit me with that modicum of basic intelligence.
Please note, I have specifically referred to THOSE USING A MAGNETIC PICKUP ON AN ACOUSTIC VEENA by saying 'in these veenas' i.e those using a magnetic pickup.
And yes, the veenas using guitar pickups DO sound like guitars. All of them.

I am sure you are aware that the magnetic pickup completely bypasses the soundbox and takes the sound directly from the string. THEREFORE specifically in cases where a magnetic pickup is used, the kudam is not being used. This is an irrefutable scientific fact.
Sir I am quite aware of the properties of the acoustic veena, and do not need the references provided.
With reference to your comment on my 'unwise' comparison of the human voice- it is the same as comparing an acoustic and amplified sound from any instrument (the human voice being also known as 'gaathra veena'). The vocal chords also constitute an instrument.
As regards sweetness of sound or otherwise, it is purely the way the performer uses the instrument that influences the sound quality.
An experienced performer plays any instrument well, bringing out the best music and sound from it. An inexperienced one does not. A person can make an acoustic veena sound pretty harsh, by wrong technique.
No one denies the fact that the veena sounds sweeter WITHOUT ANY SORT OF MICROPHONE - however, are we prepared to listen to the veena without amplification in a large auditorium?
That is the reason for my statement: 'So certainly, when one has a select audience of a few people sitting around the vainika in a small room, away from street noise, one can hear the acoustic veena's original sound.'

My justifications, Sir, are as intense as your arguments, nothing more. I speak as a user of the electronic veena, and not as a salesperson. In fact if you were indeed sincere in your statement that you do not make personal attacks, then your very statement that my observations stem from 'a sales person of Radel' belies your assurance.

Lastly - no one says that the electronic veena and acoustic veena cannot co-exist - each has its unique advantages and qualities. I personally practise on my 2 acoustic veenas without amplification, my electronic veena AND my digital veena at home and enjoy all of them fully! I do not see any conflict at all.

srikant1987
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#11

Post by srikant1987 »

Well, I looked into the electronic video link srinivasrgvn gave but would like to see some sahana, dhanyasi or reetigowlai played on the electronic veena before I form an opinion.

One of my attractions with the veena is that it's so austere! You need to play with a lot of azhuttam to get the faintest audible sound out of it. This also in a way compels the player to play with a certain method ... a right proportion of flat notes and gamakas ... of bending and sliding and split-fingering ... to use the veena efficiently and effectively.

I would say one should at least practise on an austere non-electronic veena without any artificial amplification, irrespective of what they play with what kind of amplification on stage.

Ms Radhika, won't there be a lot less mutilation in the tone if the ordinary mike (which is used for singers, violinists, mridangists etc.) is used for veena also, since it simply picks up the sound from the air around it?

Nick H
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#12

Post by Nick H »

This is fascinating, and I request the knowledgeable debaters not to hold back because it is a great learning for the rest of us.

I cannot help pointing out that srinivasrgvn recommends two samples (from Youtube) that have been electronically recorded on unknown equipment, and will be played back through unknown speakers. I don't think this is likely to prove a fair comparison of the original instruments.

I have not seen enough veena concerts recently, but my impression is that the stuck-on mic is more prevalent than the guitar-type pickup. Is this not giving us more of the acoustic range of the instrument, rather than just taking a vibration direct from the strings?

My assertion would be that the intention of amplification is to enable people to hear what they would be able to hear if they were close to the instrument itself. This presents a considerable challenge in the sensitivity and quality of the equipment used, and, above all perhaps, in the adjustment of the knobs on the various boxes through which the signal passes. Even at a small house concert that I attended recently, where the veena was the entire cause and basis of the organisation presenting, the first couple of pieces were entirely smothered in bass --- until a sensitive and understanding hand was laid on the amplifier control knobs.

I don't believe that either the acoustic veena cannot be amplified correctly. I also don't believe that technology cannot bring us true veena sound from the electronic cousin. I don't know, nor do I have the experience --- I just feel that is possible. I also feel that the result may well be related to the expense.

As to the history of the veena --- I am sure that it started as little more than a stick with some strings attached, with the later addition of sounding chamber, perhaps gourd, perhaps solid wood. Isn't the veena of the North's draupad artists more simple, at least in appearance? Those who argue historical justification, in any topic, or always careful to choose the starting point in history that suits them!

