I am learning to play the different ornaments in western music (Trill, Tremolo, Turn, Appoggiatura, Acciaccatura, Glissando, Slide). I also want to know which are the corresponding ornaments in Indian Classical music. Are the played the same way but have different names? Am I missing any important ornaments?

  • 1
    Sorry for my ignorance, but what are commonly found ornaments in Indian classical music? Every single time I've read about Indian classical music, ornaments were never mentioned. – Dekkadeci Mar 6 at 16:26
  • One thing to keep in mind is that the performance of various ornaments in European classical music has changed over time. I too am ignorant of ornamentation in Indian classical music, so a more basic question about that would be helpful. If you are qualified to do so, I would suggest that you ask and self-answer a question about that. – phoog Mar 6 at 20:36

Hindustani (North Indian) Ornaments1

Alankara = Ornaments

A major difference between Hindustani and Western ornaments is that Alankara are tied to raga, in the sense that how the ornament is executed and on which notes it is executed are characteristically defined by the raga. Western ornamentation is by contrast more general, the ornament being influenced by the key/scale but less strongly tied to it.

There are four types of Alankara:

  • Kan ~ Grace Note/Bend: Kan serves a similar purpose to a grace note, but is performed rather like a bend. A grace note is typically very quick, while can can be prolonged. Kan also has a bend-like contour as opposed to a clearly defined (set of) pitch(es).

  • Meend ~ Slide/Glissando: An individual meend can vary in speed and can come to rest briefly on intermediary pitches, which is not characteristic of a slide or glissando.

    • Ghaseet: glide immediately after plucking a stringed instrument.
    • Soont: fast vocal meend.
  • Andolan ~ Slow Trill: Andolan is a slow oscillation between one pitch and the microtones between it and another pitch; whereas a trill oscillates between two distinct pitches.

  • Gamak ~ Fast Trill: Similar to andolan, but faster and with more pronounced start and arrival points.

  • Khatka ~ Grace Notes/Turn: "A khatka is an ornament that involves performing a single note as a cluster of notes. The main note is featured most prominently." The closest analogy in Western music could be a series of grace notes, or a short improvisation around a central note.2

There are additional ornaments used in semi-classical Indian music not mentioned here. The ornaments here and the semi-classical ornaments are well explained and demonstrated in a video by Anuja Kamat, "Alankaar (ornamentation) in Indian Music."

A series of videos by Raag Hindustani is more explicit in relating alankar to Wester ornaments.

Carnatic (South Indian) Ornaments3

Gamaka = Ornaments

As with the Hindustani ornaments, the correspondences to Western ornamentation are not comparative, but inexact. Also as above, the Indian ornaments are tied to raga much more tightly than Western ornaments are tied to scales.

There are three primary types of Gamaka

  • Jaru/Ullasita ~ slides
    • Irakka-jaru: descending
    • Etra-jaru: ascending
  • Gamaka ~ "deflections" (grace notes/trills/bends)
    • Nokku: successive upper-neighbor grace notes on non-repeated pitches
    • Odukkal: successive lower-neighbor grace notes on non-repeated pitches
    • Kampita: trill (oscillation)
    • Orikai: upward bend at the end of a note
  • Janta: stressed ornaments
    • Ravai: inverted turn (i.e., starting from above)
    • Sphurita: successive lower-neighbor grace notes on a repeated pitch
    • Pratyahata: successive upper-neighbor grace notes on a repeated pitch
    • Khandippu: dynamic accent

1 Unless otherwise noted, this information is derived from Praytush, "Analysis and Classification of Ornaments in North Indian (Hindustani) Classical Music," Masters Thesis (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona: 2010), pp. 7 - 12.

2 https://raaghindustani.medium.com/ornamentation-in-indian-classical-music-a67442e39eb7

3 This information comes from Gordon N. Swift, "Ornamentation in South Indian Music and the Violin", first published as “South Indian Gamaka and the Violin” in Asian Music, the journal of the Society for Asian Music, Volume XXI-2, 1990.

  • this is indeed helpful!! thanks a ton ! @Aaron – Bodhi Mar 8 at 8:07
  • @Bodhi I'm glad this helped. The best way to thank me -- or anyone on a Stack Exchange website -- is to upvote the post using the up-arrow to the left. – Aaron Mar 8 at 12:30
  • done @Aaron. thx – Bodhi Mar 14 at 9:44

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