Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

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SrinathK
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#126 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 21 Jun 2018, 07:43

Tell me after 2 weeks to a month of practice.
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#127 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 23 Jun 2018, 09:57

Lesson # 3. Using your ankle.

Just like your toes, the ankles also have 3 degrees of movement. There is a reason why I follow a 3 level system and not 2 levels and that will be clear when I'm done.

So imagine a hyper flexible ankle. Your ankle can flex forward (down if standing), it can flex backward (upward if standing) or it can stay centered. If you are seated on the floor and using your right foot, your ankle can flex to the left (forward), the right (backward) or stay center (neutral). We will call these positions as F, C and B. F = Forward, C = Centered, B = Backward.

To get used to this, first physically move your ankle and observe the actual movement. Then as you visualize, move your ankle by 1 mm as you did with the toes, that's enough to create a distinct feel. Then just visualize and feel your ankle tensing as if it was moving forward, middle and back.

Now we are moving on to the laghus. Tisra laghu was simple, it did not need your ankle. The other laghus have higher counts, so they will use both the toes and the ankle. I will just take up chatushra laghu in this lesson.

My advice is that just for this part, till you have memorized the movement, at very slow tempo, just bend your toes and ankles and see how that looks and feels. After you get it, you won't need to physically contort your foot. :D

1) Chatushra laghu -

Ankle forward + toes inward to the sole. This is the first beat. We will call this "FI" F for ankle forward, I for toes inward.
Ankle center and toes both neutral. This is the second beat. We will call this "CN".
Ankle back and toes outward. This is the third beat. We will call this "BO".
Ankle center, but toes still outward. This is the fourth beat. This will be "CO". This distinguishes it clearly from the second beat.

So FI + CN + BO + CO. This makes the 4 beats of chatushra laghu. And in doing this, you have also learnt chatushra jaathi Eka tAla.

Then practice with a metronome. Get to a point where you don't have to think about your foot and you know exactly what's going to come next.

With this, you can now put Adi tala, Roopaka (both 3 beat and 6 beat versions), all chApu tAlas and any simple tAla in chatushra jaathi. You may do this with Dhruva, MaTya, Jhampa, ATa and Eka tAla and any other tala that can be mathematically derived and valid in chatushra jaathi.

You should be able to follow most of the items in a concert with just this much. For 2 kalai or 4 kalai, as you do with your hands, foot tap each beat twice or 4x.
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#128 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 24 Jun 2018, 08:46

Lesson # 4 khaNDa jAti, mishra jAti and sankeerNA jAti laghus

My logic of laghu after experimenting with several combinations, is this - like throwing a ball that goes up and comes down, every laghu starts on one side, goes to the other, before returning back - this way was the easiest for me to memorize and maintained a certain continuity to the foot tap pattern.

Again, all visualization and feel, first khaNDa jAti laghu (5 counts)

1) 1st beat - Ankle forward and toes inward (FI)
2) 2nd beat - Ankle forward and toes neutral (FN)- this is the extra beat
3) 3rd beat - Ankle center and toes neutral (CN)
4) 4th beat - Ankle back and toes outward (BO)
5) 5th beat - Ankle center and toes (still) outward (CO)

FI-FN-CN-BO-CO. 5 counts, 5 distinct beats.

EDIT : After some experimentation, I found another way that felt easier for me. You may use this as well:

1) 1st beat - Ankle forward and toes inward (FI)
2) 2nd beat - Ankle center and toes neutral (CN)
3) 3rd beat - Ankle back and toes neutral (BN) - This is the extra 5th beat.
4) 4th beat - Ankle back and toes outward (BO)
5) 5th beat - Ankle center and toes (still) outward (CO)

FI-CN-BN-BO-CO

Now mishra jAti laghu - where 2 extra beats get inserted.

