Can I Learn Singing My Way?

By October 21, 2021March 20th, 2024No Comments

Can I Learn Singing My Way?

My tryst with classical music began when I was almost an infant. Maybe it was the classical background that my family always had, that automatically put any child who just started uttering their first words into classical training classes.

Now mind you, things were very, very different back then. Everyday, after school, I had to cycle back home without wasting any time gossiping with my classmates in the school parking lot, just to come home, change into a pavadai and sattai, pick up my sruthi petti, and rush to my music class to steal myself a seating space in the front row. I would spend at least 20 minutes before every class, humming to myself, the song that I learnt in my previous class, and make small talk with all the ammas and paatis who accompanied my other batchmates to the class. The smell of Filter kaapi would waft in, and we would hear repeated whistles of the cooker, and try to match the pitch of the whistle while humming to ourselves.

As always, the class would begin when our extremely stringent teacher would walk in and ask us to straighten our backs.We would all take out our sruthi pettis, set them so they all sounded like one uniform harmony, and start off with our janta varisais and sarali varisais.Every day, we would practice what we learnt the previous day for the first half of the hour. The second half of the hour, my teacher would teach us her favourite ragams and the songs closest to her heart.At the end of the hour, we would all be required to sing solo, our own versions of the rendition we were just taught.Not singing it properly would earn a glare from the teacher, and would reaffirm the fact that we would have to be the first ones to sing the same piece flawlessly the next day.

Last year though, with the onset of the pandemic, I saw something that I never thought I’d witness- ever. With a lot more time in their hands to spare, people had the opportunity to pick up a lot more hobbies. On the other hand, individuals teaching music realised that this was a great opportunity to expand their horizons, by switching to online classes.

Now while both demand and supply expanded, there was one issue- connect. While there are a ton of options to choose from, people lack the knowledge about HOW to choose a teacher or an institution that provides them basic training. Everyone teaching music online does seem to have knowledge, but it is difficult to decipher whether the teacher is an expert or just another person interested in teaching the little bit that they have learnt over the years.

Further, a ton of people signing up for music classes has made them overcrowded, and because it is in the virtual medium, there is no chance for a lot of people to have interactive sessions with their music teachers, thus rendering personal connection negligible. So very often, it feels like just another zoom call where the learner is on the listening end, without ever getting an opportunity to speak, ask for clarifications, or just participate.

It’s not just about the intangibility of the lessons, it’s also sometimes the question of choice. Now most traditional learners begin from.. well, the beginning. However, new-age learners prefer learning only the songs they resonate with, and the music they can relate to. And not everyone can relate to mohana ragam on a normal day.

This brings up a serious question- do music lessons now need to be revamped, into courses that are relatable to the learners’ perspectives these days? If you asked my guru to teach you your favourite song, twenty years ago, that question would earn you two things- a long, hard glare followed by a very angry meltdown about how the rules of classical music cannot be bent for you alone.

However, customisation is the need of the hour- whether it is in the culinary world, or music. There is a fluidity that must be applicable to all things music- choice of songs, pitches, the tune, et al. To each their own, they say, and why not in the field of classical music itself?

This very need for customisation has given rise to places like The Pallikoodam, a virtual learning platform with customised music courses- for both beginners, and people who have a base in music, and want to revisit their learning. The Pallikoodam hosts courses which make a world of difference to the learning scale of a student- the first point of difference from the courses at Pallikoodam with that of other learning places, is that anyone who wants to learn, can choose any song of their liking- maybe a song their grandmother whispered to them as a lullaby every night, or a song which they heard the first time they bunked school with their mates, or even the one they consider “theirs”, with their partner. Everything you are curious about- the tune of the song, to the pitch- can be covered through the course. Of course, there are live sessions with learned and experienced teachers that you could talk to, and get reviews from. Courses like these appeal to the new-age learner, by giving them the choice of learning rather than forcing the traditional method on them.

Truly new-age learning, you say? We think so too.

Srutilaya Subiksha

Singer | Designer | Writer

I have multiple interests but music is a common thread that connects all of them. I'm an avid vinyl collector with varied music choices.