Classical Concert Pattern – Carnatic & Hindustani – A Quick Guide

Hindustani Concert Pattern

In a Hindustani vocal performance, the singer is supported by two or more accompanists typically artistes playing the tabla (percussion), harmonium or sarangi (stringed) and one or two tanpuras (drone).

The concert begins with a raag alaap (melodic improvisation) which is presented in three stages – vistar, jod and taan where the speed increases. Here is Ustad Rashid Khan (vocal) and Shahid Parvez (sitar) presenting raag Bageshri, an evening melody.

After the alaap, the singer improvises on melody and rhythm by singing the bandish or words of a bade khayal which are typically 4 to 8 lines of lyrics. The bandish again is in presented in different speeds from vilambit kaal (slow) to madhya kaal  (medium) and drut (fast). The bade khayal is followed by a chotte khayal in the same melody and sung in a faster tempo. The tabla solo rendition follows the khayal segment of the performance. Here Ustad Rashid Khan sings the bandish Balma More Tore Sangva in teentaal (16 beat cycle).

Following the table solo rendition, the singer presents semi-classical pieces such as bhajan, tumri, tarana. Here Ustad Rashid Khan sings a tarana and concludes the concert.

For a more detailed explanation please read here.

Carnatic Concert Pattern

In a carnatic vocal performance, the singer is accompanied by a violinist (stringed) and a mridangist (percussion). Sometimes artistes playing additional percussion instruments such as kanjira, ghatam, morsing are also part of the team. The tambura (drone) artiste sits behind the vocalist.

A carnatic vocal concert typically begins with a varnam followed by an invocation to Ganesha. The main artiste(s) continues to present songs of different composers, melodies and rhythmic patterns. The improvisation of melody, rhythm and lyrics which includes raga alapana, neraval and kalpana swaras is presented at several points in the concert. Unlike a Hindustani concert, the melodic improvisation is an alternate exchange of musical expression between vocalist and violinist. After the main song (usually a slow paced, lengthy song with  embellishments or sangatis) or a Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi and the ensuing thani avarthanam (solo percussion play), the main artiste presents semi-classical songs such as ashtapadi, tiruppavai, devarnamas, padams, bhajans, kavadi chindu, tillanas. Here is a full-length concert by Ranjani Gayatri which carries features of a trademark carnatic vocal performance.

Over the years there have been changes in the concert format, especially in carnatic music. An article on concert paddhathi (tradition) by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar can be read here.

A senior rasika ponders on the changes in the carnatic concert pattern here.

Another viewpoint on TM Krishna’s changes in the concert pattern can be read here.

2 thoughts on “Classical Concert Pattern – Carnatic & Hindustani – A Quick Guide

  1. Beautiful blog you have. I am a travel blogger from India. Please have a look at my blog too.


    1. Thank you – will check out your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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