The veena placed in the arms of Goddess Saraswati will always be the veena as known to the artists and sculptors of the day. Without meaning to question the essence of the religious belief, the detail is another thing, and people will look at the art and say, "This is the instrument the Goddess plays"; no, it is the instrument that the artist knew and painted.

vasanthakokilam
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#13

Post by vasanthakokilam »

I agree with Nick. Let us not stop the discussion. Srinivasargvn, let us stay away for now from implications on the motives during these discussions. Your post otherwise was a vigorous defense.
A person with good hearing sense and knowledge of Veena will definitely say that the second is better!
We do not even need to go that far yet, your two examples adequately demonstrate that the two samples sound quite different. While listening to the first one ( the non-acoustic one ), I intentionally did not watch the video but just heard teh audio. It did not quite sound like traditional veena at all.
I am sure you are aware that the magnetic pickup completely bypasses the soundbox and takes the sound directly from the string.
Ms. Radhika: I know you are claiming there is no difference in sound between an electronic veena and an acoustic veena with a magnetic pickup. You also mention 'digital' veena in your last post. What is the difference between Digital Veena and Electronic veena. In Srinivasargvn's first sample, is that an electronic veena or digital veena.

How do we then explain that the first sample sounds more like a cross between an electric guitar and a mandolin whereas the second one sounds more like the traditional veena sound that we are all familiar with.

Srikant's blind hearing test is an excellent idea.

gn.sn42
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#14

Post by gn.sn42 »

A blind test sounds like an excellent idea, but what will we be testing?

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of different acoustic veenas in the market. Not all of them sound alike. Not all purists will agree on which of them sounds the best. There are far fewer model of electronic veena (I know only of 2, but let's say 10).

If we choose two models randomly, they would most likely both be acoustic veenas. And one of them will probably sound better to a majority of the jury in a blind test.

Does this mean that since an acoustic veena "lost", all acoutic veenas - now and in the future - are bad?

But if one model of acoustic veena is pitted against one model of electronic veena in this blind test, and the acoustic veena "wins", guess what we will be saying about the entire tribe of electronic veenas.

We should be careful to limit the results to the individual models tested, but I'm afraid that won't be how we do it...

I suspect that the right answer is something along the lines of "Model X electronic veena is better than many inexpensive acoustic veenas but is clearly inferior in sound to the top 10 acoustic veena models but has the advantages of portability and ease of tuning and is a reasonable option for some students and concert musicians". Perhaps it's too much to ask for such nuance on an internet forum.

This same kind of argument is taking place for every traditional musical instrument (software emulations of the Hammond B-3 organ - which is itself a synthesizer - are to some clearly inferior to the original)!

Why don't we simply say that it is in everyone's interest to have as many choices as possible so that we can each individually pick the one (or more!) individual veena that is perfect for us? Bring on the electronic veenas and the veenas made of PVC - if I like them, I should be able to buy them.

(Personally, I've heard concerts on acoustic and electronic veenas and enjoyed them equally. I know srinivasrgn is trying to limit this to "person[s] with good hearing sense and knowledge of Veena", but too bad - the rest of us are in the game, too!)

(An aside - Radhika-Rajnarayan, I think it's very important for members with potential conflicts of interest to provide a clear disclaimer in their posts.)
Last edited by gn.sn42 on 28 Sep 2009, 06:56, edited 1 time in total.

vasanthakokilam
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#15

Post by vasanthakokilam »

gn.sn42: Actually the test I had in mind is not what is better. It is more like a Turing test. Can a set of humans consistently ( in a statistically significant manner ) distinguish the sounds made by an Electronic Veena and an acoustic veena with a magnetic pickup? I think Radhika's conclusion is there should not be any difference. I do not know enough acoustical dynamics of these things to decide if this is correct or not.

>(An aside - Radhika-Rajnarayan, I think it's very important for members with potential conflicts of interest to provide a clear disclaimer in their posts.)

Good and fair point.

srikant1987
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#16

Post by srikant1987 »

As Nick says, the videos srinivasrgvn gave are "recorded and played" (on digital equipment that too!) and so it's not an entirely reliable reproduction of the sound.

Secondly, the second video was probably recorded directly from the instrument and recorded in a small room from near the veena.

