Learn Harmonium

Parts of a Harmonium:

Harmonium is a miniature version of a piano. Despite the similarity, the sound quality is entirely different. The Harmonium is also known as the ‘pump organ’ or a reed organ that produces sounds that contain ‘bellows’. Harmonium is made up of different parts that give it a different sound. Information about different parts of a harmonium is given below:

Scale Changer Harmonium: Some harmoniums have what is called a key changer, or scale changer. This is a complex mechanism that allows you to shift the keyboard to the left or the right. This is a feature that many harmonium players will never use. It is only helpful if you have learned a song in one key and you need to play it in a different one and don’t know how, or don’t have the time, to learn to play it in another key. A scale-changer harmonium built with “green” or uncured wood however, will warp and be a nightmare. Scale-changer harmoniums are better suited for players that will maintain them in one place like a home, studio, or a temple.

Main Body – The body is the box that houses the var­ious parts of the harmonium.  There are two basic styles.  One style is sim­ply a box with every­thing in a fixed posi­tion (see above illustration).  Another style col­lapses down into a suitcase style of enclosure.  There are seve­ral collapsible styles; one is shown in the right hand illustration.

Bellows: These are basically a series of metal tongues that permit the air to flow. The bellows need to be hand pumped to enable the air to flow and produce the sounds. The left and right ends of the bellow are affixed with a latch or a metal bar to help both left and right handed musicians.

Keyboard: This enables the musician to play melodies and is also known as the unique aspect of the harmonium. Each key produces a different and unique sound. Although the structure and format of the keys are like a piano, the keyboard is relatively smaller in the harmonium.

Main Stops: These are actually the big knobs on the side of the harmonium that direct air flow. In fact, these main stops impact the way the sound is produced. For instance, if the knobs or stops are not pulled out, then the harmonium will produce no sound at all.

Drone Stops: These stops help to produce the constant sound of a single note. This is one feature that not all harmoniums possess. The knobs or “stops” on the harmonium are generally set up 1st/ 3rd/ 5th/ 7th/ for the ones that activate the harmonium’s wind-chest sections that supply air to each bank of the harmoniums reeds. The harmonium stops in the 2nd/ 4th/ 6th/ 8th positions will be “drones”. Harmonium drones are traditionally tuned to the black keys as these are preferred for use in Hindustani style playing.

Reeds (not shown) – The reeds a series of brass reeds set into a heavier brass base.  Each base is roughly 1/4 inch by 2 inches.  There must be a minimum of one reed per key while two or three are the most com­mon.  These small brass reeds vibrate whenever air passes over them.

Coupler (not shown) – A coupler is a mechanical arrangement whereby an­other key is played along with the one be­ing fingered.  Normally it is the key located an octave below the selected key.  This arrangement produces a much richer sound than an uncoupled keyboard.  This coupling may be enabled or defeated by the user.

Scale Changer: Some harmoniums might have this feature which helps to change the positioning and pitch of the keys. Even though this is a nice feature, it often results in problems for the harmonium.

Teak VS Pine: The majority of harmoniums produced in India are built with pine. However nearly all scale-changers and high-end harmoniums are built with teak. Pine produces a softer, diffused quality, whereas teak produces a deeper, and “darker” quality. Neither quality is “preferable” in a harmonium. The preferred quality for a harmonium’s sound is subjective to the player.

Folding vs Non-Folding Harmoniums: Folding harmoniums are popular because of their small size, which allows the harmonium to be taken on airline flights as carry-on and stored in the overhead. Non-folding harmoniums however, will have a wider breadth of sound because they have double the wind-chest capacity and are often preferred by studio musicians for recording purposes.

Sitting Positions: There are two com­mon sitting posi­tions, a standard posi­tion and one used by qawwali singers.  The standard posi­tion is simple.  On sim­ply places the harmonium on the ground.  The right hand plays the keys while the left hand pumps the bellows.  This is the most com­mon posi­tion used in India today.  There is also a posi­tion used by qawwali singers and folk musicians.  For this posi­tion one end of the harmonium rests on the ground while the other end rest par­tially in the lap.  Both posi­tions are il­lus­tra­ted in the above pic­tures. The posi­tion is reversed for left handed music­ians.  In such cases the right hand pumps the bellows while the left hand plays the melody. The harmonium may also be played standing and walking. In this case the harmonium is slung by a strap around the neck. This how­ever, seems to be limi­ted to beggars that one may oc­casion­ally encoun­ter.

