Chandraveena by S. Balachander

Here is a step-by-step introduction to my music on the Chandraveena. Check my to listen to my full length recordings.

A Glimpse

Before we begin, here is a brief glimpse of a typical Chandraveena recital.

By no means does this clip fully represent the music, but it provides a glimpse into the different sections of musical improvisations, and the expressive power that is possible. To better understand and appreciate, let us review all the parts of this recital.

Building blocks - Raga and Tala

This recital may be understood in two parts. As you may have noticed, there is a part without percussion, and a part with percussion accompaniment. The first part of the recital is a free flowing expression of the Raga based on the fundamental principles of Raga Alapana, without any percussion accompaniment. The second part is a Pallavi (composition) set to a fixed cycle of beats, in this case in a 12 beat cycle called Chautal. This two part presentation is also a very typical rendition of Dhrupad.

Dhrupad, a shortening of Dhruva-Pada (fixed verse), is a style of music evolved from a poetry based musical style called Prabandha (arrangement). In its contemporary musical form, Dhrupad consists of two sections, Anibaddha (unbound) which is a free flowing music also called Raga Alapana, and Nibaddha (bound) which is a poetry or instrumental composition set to a fixed cycle of beats accompanied by a percussion instrument. Dhrupad is contemplative music by nature, and is characterised by a gradual and methodical unfurling of the musical possibilities of the Raga.

A similar system followed in Southern India is called Ragam Tanam Pallavi.

Read this post to learn more about the Indian music system of Raga and Tala.

Chandraveena - a modern string instrument

The recital has been performed on the Chandraveena, which is my musical instrument of choice. It enables me to portray different aspects of Indian music in all its finesse. Chandraveena is a contemporary string instrument. Though structurally similar to Saraswati Veena, a traditional Indian string instrument, I regard the Chandraveena as a reflection of my musical identity and values. It has been specially designed to enable the creation of elaborate musical phrases and subtle intonations. Chandraveena has a calm, deep and resonating sound, which creates the ideal soundscape for the contemplative music.

Read this post to learn more about the making of the Chandraveena.

Structure of a Performance

As mentioned before, there are two main parts to a rendition, called the Alap and the Composition.


The Alap is performed without any rhythmic accompaniment.

Om Anantam Tvam Tarana Tarana Tvam Hari Narayana Om

Vocalists often use syllables like Ri, Te, Ta, Ra and Na, as abstract syllables to sing Alap. These syllables are derived from the chant above known as the Vishnu Mantra. For instrumentalists, particularly Veena players, the practice is to use a combination of plucking and finger strokes to simulate these syllables.

The Alap is performed in three parts.

  1. The first part is again called Alap. This is the free flowing exposition of a Raga (melody) within the Grammar of the Raga Alapana. Here, we explore different facets of the Raga, the subtleties of every note and phrase, and use of different Alankars (ornamentation) to effectively bring out emotions, all the while maintaining the purity of the structure, according to the principles of Indian Raga system.

  1. Jod is the second part of Alap, where there is a sense of self-rhythm or pulse created which is built into the musical phrases. The self-rhythm is created by the appropriate use of the rhythm strings built in the instrument.

  1. Jhala is the faster rhythmic section of the alap. In this section, there is extensive use of the rhythm strings, creating a feeling of dancing movements.

The last two sections are commonly known as the Madhyamakalam or Tanam in Southern India.


The composition is either a lyrical poetry (commonly called “bandish” or “kriti” or “pallavi” in case of vocal music) or a musical phrase (instrumental composition called Gat) created to a certain fixed rhythmic cycle. Some of examples of rhythmic cycles are Aadi Tal (8/16 beats), Chautal (12 beats), Jhap/Jhampa (10 beats), Tivra (7 beats) etc. Here, we create different improvised rhythmic musical phrases within the framework of the Raga, and repeatedly rejoin the main basic phrase, either over a single cycle or after multiple cycles.

This composition has been set to a cycle of 12 beats, also called Chautal

This section is commonly known as the Pallavi in Southern India.

Thanks for Listening!

I appreciate your interest in Chandraveena. I hope you enjoyed the music. Do check out my Discography page. Thanks for listening!

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