Also important is the fact that the second video has "sree varalakshmi" in Sri ragam played. :) And is it sunada vinodini in the first? :|

gn.sn42
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#17

Post by gn.sn42 »

vasanthakokilam wrote:Actually the test I had in mind is not what is better. It is more like a Turing test. Can a set of humans consistently ( in a statistically significant manner ) distinguish the sounds made by an Electronic Veena and an acoustic veena with a magnetic pickup?
OK, that will be a useful test, though I didn't read srikant1987's post that way - you wouldn't need the first part (acoustic veena without pickup) for the Turing test. And the specific acoustic and electronic veenas used will make a difference. As will the jury's abilities. Some of us will be very poor at distinguishing these sounds. And of course, some experts can probably make out the differences between individual acoustic veenas.

I do detect in the thread a sense of "what is better" but I'll happily ignore that if we can get some nice tests going.

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#18

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

There are a few points I wish to make here:
1. First and foremost, let us understand that the sound of an acoustic veena without amplification is DIFFERENT from one with a microphone placed in the usual manner (as dfor a violin / vocalist), again, this is DIFFERENT from an acoustic veena with a contact microphone, again this is DIFFERENT from an acoustic veena with a piezo-electric pickup fitted onit, again it is DIFFERENT from an acoustic veena fitted with a magnetic pickup. Lastly the sound is DIFFERENT from the electronic veena. We should first acknowledge and appreciate these DIFFERENCES. We should also understand that these different tones do not make one type of veena 'better' or 'worse' than the other.
2. This test would be highly subjective with as many opinions as the number of participants. However, my contention is that people want to use the magnetic pick up because they need to amplify the finer gamakams and achieve a higher sustenance of notes, to enhance the musical experience. What happens in practise is, that they tend to buy and fit the magnetic pickups available in the market (not everyone is like Dr Balachander who had one specially made to suit the veena tone). This results in a sound that is not close to the acoustic veena.
3. To Vasanthakokilam -I do not say that the SOUND of the acoustic-veena-with-mag-pickup is the same as the electronic veena. On the contrary, since the electronic veena has (a) a specially designed pickup for the veena and (b) a MATCHED amplispeaker, the sound produced is inherently of a superior quality than the acoustic-veena-with-mag-pickup, and very close to the un-amplified acoustic veena.
4. HOWEVER this advantage is lost if, at the performance this veena is connected through the 'line-out' connection to the 'mic-in' of the PA system instead of the 'line-in' of the PA system. This is unfortunately what usually happens. The result is an overload on the PA system amp and a distorted resultant sound. The better option is to just place an ordinary mike near the e-veena speaker (like one would for a violin / vocalist). The sound you hear in the hall if you do this is (almost) the same as you would hear if you sat in front of the vainika playing the e-veena. I say almost, because with any amplification (as I mentioned in my earlier post) the sound characteristic of the unamplified voice / violin / veena / anything does change.
5. What I do say is, that - if you are using a mag-pickup, you are not using the kudam and have thus made it superfluous. That is all.
6. The point Nick H made is the one I have been (figuratively) yelling myself hoarse about - the 'traditional' Saraswati veena most people identify with is the one associated in the Raja Ravi Varma painting. And that is 20th century depiction, of a veena that is about 300 years old at the most. We who boast of a 5000-year old history should at least have THAT breadth of vision. Which is why I posted the couple of representative links to the scuptures depicting the Goddess with various forms of veena. To digress a bit, the Goddess is the concept and personification of Wisdom, Speech and Art, not a historical figure. So let us open our minds to other forms of the 'traditional' veena. Let us also remember that 'tradition' is not static, it evolves and changes over a period of time!
7. The digital veena is not the electronic veena, it is something entirely different. We can open another thread on it.
Vasanthakokilam - please let me know what is the disclaimer you want me to provide. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I speak as a user, not as part of Radel. Is there something further I need to say? Do let me know.

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#19

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

An added comment - to the comment that one should practise on the 'austere' acoustic veena even if one uses the electronic veena for practise - I think that if you are using any kind of amplification for your concert (contact mic / mag pickup / electronic veena) -better you practise with the same amplification - you would be surprised at how many of your slip-ups get highlighted. Every mistake, inaccuracy, sruti-misalignment, gets amplified by all these amplifying methods. So better you correct them at home!
Does this also not mean that the electronic veena helps you to achieve a better precision and accuracy in your playing?
I will upload my an extract of my recent AIR broadcast ( I always use the electronic veena for my broadcasts) so you may judge the sweetness of sound. Basically it is how you handle any instrument.

