Forms and Styles of Hindustani Vocal Music


Indian Classical Music has been divided into two sub-genres, Hindustani
Shastriya Sangeet popular in North India and Carnatic Music, practiced in the southern part of India.

Most forms of music have at least three main elements – melody, rhythm and harmony. Because of its contemplative, spiritual nature, Hindustani (north Indian) classical music is a solitary pursuit that focuses mainly on melodic development. In performance, rhythm also plays an important role, giving texture, sensuality and a sense of purpose to melody. Instruments like tabla, pakhavaj etc. are used to provide rhythm. While, instruments like tanpura are accompanied to provide harmony.

In Hindustani classical music, once one has a command over the basic notes, he/she is introduced to ragas (which are like musical themes), and then is encouraged to start improvising and making his own melodies. The main thing Hindustani classical music does is to explore the melodic and emotional potential of different sets of notes. About five hundred ragas are known (including historical ragas) today. While in carnatic music, there are 72 melakartas in which most compositions are based.

Because, not everyone can master the rigorous training essential to appreciate hindustani classical music, many forms were given rise to which were semi-classical and light in nature. These styles are less rigid so that anyone can practice and compose songs. Later, light music was adopted in movies. Many singers composed in this style. Due to the influence of films and television, these compositions came in the limelight of the masses and gained popularity. Folk music on the other hand is diverse because of India’s vast cultural diversity. Though it is weakened due to the arrival of movies and the western pop culture, saints and poets have large musical libraries and traditions to their name.

Here are some notes from my study of Hindustani Classical Music.


Naveen Venkat (2017, December 9). Forms and Styles of Hindustani Vocal Music. Retrieved from

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