The best fingering technique is to start learning harmonium from first black key or first white key. To play harmonium first black key is recommended. In advance stage you can also learn to play harmonium from any key. In scale changer harmonium you need not to learn to start playing from other keys. Note that a precaution should be taken while buying scale-changing harmonium, as the failure rate is very high rather deplorable!

Best Harmoniums

In terms of structure, Harmoniums have a fixed keyboard and are quite portable. The Keyboard pops up for play when needed and can be stored in a locked-down position for travel.If you are going to frequently travel with your harmonium, you can buy a portable harmonium.

Bina 23B Deluxe 3.25 Octave kirtan harmonium

Small, portable harmonium with 32-keys. Its small enough to take on an airplane as carry-on luggage.

Paul & Co. 3 reed scale change harmonium

This is top of the line harmonium. Paul & Co. harmoniums are made under the guidance of Paul Babu (Batta Krishna Paul), probably the best harmonium maker of his times.The 13 line scale changer allows you to shift the keyboard up or down 6 half steps from the middle C position, thus effectively giving a whole octave range to the scale changer. There are many other reputable brands made in Kolkata like Pakrashi, Geetanjali and many more.

This harmonium folds into a suitcase size box measuring 27 1/2 by 15 1/2 by 8 inches. Opened up it measures 27 1/2 by 15 1/2 by 10 1/2. It weighs 44 pounds. It has a coupler, 7 fold bellows, 4 stops and seven drones.

MAHARAJA Musical Harmonium

Maharaja Musicals Harmonium 7-Stop, Dark Mahogany, Tuned to A440. 2 High quality reeds: 1 Base + 1 Male Reed 42 Keys Coupler Function. This harmonium is a popular option, its also cheaper as compared to the other options mentioned above. It comes with a Book & a Bag.

Although most of the harmoniums they all look the same, small variations do exist, and you can choose from a wide selection of makers and models to match your specific needs. Different types of harmoniums are available – Folding, upright, portable, 2 reed, 3 reed, 4 reed and mini harmoniums, as well as a selection of shruti box and scale change harmoniums. Popular brands include Paul & Co., Bina, Paloma etc.

The various forms of Indian music:


Natural notes (pure or major) are called shudh notes which are shown as S, R, G, m, P, D, N. The notes, or swars, are Shadj, Rekhab, Gandhar, Madhyam, Pancham, Dhaivat and Nikhad. When singing these become Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, and sargam stands for “Sa-Re-Ga-Ma”. Only these syllables are sung, and further designations are never vocalized. When writing these become, S, R, G, m, P, D, N. A sign of apostrophe on the right side of a letter (S’) indicates the octave higher, a sign of apostrophe on the left side of a letter (‘S) indicates the octave lower. Re, Ga, Dha, and Ni may be either tiver or komal; Ma may be either shudh or tivar and is then called tiver Ma. Sa and Pa are immovable (once Sa is selected),
Don’t think there is anything that you can practice that will have as much an impact on your playing as sargam. Take the sargam challenge. Play the sargam every night for one month and then re-assess your playing skills afterward. With sargam practice anyone will be able to play songs without notations help.

 In other words Sargam is the collection of notes or the swar of the scale. It has been mentioned earlier how notes of the sargam relate to the western scale. Practicing to play sargam is bit like weight training. Basic rules of weight training are to start with simple exercises with lightweights. As you get comfortable with lightweights, you increase repetitions or increase the weight you are lifting. You also focus on muscle group you work on. You go to heavier and more complex exercises after you feel comfortable with the basic exercises. When we say sargam, we don’t just mean a scale of notes but it means the act of playing the sargam. Playing the sargam is the single most important thing you can do when you are learning harmonium or keyboard. When beginning to learn harmonium, the teachers should not stress the playing of the sargam too much or enforce it. After all, there is nothing joyous about playing one note after the other in succession, over and over again. Getting students into sargam is a challenge.