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#20

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

The link to the uploaded file of my electronic veena recital on AIR:
http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=acc0 ... f6e8ebb871

My earnest request to all of you - please forgive the few glaring slip-ups that are heard.
On a lighter note, I have deliberately retained the 'sorry for the interruption' and the opening announcement, although it is irritating. This announcement is priceless and so typically AIR, it may be of historical / antique value a couple of decades later! :D

vasanthakokilam
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#21

Post by vasanthakokilam »

Radhika: Thanks for the explanation and clarification on the various pickups used with a veena.. I understand what you are saying that with the mag pickup the traditional veena kudam is out of the picture. Got it.

I quickly educated myself on the theory of operation of the various pickups. The Piezoelectric pickups should pick up the acoustic kudam sound of the traditional veena, right? ( limited by the usual transducer effects ). While reading this, I also came across an optical pickup which sounded interesting. Have you used such pickups and what are your impressions?


As I wrote above, I wanted to get an idea on the differences in the way the various things sound. ( what is better is a different matter and quite subjective, I agree ). Among the various possibilities you mentioned, which one sounds closer to the unamplified traditiona Veena: : Traditional Veena with a mic in front, Traditional Veena with a contact mic, Traditional Veena with a piezoelectric pickup and the electronic Veena?

You can also explain further your statement in the above context: "The electronic veena sound is very close to the un-amplified acoustic veena.". I am curious how the electronic veena manages to achieve that closeness to the acoustic sound.
please let me know what is the disclaimer you want me to provide. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I speak as a user, not as part of Radel.
That should do it. Perfect.

srikant1987
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#22

Post by srikant1987 »

I heard the nattaikurinji. The tone is good, though it is different from the accoustic veena's. :) You put the sustained volume to good use too. :)
---
I am reminded of Honda, who raced in his own inventions to prove their worth. :)
Last edited by srikant1987 on 28 Sep 2009, 14:58, edited 1 time in total.

Nick H
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#23

Post by Nick H »

I don't think we need worry about Radhika's employment any longer: we've been through that, and I seem to remember that I needed to tender an apology. We moved on.

Radhika, apart from the fact that you are familiar with the technical details, and the equipment used, I'm heartened to find that your view of the electronics and the amplification very much agrees with mine. I'm sure this is a continuing, ongoing process. When we read recently of the death of the Father of the "electric" guitar, Les Paul, we also learned that the development of that instrument was far from easy. Of course, he was not trying to emulate the acoustic guitar.

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#24

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

vasanthakokilam wrote:While reading this, I also came across an optical pickup which sounded interesting. Have you used such pickups and what are your impressions?
I haven't come across these optical pickups. They do sound interesting.

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#25

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

nick H wrote: I have not seen enough veena concerts recently, but my impression is that the stuck-on mic is more prevalent than the guitar-type pickup.


I don't believe that either the acoustic veena cannot be amplified correctly. I also don't believe that technology cannot bring us true veena sound from the electronic cousin. I don't know, nor do I have the experience --- I just feel that is possible. I also feel that the result may well be related to the expense.
To the first point - Actually, it is the guitar-type pickups that are prevalent today. The contact mic (stick-on, attach on, whatever) used to be popular in the '60s specially amongst Emani's disciples and their disciples - I have myself tried several.
The problem with these as well as the mag-pickups (guitar type) is that both types are essentially connected to the PA system. But the performer is not able to get the feedback, unless a separate monitor speaker is either provided by the organisers or is carried by the performer. The organisers very often do not provide this, and the performer needs to carry an extra ampli-speaker. To the already overburdened performer this is one more headache! And if you don't, then YOU can't hear yourself, (and end up playing the concert with a permanent tilt to your head, lisening to your sruti-alignment) and NEITHER CAN THE PERCUSSION ARTIST. In fact, during one particular duet concert with the flute, the mridangam artist told me after the concert, that he accompanied me purely by WATCHING my fingers, not listening to me (he was sitting on the far side of the flute). Then, after my first AIR broadcast using the electronic veena, the mridangam artist said 'Abbah! This is the first time I have played freely for a veena broadcast! I could hear the veena well, even while playing the mridangam, throughout.'

