Learn to play Carnatic Indian Classical on Guitar (Acoustic / Electric)

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In the above video, watch Indian Classical song Alaipayuthey played on an Acoustic guitar, without any effects, without any edits, directly as recorded on a point and shoot camera using the camera mic.

Want to play Carnatic on the guitar but can’t find something easy enough to start with?

Don’t know where to start? The finger and hand movements on the Carnatic guitar videos you see are too fast to follow? Need something simple enough to understand?

We will be playing Carnatic on a standard tuned guitar – acoustic guitar will do.

The basics of playing carnatic on guitar are explained in the song videos, so that you can start with them without having to learn any other basic lessons. 

Hand and finger movements to play Indian classical on the guitar

The video below shows an adaptation of Thillana in Dhanshri on the guitar. Playing this song on the guitar involves a mix of vertical and horizontal movements on the fretboard, little finger usage, hammer ons, pull offs and slides. (See below for the link to buy detailed instruction videos for this Thillana)

To play carnatic on the guitar, you want to learn the basic hand and finger movements associated with Carnatic playing.

The different kinds of slurs and hammer on pull-offs along with slides give the carnatic sound.

When starting out it is a vertical skill growth, but once your muscles and brain are used to the underlying movements, further carnatic playing on guitar will be more of a horizontal plane repertoire making.

Here is some learning material which will help you start and guide you in the right direction helping  you form the right habits?

What is included?

  • Detailed videos – Each consonant and vowel is explained - that is the level of detail we will get into. For example if we are playing a phrase with the word ‘Aananda’, I will show you which finger/string/fret to use for each of the three part of the word, ‘Aa’ ‘Na’ and ‘Nda’.
  • Part by part The videos can be downloaded in pieces, as parts, most often phrase by phrase. In reality, this is how we will be practicing it, even when learning from a teacher face to face: phrase by phrase. You may download all the parts at the same time, but choose to focus and build your skill in manageable phases.
  • While showing you how to play a syllable, word, phrase – wherever needed I have sung the part while playing, so that you can sync the words with what we play on the guitar. No, you don’t need to sing – we just use the words over the guitar playing, so that you know exactly what we are playing, and connect the guitar with the words and melody.
  • We are trying to imitate a vocalist. How the song can be ‘sung on a guitar’. We use slides, hammer ons and pull offs to do this. Each technique used is explained with the string/fret/finger spelled out.
  • How long is the video? As mentioned before, we give attention to detail – each syllable and finger movement is explained to the needed micro level. Length, therefore is just a resultant parameter. The videos are as long as it is needed to explain the details to you.
  • Basic video to start playing slides, hammer ons and pull offs included.
  • Played in time videos Along with the explanation videos, we have the phrase or song played in real time, which shows you how it is meant to sound finally, so that you have a clear final result to practice for – a guide to combining the parts to make the whole.

Beginner to Guitar?

Here is a video which shows how to start with the C major scale, basic lesson, and practising to easily start playing carnatic slides. Download Video

How will these Video tutorials help you learn Indian classical?

The videos show you how to play the song on the guitar, part by part, slowed down, with detailed instruction.

Any carnatic phrase in the videos can be seen as combination of slides, hammer ons and pull offs. These videos can be used by someone new to carnatic playing. The content in this videos will serve as basic lessons on playing carnatic, because each phrase is slowed down and dissected into their component slides, hammer ons and pull offs.

The Alaipayuthe video, for example, starts with simple slides, hammer ons and pull offs. How to play each, is shown clearly including the fingers and technique. This makes the videos good for beginners without having the need to go through any basic lessons on the techniques used to play Carnatic on guitar.

The videos are shown playing the melody on acoustic guitar. You don’t need an electric guitar or effects to play what is taught in the videos.

Phrases are split to easy to digest pieces. Each phrase is slowed down. Whenever needed, the moves are explained in terms of string/fret, hammer on, pull off or slides used to produce the characteristic Indian classical sound.

You can get each full course for $38 at the moment. 4 hours of class with a good tutor will cost you much more than the price of this bundle. Each video course listed in this page is easily more than 8 hours of class with a very good teacher who is thorough with the path that will lead you to the satisfying experience as a Carnatic Guitar Musician.

The videos help you start with playing carnatic on the guitar, and by the end you will actually have a song ready to perform. You can keep coming back to the video and correct your speed and phrasing without depending on a tutor. Best thing is, the course is accessible immediately, for you to start now without any delay.

The playing can be split into basic hammer ons, pull offs and slides, which when stringed together forms the song. Each phrase and move is explained in the video tutorials.

Do I need carnatic training or knowledge to use these videos?

The videos explain clearly which fret or string to play on, dividing the song into small manageable bits of phrase.

You may listen and get familiar with the song you wish to play, but you don’t have to know the Carnatic aspects of the song, because the videos show you the practical details on how to make the melody on the guitar.

As you practice the videos you may start understanding swaras and the patterns they form on the fretboard.

Basics of playing Carnatic on Guitar?

Any Indian classical phrase is made of Slides, hammer ons and pull offs. As you get better with slides, hammer ons and pull offs, your Indian classical on guitar playing gets better too.

You can practice the slides, hammer ons and pull offs. You can practice them as part of a song. So that, you get to practice the basics and by the time you are done, you are playing a song, a complete composition, which serves as a benchmark or assessing tool for your growth in playing, at the same time a final product you can perform for yourself or for an audience.