Sargam needs great practice, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Nothing is more boring than playing the same notes over and over again, so sPIECE up your sargam with some of the variations. This will sound like you are actually playing something else. There are various books written on harmonium or keyboard but no suitable book is available on basics. These books were for advance learning and lessons were difficult to follow. Our e.Book of sargam ID-4466 is the first effort to produce sargam lessons in easy and with simplified exercises. With these lessons you will be able to play and sing-along with your harmonium or keyboard. All the exercises are produced with easy to understand language, with simple diagrams and notations. Thanks to great composer Nisar Bazmi sahib and all those colleagues who cooperated with us in compiling these fundamental lessons. For more detail visit our sargam section of our website.

Lakshan Sangeet

Lakshan Geet was newly introduced to Hindustani Classical Music during the time of Bhatkhande. Lakshan geet is a raga geet and its verses show the mood and the details of a particular raga properties. It also teaches the way of singing a raga and completely show the picture of the raga. Lakshan geet is probably the most typical fixed composition used for vocal instruction. This is a style of singing where the lyrics of the song actually describe the features of the raga .

 If the lakshan geet is memorized, one will never forget the raga and its properties throughout ones life. Whenever the raga is heard the words keep coming back. In our lakshan geet tutorial  asavari lakshan geet is sung in a beautiful style by Iqbal Yousuf Ramzi who is a ghazal geet singer. This lakshan geet will show what is real mood and properties of raga asavari and you will be able to play asavari songs in a better way shortly after listening lakshan geet.

The Alaap

The word alaap means a dialog or conversation. Alaap is a dialog between the musician and the raga. The purpose of including an alaap in a composition is for the singer to set the scene for the composition itself. In order to tell a story emotionally, the storyteller is required to set the scene for the listener. The alaap prepares the listener to receive the emotions from the singer. Suspense is also being built up through the alaap for the listener.

Properties of The Alaap:

  • The alaap is a slow introductory section which helps to set the mood
  • It has a free rhythm with no regular pulses
  • The alaap usually moves from the lower notes to the higher notes
  • The alaap is unaccompanied apart from the drone
  • The alaap gradually gets faster while performing

The alap is followed by the jor where the music begins to have a sense of pulse and jhalla where this beat begins to appear in groups. The gat then begins, which is often where the tabla comes in. A gat is a fixed composition which is often varied by adding improvised decoration.

 In other words, alaap is the beginning part of the raga, starts with the key note of the mode it uses, that is “Sa”, both in the instrumental and vocal .s. The tempo at the beginning is usually slow in order to show the scale and the key structure of the melody. There is no drum in this section; if it is a . of vocal music, there are no lyrics with it.

The Asthayee & Antra

The Asthayee or called Sthai is the first part of the main melodies in the raga or in a song. It consists of two music phrases, and is the most important part that shows the raga’s main musical ideas. In vocal music, this part always comes with lyrics. Antra, which originally meant “the rhyme of the poem,” it can also be translated as “stanza”. The length and times of improvisations mainly depend on the feelings of the performers. In more detail antra starts in the middle of the mid-octave, or goes to the high octave. The antra sometimes stops at the high octave and sometimes moves up to the middle or fifth of the middle octave. 

Classificaion Of Indian Music

There are following two main schools of Indian classical music:

  1. The Hindustani style of the North
  2. The Karnatak style of the South.

The Hindustani style features a number of Turkish & Persian musical elements. Well-known Hindustani styles include Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, Tappa and Thumri.

The word gharana comes from the Hindi word ‘ghar’. It typically refers to the place where the musical ideology originated; for example, some of the gharanas well known for singing khyals are: Dilli, Agra, Gwalior, Indore and Patiala In other words a gharana is a school of music. Certain school of music are more like philosophical schools than formal institutions. Gharanas are often distinguished by style and mode of thought. They have usually been founded by famous musicians like Ustad Salamat Ali Khan.Traditionally musical traditions have been passed on orally and musical skills have often been taught from father to son or teacher to student. In northern India, the spiritual relationship is symbolized by a ceremony in which a teachers ties a string around the wrist of a pupil. Some styles of Indian music are associated with a specific faith. Bhajans and kirtis, for example, are Hindu devotional songs whereas qawali is a form rooted in Sufi Islam.

Hindustani Music Of North

In this website we will discuss about North Indian music or Hindustani music. Hindustani Music is described by many people as true Indian music. Dhrupad, Khyal and thumri are refereed to be Indian music of North. Music from the north can be divided into classical and light classical which is also referred to as semi-classical. The classical form requires stricter bonding to the raga formula while light classical allows more freedom.