To the second point - Nick is absolutely right. Anything is possible, AT A COST!

srikant1987
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#26

Post by srikant1987 »

But the performer is not able to get the feedback, unless a separate monitor speaker is either provided by the organisers or is carried by the performer.
So the performers don't get to hear any of the sound from the speakers meant for listeners, and only the sound from the instruments themselves? It should be really hard (nigh impossible actually) for people to accompany veenas then!

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#27

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

Yes indeed, it is very difficult for the accompanists. Firstly they can barely hear the instrument and then, they have to restrain themselves throughout (adakki vaasikkanum) - how much can you restrain? For 2 hours?
This is the reason many vainikas prefer 'certain' mridangam artists - who are known to have soft hands.

And if you are playing a duet, then either the other instrument drowns you out (if they are insensitive) or they too have to restrain, to enable the veena to be heard. This is inherently unfair, and stifles the imagination of the other artist.
And to cap it all, at the end of the duet concert, I have encountered time and again, the following 'appreciative' remark: 'the concert was very good, but we couldn't hear the veena.' !! Imagine my disappointment, after hours and hours of practise.

Nick H
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#28

Post by Nick H »

Cross fertilisation with one of our big-hobby-horse subjects here in other threads... certainly one of mine! The quality and professionalism of the sound setup generally, and the provision of feedback to artists (even to those who think they do not want it) so they can hear themselves and each other.

My favourite related story is of sitting with a mridangist, immediately next to an orchestra of twenty veenas and a PA system high over our heads, and wondering how it could be possible that we could barely hear them. With snippets, a knowledge of their repertoire, and watching, we got by

srikant1987
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#29

Post by srikant1987 »

Actually "volume restraint" is a very bad practice, and it really reduces the azhuttam of music. It's even worse for violinists (thankfully they don't often accompany veenas), because the trend is to like "soft" mridangists more.

It can actually hurt the accompanying instrumentalist's hands (apart from the mental torture!) to restrain from being loud for two hours!

baradu2
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#30

Post by baradu2 »

thanks everyone. spl thanks to radhika madam. that was an amazing analysis made. but i still have not got the answer for my 5th and 6th question. why not movable frets? why not try something else other than wax? the electronic veenai is made in such a way that wax is not needed at all. but how about the other regular tanjore jackwood veenais that are there for so many years and handed down to this geneation from our forefathers?

Nick H
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#31

Post by Nick H »

but i still have not got the answer for my 5th and 6th question. why not movable frets? why not try something else other than wax?
I'm still wondering, too!

vainika
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#32

Post by vainika »

Disclaimer: I write as a user, not a marketer of the instruments, designs and technologies referenced below :)

I believe all - the unamplified acoustic veena; one with a piezo-electric transducer (pickup), dynamic mic, condenser mic, or electro-magnetic mic; and the Sunadavinodini-type electronic veena - have their place. Understanding what works best requires one to consider the following

(i) Who is the audience?
- self
- self+guru/student
- self+percussion+small live audience
- self+percussion+large live audience

(ii) What is the objective of the amplification?

- To be heard by people sitting in the back of the room?
- To be heard above the sound of the percussionist?
- To be heard along with one's voice?

(iii) What is the location?
- One's home with minimal external noise?
- One's home with lots of people talking, outside vehicles, etc.?
- A mini-hall?
- A recording studio?
- A sabha auditorium with poor acoustics?
- A wedding hall?
- A temple?

(iv) Who is available to assist you with audio-reinforcement?
- No one?
- Someone whose skills are limited to getting the right pin in the right jack and cranking up (or down, but usually up) the volume, responding to the feedback whines and howls, but with no understanding of or concern for the tone characteristics of the instrument.
- Someone who turns up the volume for the audience when all he/she should be addressing is the monitor volume on stage
- An audio engineer who understands miking stringed instruments, the acoustics of the venue, etc. and spends significant time obtaining the best reinforcement.

Each vainika comes up with an optimal solution for his/her needs. Here are some of mine:

Most of my playing is at home, and with my guru. For both purposes, a mic-less acoustic (Tanjavur) veena tuned somewhere between 1.5-2.5 works fine.