1) 1st beat - Ankle forward and toes inward (FI)
2) 2nd beat - Ankle forward and toes neutral (FN)
3) 3rd beat - Ankle center and toes inward (CI) - note the difference, I am doing these variations to distinguish the patterns apart.
4) 4th beat - Ankle center and toes neutral (CN)
5) 5th beat - Ankle back and toes neutral (BN) - and that's the 2nd extra beat
6) 6th beat - Ankle back and toes outward (BO)
7) 7th beat - Ankle center and toes outward (CO)

FI-FN-CI-CN-BN-BO-CO

And finally the sankeerNa jAti laghu, with 2 more beats for 9 counts

1) 1st beat - Ankle forward and toes inward (FI)
2) 2nd beat - Ankle forward and toes neutral (FN)
3) 3rd beat - Ankle center and toes inward (CI)
4) 4th beat - Ankle center and toes neutral (CN)
5) 5th beat - Ankle back and toes inward (BI)
6) 6th beat - Ankle back and toes neutral (BN)
7) 7th beat - Ankle back and toes outward (BO)
8) 8th beat - Ankle center and toes outward (CO)
9) 9th beat - Ankle forward and toes outward (FO)

FI-FN-CI-CN-BI-BN-BO-CO-FO

I always prefer to end with toes out, it makes it easier to remember.

For 2 or 4 kalai, you know what to do.

And here's the logic behind the 3 degrees of movement. For both toes and ankle, this yields 3 x 3 = 9 distinct combinations. Which allows you to tap up to sankeerNa jAti, with no repetitions (even the hands cannot do this with only 5 fingers).

Now with this, you can put in all the 35 talams, or any talam that does not have the more complex angas of guru, plutam and kAkapadam. I have found a way for those 3 as well, but to go there, it is absolutely mandatory to master the laghu variations, because the above movements are going to be used in these 3 as well.

There is an additional layer of imagination with them, a somewhat 'crazy' visualization that will help us master them. But that is for later.

The next stop will be the nadai subbeats.
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#129 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 25 Jun 2018, 14:55

Lesson # 5 Now for nadai subbeats.

First of all, go back to the chApu beats and put them all imagining and feeling the foot in a neutral position. Learn to count with just the basic foot tap.

1) tisra chApu - NN, | NN, ....
2) chatushra chApu - N,NN | N,NN
3) khaNDa chApu - N,NN, | N,NN, |
4) mishra chApu - NN,N,N, | NN,N,N, |
5) sankeerNa chApu - NN,N,N,N, | NN,N,N,N, |

Get used to it first.

As with the hands, these beats will now be superimposed as a subbeat pattern into the main talanga beats, so practice them in all the visualized positions for laghus, dhrutam and anudhrutam.

You will therefore be repeating the subbeat pattern thrice for tisra laghu or roopakam as they have 3 different foot positions, 8 times for Adi, etc. This is identical to what they do on the hands, where they will be putting a chApu tAla on each finger and wave for an Adi tala - turning it into an 8-cycle chApu tAla.

If you do develop a feel for counting 1-18 notes and pauses (especially pauses!) in a beat without the use of subbeats (and claim laya godhood), or at least 1-9 per beat (even this is not a feat to be taken lightly), then you can ditch the subbeats and with a normal tala, proceed to wreak havoc on both your audience and your accompanists.

This along with the other laya lessons already covered, should be enough to handle nearly everything thrown at you. Almost. A few more lessons are pending.

Now that you have done this on your right leg, do it also with your left leg. A violinist may need to use a cushion from where his left foot can hang loosely over the edge of the cushion to get that space to tap. Please note that the movements for the left leg will be a mirror image of those on the right, but the notation is the same for both legs.

Why this? Because apart from the fact that some people are more comfortable with one leg than another, in the next lesson, you are going to use both your legs.... And when I'm done with you I'll ask your hands to join in.

Now you know why I wanted to do it all on 1 foot. :mrgreen:
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#130 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 28 Jun 2018, 10:00

And now the dreaded topic of putting tala on both feet, which you will need very rarely, unless you are tested by those laya specialists (ahem, terrorists :mrgreen: ). Or if you plan on creating rhythmic terror yourself. :D

I presume that all the laya exercises like the AMS ones, eduppu varsais or their more complex variations first with simply beating and then in various talas and nadais for the hands have been transferred to your feet. You should have tried them on both your left and right leg.

