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Click... for the sound of music

And now, there's a software which produces sounds of Indian musical instruments, including Carnatic

Sound sense... Ranjan and Aditya

KANJIRA WIZARD Selva Ganesh wanted to spend just 15 minutes watching the demo. But ended up jamming on the new software for Carnatic music for nearly three hours. "It's amazing," says Selva Ganesh after testing out SwarShala. "The percussion sounds are so close to the real instruments."

Well, Selva Ganesh is not the only one who's excited about it. Violin maestro and member of the Madras String Quartet V. S. Narasimhan has this to say: "It's simply fantastic. The software produces authentic sounds. The presentation is attractive and it's ideal for anybody who is serious about music." And Kollywood composers too are taken in by this product, be it A. R. Rahman or Karthik Raja.

As Sudhin Prabhakar of Pro Music puts it, "At the workshops we held at Pro, we could see the excitement on the faces of the participants, who included music teachers and students, as they explored the software."

Comprehensive effort

So, what is SwarShala all about? It's the first comprehensive software to be developed to fit in Carnatic sounds, all on a CD Rom, says Aditya Mehta of Sudeep

The project originated in the cool climes of Switzerland, where the creator Mariann Etchpareborda, who has been developing software for Western music, lives. About four years ago, he began learning the tabla, when he discovered that there was no proper software for Indian classical music. Thus was born Swar Systems, whose first software titled SwarShala was devoted to the tabla. Subsequently, Swar Systems partnered with the Indian company, Sudeep in 2001, to write SwarShala Version Two (Volume North 1 and 2) for Hindustani music, with about 40 instruments.

Says Aditya, "We wanted to develop a high-end product which would be useful to students of music as well as established composers. We spent one year, getting opinions from people across the board, before we wrote the software." There are different CD Roms such as SwarPlug, SwarShala Pro and Swar Tutorial.

He continues, "We recorded samples from real instruments, with musicians from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore pitching in. We got musicians, music teachers and students to audition the samples. The final programming was done partly in Germany and partly in Pune. Sounds of 49 instruments including folk ones such as tudd, duff and israj, are available."

Access to 16 instruments

The same process went into making Version Three (Volume South 1), which is dedicated to the sounds of South Indian classical music. One can access 16 instruments, including the tavil, nadaswaram and veena. Click on to this interactive tool and three sections open up - Learn, Practise and Compose. The Learn section outlines the basics such as `What is a ragam?' or a list of 10 popular ragams with their Hindustani counterparts and one kriti to elucidate each.

In the Practise section, you can tune an instrument, alter speed or play the instrument on your machine. Just click for the tanpura sound, adjust it according to the range of your voice and sing along... for hours, if you like.

The Compose section provides access to various instruments. All you have to do is make a loop and develop on it. Add any instrument of your choice and... voila! you create a new sound. Teachers can take print outs of a sequence and ask students to work on it on their real instruments.

As for the pricing, while SwarShala Standard costs Rs. 990 (only tanpura, tabla and harmonium for Hindustani; mridangam, tanpura and veena for Carnatic), SwarShala Pro for Hindustani and Carnatic is Rs. 6,750. The CD Roms are available at Pro Music, Musee Musicals, Saptaswara, Shruti Musicals and Landmark.


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