These videos break down the compositions to phrases, phrases to its component notes, fingering, frets – strings, hammer – ons, slides and pull offs.

So, yes, you don’t need any other basic instruction to start playing Carnatic. These videos show you the basic most elements and how to execute them. Then, when they are sequenced together, you get the satisfaction of playing a complete song.

Using standard tuning for Indian classical

We will be using the usual standard tuning for the guitar, and won’t be changing the tuning. The same usual guitar tuning will be enough for us to play carnatic.

Guitar is used the world over to play widely different kind of music. Extremely long phrases, fast phrases, long interval phrases – all have been played on the guitar – paganini melodies, Malmsteen and other masters…

The standard tuning is about how the notes on the strings are arranged on the instrument, for convenience of playing music on the instrument. When vertically moving between the strings, the standard tuning offers a convenient, compact arrangement of notes between the frets.

When playing carnatic, or imitating any vocal based music, we hit on a consonant in the given phrase, play the remaining elaboration (aa or ee or oo extension after the consonant) on the same string, without hit, while sustaining the sound by using slides, hammer ons, pull offs.

Keeping the Carnatic or classical nature of the music is achieved by playing elaborations between consonants on the same string, starting with a hit on a consonant. You will understand this better when you start working with the videos.

Using chords along with playing Carnatic, is possible since we use standard tuning. The vast expertise of western harmony can be applied immediately to Carnatic or Indian classical when we use a standard tuned guitar to play Indian classical or Carnatic.

Video and audio quality

Here is another example video showing how to play part of the Thillana by Swathi Thirunal: Padumanabha 01(Right click and save as).

Please use the above video to decide if the video and audio quality suits your needs. Downloading to watch makes sure that you see the video in its full size. The previews given on this page are smaller than the videos included in the bundle. 

The videos have been used by many to learn, so it definitely works. But, i would still like to leave the decision to you, respecting your personal choice and needs – the zoom, view of the fingers, strings, frets, etc.

How do we make sure that the learning is not overwhelming?

The videos are cut into small pieces so that you can download just one at a time, practice it from your computer, get a good grip on it and then move on to the rest.

The part by part approach leaves you from being overwhelmed by what you have to do and helps you concentrate on what is doable now.

Playing Carnatic on the Guitar – the Bigger Picture

When you are just starting out to play the horizontal movements, slides from say, the first string 7th to the first string 3rd fret, your hand may find it difficult to stop at the right fret.

Similarly when doing a slide from the left to the right, you may stop short the first few times, the movement over the frets maybe too obvious or you may overshoot and go to the fret further from where you are supposed to stop.

In my experience, there is very obvious muscle movement learning that happens with time. Similar to the ‘whip’ that Bruce Lee used to talk about, the ability to touch a far note and come back and then maybe execute one more short slide to the right.

It is fun. The finger tips will hurt in the beginning, but then that is the pain that precedes satisfaction.

The videos includes detailed slurs, slides, hammer-on, pull-off combinations that will make you practice the right movements that will help you continue with carnatic playing.

You get immediate access to phrase by phrase videos showing each phrase played along with the fret and string numbers spelled out – this helps a lot when starting to play. 

Choose your songs

You can start with any of the following songs. But if you want a suggestion of just one, start with Alaipayuthey, since it is very melodic, made popular by ARRahman, has basic moves explained in detail. Or, the Geethams on Guitar pack which explains the geetams and swarajati, which is the basic learning material which any Carnatic student goes through.

Each of them have clear instructions that will show you how to play them on the guitar fretboard. Additionally, if you need any extra material to help you with the learning process, just write to me and I will be happy to send you the instruction and include it along with the other learning material.

Alaipayuthe Kanna on Guitar – Complete Video Tutorials

Buy now to get the Alaipayuthe video package for $38.

Click on the button below to gain immediate access to downloadable videos with complete step by step instruction on how to play Alaipayuthe Kanna (Raga Kanada)

Example video: Anandamogana venuganamathil Right click and save as




(When you click on the button, you are taken to Paypal, a trusted online payment service provider. Your financial information is not shown to me or a third party. It is safe.)

The Geetham for Guitar videos have been temporarily made unavailable. Will be back in a few days.

Thillana in Raga Dhanshri (Geethadhu) by Sri Swathi Thirunal – Complete Video Tutorial

Buy now to get the Dhanasri Thillana video package for $38.

Click on the button below to gain access to video tutorials explaining to you how to play Dhanshri Tillana on the guitar. (the video of the song being played on the guitar is near the top of page.)

Mahaganapatim Manasa Smarami (Raga Nattai) – Complete Video Tutorial

Here is a video that shows a part of improvisation on Mahaganapatim. The actual video you download from the course page will be of bigger dimensions (this video is weboptimized). Download Video

Buy now to get the Mahaganapatim video package for $38.

Click on the button below to gain access to video tutorials explaining to you how to play Mahaganapatim on the guitar.

Guarantee

For a full 2 months, any time you can tell me that you are not happy and i will give you a refund. :)

p.s. If you have any doubts or need any clarification once you start learning, you can mail me using the contact form at this site and i am here to help you with it.

Request song your choice

Please write to me using the form below to let me know if you have a specific song in mind which you need instruction for.

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