When I travel, I often take the sunadavinodini (Radel's e-veena) with me. It's easy to transport, and I'm not as worried about damage to the instrument in transit as I would be with my acoustic veenas. Plus, the adjustable frets are a brilliant invention, and overcome many of the problems associated with the risk of fret displacement on a wax fretboard during travel. (However wax on the unamplified acoustic veena positively impacts the tonal quality and having frets mounted on wood or other materials result in 'hollow' or 'tinny' sound)

When I perform within the city, and my frets are in good condition, I take my acoustic veena with a piezo-electric pickup (supreme/barcus-berry/putw) and a portable amplifier-speaker (squier/fender) with me. The latter comes in handy as a monitor, and a source for the technician to place his/her dynamic mic in front of it.

When I perform within the city, and my frets aren't in good shape, I play on the sunadavinodini. (I would borrow a veena from my guru in case we're playing together and my frets aren't all there, positionally speaking)

In the past, I have used a custom-made gooseneck condensor plugged into my portable amp/speaker mixed in with the piezo-electric.

I often pass the pick-up/mic output through a peavey mini mixer/equalizer before taking the output to the amplifier/speaker as the latter is not great in mid-range.

I have noticed that many of the vainikas considered traditional with respect to their playing have actually experimented quite a bit with their instrument designs, making them more portable, trying out guitar mics, substituting bottle gourd with more durable material for the supporting kudam, etc. Govinda Dikshitar's 24-fret Raghunatha Mela Veena must have been an innovation in its time too.

I did listen recently to a fantastic mic-less, percussion-less concert by Prof KG Vijayakrishnan in one of the old residences at the Theosophical Society. We all had to crowd around him to listen - but it was an unforgettable experience.

Sound reinforcement for acoustic instruments is a vast field of research and practice, and there are many online resources for those who want to learn about it. I've found the following useful:

Harvey Reid's 1990 essay Amplification Strategies for the Performing Acoustic Musician
http://www.woodpecker.com/writing/artic ... ation.html

A 101 on acoustic guitar amplification relevant to the veena as well. http://www.museweb.com/ag/amp/ag_amp.html


From Shure: Microphone techniques for live sound reinforcement http://www.shure.com/stellent/groups/pu ... und_ea.pdf
Last edited by vainika on 29 Sep 2009, 08:23, edited 1 time in total.

gn.sn42
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#33

Post by gn.sn42 »

vainika wrote: I believe all - the unamplified acoustic veena, one with a piezo-electric transducer, dynamic mic, condenser mic, or electro-magnetic mic, the Sunadavinodini-type electronic veena - have their place.
Thanks, vainika, for a reasonable and informative post.
vainika wrote: In the past, I have used a custom-made gooseneck condensor plugged into my portable amp/speaker mixed in with the piezo-electric.
This sounds very interesting - so you have both a pickup and an acoustic microphone going into your amp. Can you provide some details or a recording? How did you like this set up? Why did you stop using it?

gn.sn42
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#34

Post by gn.sn42 »

vainika wrote: From Shure: Microphone techniques for live sound reinforcement http://www.shure.com/stellent/groups/pu ... und_ea.pdf
This is a nice overview, thanks.

Off-thread aside: vasanthakokilam, there's a small note here on miking flutes that suggests a windscreen will be helpful. (It also lists some Shure microphones that may be best for the task.)

vainika
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#35

Post by vainika »

gn.sn42 wrote: This sounds very interesting - so you have both a pickup and an acoustic microphone going into your amp. Can you provide some details or a recording? How did you like this set up? Why did you stop using it?
I used that setup for performances (when I used to live in the US) with just one other performer who could be positioned such that I didn't get any sound other than my veena picked up by the condenser. I've never managed to be able to do that here - there's always feedback from other sources.

For recordings at that time I used the condenser alone - will try to post a clip when I dig it up.

Mixing transducers is not new - people do it with other acoustic instruments all the time. Closer to home, the vainika B. Sivakumar from Trichy has developed a shallow-kudam portable veena and successfully mixes piezo-electric (which picks up sound from the kudam surface) and electro-magnetic pickups to achieve a really nice - imo - effect.
Last edited by vainika on 29 Sep 2009, 10:09, edited 1 time in total.

Nick H
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#36

Post by Nick H »

Excellent information.