I also hope you have at least as a rasika, taken this concept to your nearby concert and tested the waters and found out how well it works for you.

Now get a notebook and a pen / pencil. Write down the two talas one below the other. Let's say you have decided to do Adi and roopaka talas. Their LCM works out to be 24, so 3 cycles of Adi and 8 of roopaka will coincide.

First start with tapping, and instead of proceeding to singing or playing, for the first beat, think of what you will be putting on your right foot and your left foot, as you so with the hands. And then the next. And so on.

First master the combined cycle movement. Write down the beats of each tala one below the other and if required, physically bend your foot and see it for yourself. The combined cycle will always have a unique pair for each beat.

For chapu talas, note that the half beat can create a complication where the beats are first aligned in sync, then they criss cross out of sync by 1/2 a beat. You must write down exactly where in the pattern will each beat come and how they overlap. Pay attention to every beat pair separately, then 2 beat pairs at a time, then 4, etc. Then get the entire pattern. Only then try to render the entire cycle in one go.

Then start with a laya exercise or a sarali or janta varsai at 1 note per beat, then 2, 4, maybe 8 if you can, then 1 note per 2 beats and 1 note per 4 beats. The notebook and pen are your best friends. Things will get complicated when you attempt more complex patterns or do eduppu exercises.

This in general is no different from mastering it on the hands.

There is a way to combine 2 talas in 2 different nadais, which you will get if you put 1 regular and 1 chapu tala or 2 chapu talas together. For further details on double talas, I will see if I can have a separate thread for it.

Using this same principle, you can combine legs and hands to do 3 talas at once, or even 4. You just need to know the combined sequence, which will be unique for each beat. It is not impossible or as tough as it seems. It's just a question of trying.

Ok, if you're sweating bullets, or all this 'academic mumbo jumbo' has turned you off, I have good news. We are going back to one foot. But next time, we will first take a look at the specific movements in guru, plutam and kakapadam and how I render them - namely krshya, sarpini, patakam and patitam. Then we can come to the 3 talangas. Next time, I will introduce you to 'the detachable foot' and a splash of color.
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#131 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 08 Jul 2018, 11:31

Hmm...no response. Guess they're all at TMK's concert featuring Allah and a growling tiger. ;)

Anyway, Lesson # 7. Add a bit of colour.

Next time you do the exercises, just as you start, think for one moment that there's a flash of green light illuminating your foot, or that some how your foot is in a 'green zone' immediately in front of you. Or remember a green signal on the first beat. You may even think of your foot in clear water with a tinge of light green. Or tapping on a bed of green grass. Anything you want.

I hope you all remember what a spectrum looks like right? I go with red on the left end, green in the middle, violet on the right.

So now think of the left end with a flash of red and keep tapping. You may imagine a Ferrari or a red cushion, anything.

Then, think of the right end with a flash of purple. Tap a pattern to it. A royal velvet purple cushion maybe.

Then come back to middle, back to green again.

Then do this with two additional colours - sky blue (literally think of your foot tapping in the sky and clouds) and brown (think either the garden earth or through the wooden stage).

This lesson could be skipped in favour of the next. But as a visual marker, it's useful for now.
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#132 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 03 Dec 2018, 20:33

So, after a long break, here I go once again. And now introducing the detachable foot. This requires a more advanced imagination, so you should have practiced the above exercises a lot and understood the concept of creating a small amount of tension through visualization and will power. You should have no problems feeling and visualizing any of the 35 talams.

Just imagine your foot is actually a 5 fingered boot with an ankle that can be detached like a dolls foot and placed anywhere you want (do not try it for real!!!!).

The question : What do you do for the more complex movements - krishya (handwave to the left + finger counts), sarpini (handwave right + finger counts), patakam (handwave up + finger counts) and patitam (handwave down + finger counts)?

