Training the voice in order to be able to produce the Nada
When I started teaching Indian classical music, I realized that the center piece of my work was to make feel and understand what is Nada. Lord Brahma said about Nada : “There is no song without the Nada, nor music without it, without Nada there is no dance, indeed the whole creation itself is Nada”. Now the question is : what is Nada? The word of Nada means “sound”, the sound that is heard by the human ear. There are two types of Nada. First, the sounds that are pleasant to the ears, or musical, and second the sounds that are dissonant and non-musical. Nada is the sound produced through the regular and constant vibration of some object in space. Through my years of teaching and my experience as a singer, I developed a way to train the voice in order to be able to produce the Nada, the sound. Which is essential, because without knowing how to produce the sound, how can we create music ?
Training the voice in order to be able to produce the “natural” sound
One of the big difference between Indian classical music and European classical music, in a technical matter, is the way the voice sounds. Indian classical music uses what I call “natural sound”. Vocabulary used to describe what we are talking about is a big issue not to lead to misunderstanding through different interpretations, even more between different cultures. What I mean by natural sound can be compared with what is sometimes called in Europe “mix voice”. In comparison, European classical voices use what I call the “soprano sound”, or sometimes called “head voice”. This sound is not used in the Indian classical music. So another part of my teaching to European people is guiding them in discovering their “natural sound”. The natural sound is within everyone, everyone has it inside of him or her, the key is to know how to discover it. In my understanding, this difference comes from our different backgrounds, and especially from the sounds we have been exposed to, from the very begging of our life. Indian people are used to hear music using the “natural sound”, which is for me the original sound of the human being, while in the European classical culture the “soprano sound” is more present. So when teaching to European people, the first technique I am teaching is how to produce the “natural sound”. In my teaching, I use different vowels, which are related to different chakras of the human body, or cosmic sounds, like the Om. These chakra’s sounds will help to energize the human body to get the vital power necessary to train the voice. At the same time, we’re finding the root to create the sound, to develop the voice, and to develop the tonal quality and precision of the voice. By doing this, we are also opening all the chakras. I am looking for a sound that comes from the root chakra, without pushing, coming out naturally, keeping the connection, free and flowing. After many years of teaching, my experience showed me how it has benefited for all people, and particularly to European people.
Only after having developed the sounds, having felt them, I will teach more about Indian music structure and its grammatical organization.
The whole process is called Nada Yoga. As the asanas (physical postures in yoga) are used to make the physical body flexible, this is our way to make the voice flexible.
Indian music is based on a melodic approach, compared to a harmonic approach in Europe. While flowing through a melody, in Indian music, the way notes are linked to one another is a crucial point. I am teaching how we use microtones to link the notes, the rounding points, and the different attacks of the notes. The tuning of the voice is another fundamental aspect, precision and feeling are meticulously developed. Finally, no vibrato is used in Indian music. Therefore, I teach how to hold the sounds as straight as possible, looking for long and stable sounds.
Learning process, ear training
Indian music is an oral tradition. The learning process is based on listening, hearing, and repeating. In the tradition, the guru (the master) sings and the student repeats what he is hearing. No texts, books or papers are used, everything is transmitted by ear. Sitting together with the student, the teacher sings as many times as needed the musical phrases with the student, taking the time to base the skills. This way of learning differs a lot from western countries where written and visual support are predominant. It is an excellent way to develop ear training.
Compared to a more mental approach, Indian music teaching is based on the perception, the sense, the feeling and the experience. It’s learning process doesn’t separate and isolate its different components. Through the exercices, the sound, the technique, the breath, the tuning, the music theory, the rhythm, the timing, the memory, the ear training, the lyrics, the feelings, the moods, and the musical sensitivity are trained together, as a whole. In a deeper and even spiritual dimension, everything being connected, linked, and having a meaning.
For indian musicians, through this infinite learning, there is no need of practicing separate meditation, as music is the most important meditation.