For those of you who understand the technology of amplification, it must be so frustrating working with sound "engineers" who do not understand it.

gn.sn42
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#37

Post by gn.sn42 »

Thanks, vainika. I have seen such multiple miking approaches used with guitars, but not with veenas, and I am so lacking in imagination that I could not see this application. I see that one of the links you provide has more details on the guitar application - I'll go through it and see what I can do with this.

srikant1987
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#38

Post by srikant1987 »

What do you mean by "adjusting" frets? You move them vertically i.e., closer to and farther away from the strings * or horizontally (in order to change note pitches)?

* so that you need to press the strings less or more when playing

vasanthakokilam
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#39

Post by vasanthakokilam »

gn.sn42 wrote:Off-thread aside: vasanthakokilam, there's a small note here on miking flutes that suggests a windscreen will be helpful. (It also lists some Shure microphones that may be best for the task.)
Noted. Useful information. Thanks.

vainika
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#40

Post by vainika »

srikant1987 wrote:What do you mean by "adjusting" frets? You move them vertically i.e., closer to and farther away from the strings * or horizontally (in order to change note pitches)? * so that you need to press the strings less or more when playing
The latter. The wax fretboard is replaced by what looks like a pair of railway tracks. The individual frets are screwed onto the tracks, and can be moved horizontally. Their height does not need to be adjusted, but when frets wear out eventually, they cause the string to rub against the next (higher) fret, and need to be replaced.

In wax mounted frets both horizontal and vertical displacement can occur, and are troublesome to fix without the help of an mELam expert. There's only so much one can do with a blow-dryer ;)

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#41

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

The movable (adjustable) frets on the electronic veena are moved and adjusted by lightly loosening the nut and after moving the fret to the desired position, tightening the nut again.
You can see the video demo here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h0jLVr2QLc

On the issue of suitable mics for flutes, I read a very interesting book where one of the topics was on correct poisitioning of microphones for various instruments. Surprisingly, for a flute, the suggestion was to place the mic BEHIND the head of the player! We tried this for a studio recording of Raj Narayan (IGNOU music recording) and it turned out really good.

Is there a way to attach a 'Word' document here? Raj Narayan has written a piece on sound amplification for Indian music concerts. In fact it was published in one of the issues of Sruti - several years ago. There are a lot of useful and practical points he raises in that article.

gn.sn42
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#42

Post by gn.sn42 »

Radhika-Rajnarayan wrote: On the issue of suitable mics for flutes, I read a very interesting book where one of the topics was on correct poisitioning of microphones for various instruments. Surprisingly, for a flute, the suggestion was to place the mic BEHIND the head of the player! We tried this for a studio recording of Raj Narayan (IGNOU music recording) and it turned out really good.
The Shure document linked by vainika provides a very good overview as well. And yes, the behind-the-head position is often recommended for the flute.
Radhika-Rajnarayan wrote: Is there a way to attach a 'Word' document here? Raj Narayan has written a piece on sound amplification for Indian music concerts. In fact it was published in one of the issues of Sruti - several years ago. There are a lot of useful and practical points he raises in that article.
You could link to the Sruti web site if the article is online; otherwise Scribd or Google Docs might be options.

srikant1987
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#43

Post by srikant1987 »

Surprising that horizontal displacements occur on wax! Won't it "stick" the fret in its place?!

It'll be tedious to adjust them to correct pitch, even with the nuts!

Radhika-Rajnarayan
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#44

Post by Radhika-Rajnarayan »

The frets do not go out of alignment too often, and not all frets would be misaligned. The few frets that are off-alignment can be very easily adjusted. Takes a few seconds each. Check the video link.

vainika
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#45

Post by vainika »

srikant1987 wrote:Surprising that horizontal displacements occur on wax! Won't it "stick" the fret in its place?!
Well they're not an everyday occurrence, but certainly necessitate re-fretting every couple of years - or more frequently, depending on how much wear and tear you subject them to.
Last edited by vainika on 02 Oct 2009, 13:54, edited 1 time in total.

bjsarma
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#46 Re: new ideas on veenai inovations needed

Post by bjsarma »

Thank you very much for details. On the Fender or any amplifier I always find it difficult to set the gain, treble and bass for Veena. Do you have an recommendations on the levels for each of them.
I have a contact pickup connected to Fender Amp. I use mostly at home.

Sarma

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