This is what you do. First, do the usual movement for laghu of 4 counts on your right foot. FI-CN-BO-CO. We will now call this the centre zone. This zone is now only for laghu.

Then in a flash of red light, your right foot has now appeared on your left side (as if someone put it next to you). The foot facing left (ankle to toes), tapping the same 4 laghu count pattern. Or imagine that your right leg somehow instantly stretched all the way to your left side and your foot is tapping the laghu pattern there - this might create a tension on the inside of your thigh muscle. Or your ankle might have instinctively moved a bit further left than usual. Maybe your head moved left a bit. It's fine. It means you felt the difference at least by a millimeter.

The reason for red is to add to the visualization. You may also for simplicity visualize your foot now tapping and illuminated red in an area left of center.

You must synchornize the "teleportation" of your foot with the first beat of the tAlanga that you are counting. In other words, on the first beat of the laghu, your foot is instantly on your left side. Other beats will then happen as normal.

We will now put an additional L symbol in front of our usual notation. Therefore, the 4 laghu movement becomes LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO. This is the krishya.

For the sarpini, imagine your foot suddenly appeared in a flash of violet / purple colour on your right side like someone placed it on your right --- on the first beat.

The toes and the whole foot are pointing right instead and tapping as usual. We will then add an R to our notation and make it RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO. This is the sarpini. For additional visualization imagine a zone illuminated by purple light where you foot is tapping, right of center.

For patakam, in a flash of sky blue, think of your foot standing vertically on your head, facing vertically upward (ankle on the head, toes pointing up to the sky) and tapping (ok, now your tapping is perpendicular). Or imagine the urdha tandava murti, where Shiva has his foot facing up. The first beat will happen in this position, which means the visualization occurred instantly on the first beat.

So imagine there is a vertical plate for your foot to tap against, or imagine your foot tapping on your head. The sky blue conveys a memory of looking upward. So this is the upward zone. We shall now call this movement as UFI-UCN-UBO-UCO.

For patitam, do the exact opposite. In a flash of brown colour (for ground), imagine your foot fell through the floor like some trap door opened up and is now facing vertically downward (toes downward) -- and then the first beat of the laghu happens. It is tapping against a vertical surface. And it's illuminated by brown light. So we will put a D prefix and call this movement as DFI-DCN-DBO-DCO.

Put simple tAlas like tisra ekam, mishra chApu or roopakam in all 4 zones (left, right, up and down) to get the idea.

This was for chatushra jAti laghu. Now you can combine this concept with the other 4 laghus as well.

So what you basically did was, you tapped the same laghu beats as before, but you imagined your foot tapping to 4 different places in 4 different directions. That extra dimension is superimposed over the laghu beats

Using these four movements, you may then simulate a guru, plutam and kAkapadam. Now this is how I do it for chatushra jAti.
1) Guru - RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO-LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO -- Why this order of combination? Because to avoid confusion with laghu, plutam and kAkapadam. Basically 1st 4 beats with foot on right side, then next 4 beats with foot on left side.

2) Plutam - FI-CN-BO-CO-LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO-RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO - first 4 beats normal laghu, next 4 beats with foot on left side, next 4 beats with foot on right side.

3) kAkapadam - LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO-RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO-UFI-UCN-UBO-UCO-DFI-DCN-DBO-DCO - first 4 beats with foot on left side, next 4 beats with foot on right side, next 4 beats with foot on top of head, next 4 beats with foot under the ground.

All this applies to your right foot. If it were your left foot, just like with your left hand, you'd have to mirror the left and right movements. Up and down does not change.

With this, if you can integrate all the lessons, you can render all the tAlAs in Carnatic Music, in all kalais and naDais, and it will only be as difficult is it is on the hands.

There is another simpler visualization as well. Next post.
Last edited by SrinathK on 03 Dec 2018, 23:02, edited 3 times in total.
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#133 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 03 Dec 2018, 20:57

Another way is to imagine 4 glass plates in front of you. The red plate is on your front left, the right plate is purple and on your front right. The sky blue plate is floating in the air at head level. The brown plate is located below the ground level (think if you're sitting on a platform on top of the stage and the plate is on the stage floor, it will be below the platform level).

