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Basic Ornamentation


In Indian music, a melodic instrument, for the most part, is considered to be a classical one if it can replicate the human voice to various degrees. Besides merely playing notes, one must also be able to include ornamentation. If one is not familiar with Indian ornamentation, it would be advised to read Ornamentation of Indian Music before moving onwards.


Sitar is considered a classical instrument, because it has some ability to mimic various features of the human voice. In this scope, we will look at the meend (mind), or the glissando.


Achieving a meend is a very simple theoretically. The idea is to start at one note and connect to another hitting every microtone between the two notes. First, fret and play the note on the fingerboard. Using the thumb for good leverage, pull the string downward (vertically toward the ground). One should notice that the pitch of the string is going higher as you keep pulling downwards. Watch the video and see how you can play the major scale exercises by doing the meend. Notice how she plays the two notes separately and then uses the first note to meend its way to the second note.


The average sitar should be able to pull at least four or five semitones. If it cannot, then the sitar is not up to minimal standards. If your sitar goes off tune when you do meends, you either need to restring your sitar with fresh strings or your jawari needs to be redone.


For those who have no experience with stringed instruments, the meend will be painful for a while. Your finger will not be used to pull metal strings at such a tension. Your index and middle finger of your left hand (if you are a right handed person), after repeated practice, will develop calluses. The hardened calluses will allow you to play meends more easily. These calluses remain only with repeated practice. A good time period without practicing or playing the sitar will cause these calluses to be eaten away and the process of rebuilding calluses becomes compulsory again.


As seen in the video, one can either use meends to embellish notes, connect one note to another, or play a phrase or collection of notes using one fret.


UPDATED: June 23, 2009