Q&A

I don’t know how to read music… how can I learn how to play these chants on a harmonium or other keyboard?
Many of these chants are very simple… even I could learn to play them. You are only playing with your right hand. The left hand would normally be pumping the harmonium. Each of the notes on the PDF notation is associated to a key on the keyboard, depending on the position of the note on the staff. The shape tells you how long to hold the note.

You can search for a free introduction piano course and find out which notes go to which keys and in no time, be playing along. Its best to start off with the easier chants such as K-05, R-04, R-16, or R-29.  In most of the chants either the “G” or “A” note below middle-C is held down with the thumb to provide a drone.

If you have an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, the Anytune app is great for putting these MP3 recordings on your device. This app lets you mark a section that you are trying to learn and repeat it in a loop at a different speed or even pitch.

What equipement do I need?
At minimum, you will need a keyboard of some kind. I purchased a used Casio keyboard with mini-keys for $50 on eBay. The mini-keys are almost identical to the harmonium key size and allow you to hold the drone with your thumb and still have a decent reach with your fingers. If you’d like to get a harmonium, a reputable source is Musicians Mall.

What equipement do you use to make the recordings?
Wayne: I own an older Bina harmonium but keep that at the place where I do group meditation and so did not have access to it for doing the recordings. In the beginning I used an old mini-key Casio keyboard that I bought for $50. Then I received an iPad as a gift and kept adding onto the iPad. I bought a Korg microKEY 37-Key USB Powered Keyboard for $80 on Amazon but had some challenges plugging it into the iPad. After research, I found that I could plug it into Apple’s USB camera adapter. In addition, Korg makes a bluetooth version of the 37-Key keyboard that connects wirelessly to the iPad. The Korg’s keys are about the same size as a harmonium.

On the iPad I purchased the Bismark bs-16i app which has an excellent accordion sound sample that sounds like a harmonium. Combining the “bs-16i” with the Korg gave me velocity sensitive keys, which didn’t act like a harmonium so I added the MidiBridge app to flatten out the velocity curve. The tabla sounds in many of the recordings were generated by the iTablePro app.

I also purchased a semi-professional microphone with a USB output and a mike stand. I bought Apple’s “camera connection kit” and a powered USB hub (I had to try many hubs before I found one that worked). Then the microphone and the Korg keyboard plug into the hub with the hub plugging into the camera connection kit. I do multi-track recording with the MultiTrack app, export to “wav” files, and do the final editing and mix-down in Audacity.

Recently I went crazy and purchased the iConnectAUDIO4+ and this is an amazing device. I can plug up to 4 microphones via XLR connectors or 1/4″ plugs. I also plug my Korg keyboard into it via the USB midi input and it powers the Korg keyboard. It also has midi DIN input/output connectors. I even plug an electric guitar into it. Finally, and most amazingly, it powers and charges the iPad while it is operating.

Tami: I use a full-sized keyboard,  the Yamaha Portable Grand. For percussion, I use the auto-play function of MuseScore and play it from my PC. For recording, I use an iPod Touch with AudioMemos app.

I also use MuseScore for notation: It is a free notation software application available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Are these chants from a particular spiritual group?
I have been a member of Dhyanyoga Centers since 1989 and have collected many chants from that group. I have also collected chants from other individuals and groups. In addition, I have composed a few of the chants myself. Many of these chants are common among spiritual groups and get modified by each individual group and singer that expresses them.

16 thoughts on “Q&A

  1. gail pisani

    Hi,
    I used to play piano. I teach yoga and I want to play the harmonium to accompany chanting. I have just found your site. Someone is bringing a harmonium to class tomorrow, so I will give it a try!
    many thanks, Gail

    Reply
    1. Wayne Weber Post author

      Gail,

      I would love to attend a yoga class where the teacher plays harmonium and chants. Keep in touch and let us know what chants you are using in your class.

      Peace & Love,
      Wayne

      Reply
  2. Chinmayi

    Thank you so much for providing these wonderful chants. I have just started learning to play harmonium and offer kirtan in my local area so this website is invaluable. Deep gratitude for everything that you offer here. Om Namah Shivai! <3

    Reply
    1. Wayne Weber Post author

      Chinmayi,

      Comments like yours are very gratifying. We wish you the best in your kirtans and keep in touch.

      Peace & Love,
      Wayne

      Reply
  3. Joe

    Hey Wayne,

    Just stumbled across your site. Wanted to send you some gratitude and positive energy. Great resource. Thanks for the offering.

    Reply
  4. Joan Stango

    I am trying to learn Amba Parameshwari (M-16). On the notated sheet you state that an A drone is played through the whole chant. I’m finding that this is not possible when one has to play the low A and B. Can you please clarify how you do this. This is a beautiful chant and I’m doing my best to modify the drone around this but I would love to play your version.

    Thank you so much for this website, and for being so generous notating and recording all the chants.

    Joan

    Reply
    1. Wayne Weber Post author

      Joan,

      Thanks for your comments… we are overjoyed to get such feedback.

      Regarding your question, I simply take my thumb off the “A” (drone) when playing the “B” note. Then I play the next “A” but leave my thumb on that “A” to maintain the drone for the rest of the notes.

      Hope that answers your question… let me know how it goes.

      Wayne

      Reply
      1. Joan

        Hi Wayne,

        That’s works – thank you! Another question: it’s very difficult to play the first measure with the low A (drone note) at the beginning. It’s quite a reach for my hand. Suggestions?

        Thank you,
        Joan

        Reply
        1. Wayne Weber Post author

          Joan,

          If you are playing with a full-sized keyboard, it will be quite a reach indeed. The only reason we drone with our thumb is because our left hand is pumping the harmonium. A harmonium also has mini-keyboard sized keys so the stretch for your hand is very doable. If you are planning to eventually buy a harmonium, you could buy an electronic keyboard with mini-sized keys to practice on. Otherwise you can play the drone note with your left hand and the melody with your right hand.

          Reply
    2. Tami Ujiie

      Dear Joan,

      Thanks for visiting our site.
      Basically, the first or the fifth note of the scale is selected as the drone note. Since the key of M-16 is A, you can use either A (1st) or E (5th) as the drone.
      For example, you can use E drone for the 2nd line and 4th line.
      Or, you can do as Wayne does.

      Tami

      Reply
        1. Tami Ujiie

          Joan,

          I am not very familiar with the raga system.
          Though many of the chants in this website have their origin in India, they are not necessarily based on the raga system. Some are simplified (Westernized) so anyone could sing easily despite the musical background. Some are even composed by non-Indian musicians.

          Tami

          Reply

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