Now if your foot instantly appears on the first beat on the left, red plate and taps the laghu beats there, that is krishya (L). Similarly, right purple plate is sarpini (R), top blue plate is for patakam (U) and the plate at the bottom is for patitam (D). For normal laghu, you assume your foot instantly attached itself back to your leg as normal. On all plates, your foot is tapping normally up and down. You just essentially tap the laghu on 4 different plates kept in 4 different directions.

This is a simpler visualization. By adding a directional component to the normal l, we can now execute the guru, plutam and kakapadam in chatushra jAti as follows :

1) Guru - RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO-LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO - 4 beats on the right plate, then 4 beats on the left plate
2) Plutam - FI-CN-BO-CO-LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO-RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO - 4 beats normal, then 4 beats on the left plate, and the next 4 on the right plate.
3) kAkapadam - LFI-LCN-LBO-LCO-RFI-RCN-RBO-RCO-UFI-UCN-UBO-UCO-DFI-DCN-DBO-DCO - 4 beats on left plate, next 4 on right, next 4 on top plate, next 4 on bottom plate.

If you use the left foot, the movements are mirrored. So left and right should swap. If you can work hard enough, you can actually do double talas on both feet even with these complicated angas.

I told you it is very difficult to communicate it through writing. But maybe you should try it for a few weeks and then you will suddenly get it.

And there we are. Now you can put any tAlA, even the Simhanandana, with knowledge of these movements.

Any easier ways? Well there is one. See, a video is worth a million words, so I will try to see if I can share a video of just what I am trying to suggest. In that video, I will show the visualization movements with my HANDS (because see, the foot can't do any of these movements, it can just tap up and down) which once you see them again and again and get it memorized will allow you to visualize those movements and count on your feet. This is very easy to show. The whole concept will be quite easily clear after that.

Pro Tip : If any of you have doubts about visualization, try using your hands to imitate the movements from post #122 onwards and tap your feet in sync with your hands. The hands can do all these movements and you can also move your arms to the left, right, over your head head and below your legs easily. Turn your hand sideways (thumbs up position) instead of palms down so that it will be oriented just like your foot will be while sitting down on the floor and try it. Your hands will show you what to visualize. You may even memorize the movements on your hands an then use those visualizations to guide the feet and they will work just as well.

As Albert Einstein once put it, Imagination is more powerful than knowledge. :mrgreen:
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#134 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 12 Dec 2018, 13:50

I've copied my posts on this topic over to the tala and laya thread here : viewtopic.php?f=8&t=32223

@girish_a I haven't heard from you in months. Looking at the date since this thread was opened, it's been almost 11 years!
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#135 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by girish_a » 23 Dec 2018, 10:29

@SrinathK I just checked rasikas and saw your message. My apologies, I have been extremely busy and haven't been able to make time for this. But your new post gives me renewed inspiration. I will definitely try out your invaluable suggestions soon. Thanks a lot!

And yes, this thread is almost 11 years old! It was my very first rasikas post! I posted it almost the very minute I stumbled upon this lovely site on Google :)
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#136 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 01 Jan 2019, 16:12

Would you believe me if I told you this was one of the first threads I ever found on this site? I can't recall just how I got to rasikas, must have been checking some bios of musicians or lyrics, but this thread was one of the first few ones I ever read here - because I was facing this problem as a student. Sometimes if we're really patient enough, things happen. :D

I am very pleased to tell you I have tested my techniques in all the concerts I attended in recent days to my satisfaction, it really does handle everything - but I need more practice for paying attention while handling tough naDais and in tanis. I also slightly tweaked the khanDa laghu pattern to a simpler one. (It's in the post).

I also realize I need more flexibility in my joints. Using a very small bean pillow and letting your foot hang of the edge of it gives a great increase in range of motion.

