My digital saadhana

Updated on: Apr 19, 2012
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In the old days, students of classical music travelled great distances and braved many tribulations to find a guru. Some even resided at the teacher's house in a tradition known as gurukulavaasam , receiving constant guidance from the guru.

Advances in technology have greatly reshaped this teacher-student interaction in the last few decades. Spread out all over the world, students of Indian classical music are able to connect with teachers and learn from them through a range of electronic aids — from audio lessons on CDs to lessons over Skype and other video-chat services.

Now, a team of music-loving entrepreneurs has come up with an innovative tool for long-distance learning called Guruswara. California-based Muzigle, co-founded by Anand Kuchibhotla and Shan Appajodu, has developed this software in collaboration with Hyderabad-based Tanla Solutions. Appajodu painstakingly worked on Tanla's intune-engine technology to come up with the Guruswara desktop application.

Thanks to its interactive nature, the software not only provides access to music lessons from online gurus but also corrects your mistakes during practice. “It thus ensures that a student's saadhana or riyaaz (practice) is as productive as possible,” explains Kuchibhotla, likening it to a teacher watching over the practice sessions back home too.

It grades the student's performance, both overall as well as on four parameters of music –– tune, shruti (pitch), laya (tempo), and melody, with the last made up of two components, namely, expression and vibrato.

Nearly 40 teachers, all vocalists, are featured in this software, including well-known names from the Carnatic world such as Trichur Ramachandran, Nithyashree Mahadevan, Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana, O.S. Thyagarajan, Saraswati Vidyardhi, Pantula Rama, Suguna Purushottaman, Komanduri Seshadri, D. Seshachary and Malladi Suribabu.

Says the vocalist Nityashree: “There can never be a replacement for a face-to-face relationship between music guru and student, and the value of this direct contact. However, I think Guruswara comes very close to being the next best thing. Guruswara is scientific, meticulously planned and well-executed. For instance, it provides a range of teachers, and sahitya (lyrics) and swara (musical notes) for each song. It is a very good aid for music students who live far away from vidushis and vidwans (scholars). After all, Carnatic music, like the Vedas, is a karnaparampara (oral tradition)!”

Agrees Dr K. Saraswati Vidyardhi, Professor of Music and Chairman, Board of Studies, Andhra University, and a top-graded vocalist: “Guruswara is useful not only for regular students but also performers and teachers, besides music aspirants who learn music informally and at any age. A useful feature I found is that, as the song plays, the corresponding notation appears on the screen. Finally, even if you are not a learner and only a listener or rasika , it can be used as yet another repository of good music to dip into.” Conceding that nothing can substitute face-to-face learning from a guru, the makers of Guruswara are clear that the application complements the process. “In fact, a few teachers are recommending this to students to get the benefit of lessons from other good gurus and thus widen their knowledge base,” says Kuchibhotla.

Feedback from users has helped the Guruswara team improve the product's user-friendliness and refine it for the second version. After Carnatic, there are plans to venture into lessons in Hindustani music too. Also on the anvil is a theory section to help students prepare for music exams held by leading universities, as also online examinations for a Guruswara certificate.

All of this is sweet music for students and even teachers/ performers who –– like all good musicians –– continue to remain students.

Published on April 19, 2012

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