Light classical music is defined as a style of music that follows the rules of raga and taal but adheres to them less strictly than with classical music. Dadra, thumri, ghazal and qawwali refer to light classical singing styles as well as music styles. Classical ragas have gone though changes similar to those of classical Western music. Alaaps have been shortened which you can observe in present Bollywood songs.


Khayal means imagination and it is a form of classical singing that is less austere and more popular today than Dhrupad. The singer begins with a short alaap in which the characteristics of the raga are developed. No words are sung: the singer concentrates on the notes of the raga while improvising (designing) within its structures. Each phase that the singer sings may repeated by the accompanist. Khayals are fixtures of Hindustani light classical pieces. A bandish also called Bada Khayal is often the first composition to begin after the raga has been properly introduced. Most of the khyal music is improvised.


Dhrupad is the most austere form of classical singing and playing. Closely connected to the famous Mughal singer Tansen, it is a north Indian style that features a straight delivery and no embroidery or embellishment. Singers are accompanied by a tanpura. Performance begins with a long alaap and focuses more on the nuances of the raga and the text. Dhrupad is also regarded as a prayer music that used to be sung in Hindu temples, it addresses the gods.” A Dhrupad performance often puts more attention on the alaap than the raga.


The thumri is the most popular form of light Indian classical music. Thumri is an emotional song style known for its graceful, lyrical melodies. It is regarded as more accessible than dhrupad or khayal and features ragas and taals usually associated with kathak dance. Thumri is primarily a vocal style of romance music written from the perspective of the woman. Despite the feminine orientation, some of the most famous thumri singers are men such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.


A Bhajan is any type of devotional song. It has no fixed form with music based on classical ragas and talas. It is normally lyrical, expressing love for the Divine. Bhajans are forms of devotional songs that are especially popular in northern India. They often honor a particular Bhagwan or recall an episode from Hindu mythology. Pilgrims chant them at festivals and along the banks of the Ganges. They are chanted by worshipers at temples. Bhajans have also been influenced by Sufi devotional music.

Qawwali Music

Qawwali is a kind of Sufi devotional music with a high-pitched and fast-paced stye of singing. Qawwali songs are based on devotional Sufi poems and often have romantic themes that can be interpreted as love between a devotee and his God or between a man and a woman. Qawwali has a very distinct sound. The “sweeping melodies” and rhythmic hand clapping and the drone of the harmonium is instantly recognizable. It is often featured in Indian films and clubs and gatherings. Describing the appeal of qawwali music,

Qawwali music evolved out of Sufi poems and zikr. The origin of qawwali is attributed to Amir Khusrau who was a talented Sufi poet and composer who has also been credited with inventing the sitar and the tabla. Poems by Khusrau are the core of the qawwali repertoire. Qawwali music has endured through the tradition of Mahfil-e-Sama which remains the central ritual today. Qawwali musicians view themselves as religious people entrusted with the responsibility of evoking the name of God. Qawwali musicians also have traditionally performed at shrines on Friday, the day of prayer.

Following are the most popular Pakistani Qawwali singers of all times.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Aziz Mian.
Sabri Brothers.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.


A ghazal is a light style of classical love music adored by the Mughals. Ghazal means to talk amorously to women.” Although sometimes referred to khayal, it is based as often on folk melodies as on ragas. The lyrics are often taken from famous Urdu poems. Famous ghazal singers are mostly women. They include Shabha Urtu, Najma Akhtar and Begum Akhtr. In India ghazals are often heard on the radios or in films. Some ghazal stick close to the raga format. Others bring folk rhythms to the forefront and verge on being pop songs. In ghazal the music is very slow paced and the lyrics are repeated two ro three times.

Folk Music of Subcontinent

There are almost as many different kinds of folk music in India, Pakistan as there are ethnic groups and cultures. The most well known styles come from Rajasthan and Punjab. Folk music is often called Desi. It has traditionally been associated with events from everyday life and is often performed at festival and life-cycle events such as marriages and births. The folk music in Pakistan can be categorized by regions: Balochi music, Punjabi music, Potohari music, Sindhi music. Kashmiri music, Saraiki music, Pashto music, Hindko music. They consist of telling folk stories, love stories or rituals (custom practices) and are performed in festivals or in villages weddings.