I have seen some violinists count using their bow hand while bowing. I tried that and I totally lost my bow. And it was harder than putting it on the feet. Junked.
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#137 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 01 Jan 2019, 16:23

The glass plate idea was also useful for handling back to back angas - like Dhruva tala - L+D+L+L. I could just visualize two glass plates in a zone and tap on one, then the other to demarcate the two laghus apart (a trick I do with my hands is to ever so slightly tap at a slightly different place for the 2nd laghu, works like a charm).

I had an idea to use the same technique for handling 2x or 4x kaLais. Make sure your tapping sequence is fixed.

So looking back, what did I do?

1) A visualization + feel sequence for each talAnga
2) naDai subbeats.

This alone is enough for all the 175 tAlas and the chApu tAlas and others in all eDuppus and even 2x and 4x kaLais on it's own

3) More complex visualizations. Concept of using 5 zones in 5 directions and colors for the 108 talas and their special angas - guru, plutam, kakapadam a.k.a. The glowing coloured glass plate technique.

4) Using multiple glass plates in a zone for back to back tALangas or multiple kaLai (2x or 4x). Just because it makes it easier. Not really necessary though. You never see anything more complex than 2 laghus or dhrutams back to back. And the hands don't have it easier.
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#138 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by SrinathK » 01 Jan 2019, 16:35

Some cheats:

Use the main artiste and take help from the percussion. If there's more than one percussion artiste on the team, one of them will almost always be kind enough to help you with the tAlA. Don't use the audience though. Most of them put it totally wrong for the simple stuff, and all of them put it beyond wrong for more complex stuff. :lol: :twisted:

99.5 % of the time, no one will test you with anything more than 1 tALa on 1 hand (Gayathri K will though :mrgreen:). You still don't need to use both your feet because she's putting the tALa for you. Nobody is so mean that they'll hide the tALa and expect you to read their mind. And if you are solo, I should just tell you that I have never seen any instrumentalist ever attempt a dwi tala pallavi on their feet, so you may actually be the first.

So you can in fact use your other foot for back to back tAlAngas. Or mark the first beat of the tala cycle, or the first beat of a laghu or dhrutam by tapping with both feet.

You may in fact physically flex your big toe on the first beat of a tAlA or on the first beat of a tAlAnga. Earlier I considered doing this all the time in imitation of the fingers, but after a few rounds of continuous flexing resulted in some rather painful muscle pulls, I realized this wasn't going to work. For me to do this routinely I should have kept flexing my toes from infancy. Still it may be used for the occasional marker. It will also coincide with the visualizations.

You may tap the laghu portion of Adi tala on one foot, and the dhrutam portion with the another.

You may, as a shortcut for guru, tap a laghu on one foot (I prefer to start with the foot you don't normally use) and the 2nd laghu on the other (the regular) foot. This will distinguish it. And you will not need to use the more complex visualization. For talas using only guru as the complicated anga, this will work.

You can also use your other foot to help you mark the first beat of a complex naDai. So one foot puts the naDai sub-beats beat, another simply counts the main beats.

If you're tested with 4 kaLai or more (I have not actually seen even a single 4 kaLai pallavi or more in recent years anywhere), each beat will need 4 or more taps. You could split those 4 or 8 50:50 on either foot.

You will get many opportunities all the time where your hands will be free and only the percussion or your other soloist / accompanist, will be playing. This includes all interludes and manodharma reply parts. Use them. You can put the tAla on your hands whenever you don't need to play.

Have someone capable on stage or in the front row keeping the tALa. Ok, now I am really cheating :lol: , but hey I've seen it. It could even be the tambura artiste. And what do you think many nagaswara musicians do? They have a guy on the cymbals paid for the job.

Do an instrumental duet. This is the mother of cheats, and it can make this thread irrelevant. :twisted: When one of you needs to improvise, the other can guide you along. It will also help that the back and forth replies and challenges will add far more spice to a concert than an individual solo. :mrgreen:

:ugeek:
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#139 Re: Techniques to keep Taala for instrumentalists

Post by girish_a » 10 Jan 2019, 21:49

Have been experimenting with a few of these techniques...will post an update.
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