Beginner Carnatic Music Lessons

What students will learn over the first few lessons

In this article, we give you a brief overview of what our Gurus emphasize on so our students learn the fundamentals correctly and effectively and also enjoy the lessons.


Indian Carnatic music or Karnataka Sangitam is very interesting and very systematically arranged. It is also full of creativity and imagination. With a solid understanding of the fundamentals and constant practice, you will be able to understand and appreciate melodies and enjoy performances. These raagas are also known to put listeners very meditative and reflective mindset and also soothes your soul. With that, lets look into what students typically learn.

Elements of Carnatic Music

Before taking up Carnatic Vocal lessons, you will have to know the two main elements of it, which are Raga (Ragam) and Tala (Thalam). Raga is known as the mode, and rhythmic cycles are called Tala. With the help of a different combination of Talas and Ragas, you can sing different and wonderful songs. Some of the major ragas are Mohanam, Sankarabharanam, Aarabhi, Hindolam, Kamas, etc. The major talas are Rupakam, Aadi, Triputa, Dhruva, jhampa, matya. All the Ragas are based on Swaras. You will be able to find seven basic swaras in Indian Classical music. They are Sa(Do), Ri(Re), Ga(Mi), Ma(Fa), Pa(So), Da(La), Ni(Ti). With different combinations of these swaras you have the option of creating different ragas. There are two main and basic elements for a raga; the Aarohanam (the ascending notes of raga on the scale) and the Avarohanam (the descending notes of raga on the scale).

First lessons that Gurus teach

In the first few weeks, Guru’s focus on the fundamental. Fundamentals include the Sarale Varase (Sarali varusalu), Janti Varase (Janta Varusalu), Taggusthayi Varase, Dhaatu Varase, Taarasthaayi Varase, and Alankaara.


For a beginner, one of the very first lessons that a Guru teaches is Sruti. Sruti plays an integral role in the music. This is considered as the ‘key’ in western music. Eventually, Sruti is known as the soul of Carnatic music. One of the very first forms of Carnatic music is the Saralivarisai. This is also known as the exercise that makes people extremely familiar with the Swaras and the Sruti.


This assists in learning various combinations of the Swaras that are possible. Then it comes to the Jantavarisai which is the next level of Saralivarisai. In this specific exercise, you are going to be trained properly on how to sing with Sruti and what is the major way of handling the Swara correctly. After that, the Guru teaches Swarajathi. It is known as the whole combination of Swaras and songs.


The Guru helps students to learn the basic exercise, which needs to be practiced to get the raga correctly. After that, it comes to Varnams that is mainly a special item that emphasizes the importance of different ragas. In the first few lessons, the Guru also teaches the students the way on how to stress and approach a certain note. Often Varnams are sung first in any concert as it attracts the attention of the audience.


In Carnatic music, one needs to learn Kirthana (Krithi). It is also one of the first lessons that you will have to learn. It is normally a song that is composed with the help of Swaras and ragas. This contains Pallavi, Anupallavi, and Charanam which are sung in the given same order. Pallavi and Anupallavi are mainly two lines whereas Charanam has more lines and stresses on a certain purpose of the song i. e. the tala and the raga.


Each and every basic level or lesson is mainly designed to make the singers the actual combination of Swaras as in the Saralivarase, stress and repeat Swaras as in Jantivarase. It also traverses to higher octave as in Taarasthaayi Varase, traverse to lower octave as in Taggusthaayi varase. Practicing the Swara continuously daily would help a singer to learn the basic lessons properly.

Regular practice helps a beginner make steady progress

Practice is extremely important – especially for beginners to Carnatic music — it is is like prepping your body for an intense workout. The basic lessons are mainly designed to prep the voice for singers. Not only the singers but the lessons are also helpful for the instrumentalists who love to play Carnatic Violin and Carnatic Flute also. These lessons help them to understand the Swaras and Swara sthaana (exact variations of Swaras).

Gurus strongly recommend that you practice for atleast 20-30 minutes every day so you will feel more confident and prepared for subsequent lessons. The Guru can then help you build on what you have already learnt. 

 Regular practice of these basic lessons will assist a student to:

  • Set the voice range correctly
  • Get a good grip on the tempo of the music when practiced at various speeds
  • Enhance the ability to traverse Swaras through plenty octaves with ease
  • Empower to handle various tempos and speeds in different octaves, while maintaining the Laya
  • Acquire the ultimate ability to sustain on a single Swara for a longer duration and linger around Swara without fatigue

You never should skip practicing the Swara to get the grip of Carnatic music. Although, it is advisable for practicing all these lessons in ragas like Shankarabharana, Kalyani, Kharaharapriya, etc to make acquainted oneself with the ragas and its Swaras.

The Raaga School

Our Gurus at the Raaga School strongly believe in continuing the rich Indian cultural and musical tradition by teaching and nurturing the next generation of artists and musicians. And through our teaching methods, we seek to transform our students passion in Carnatic and Hindustani Music into a life long journey of reward and fulfillment.

With the help of online classes and experienced Gurus of Carnatic Music at The Raaga School, you can easily learn the fundamentals you need to progress to perform at Temples, Sabhas and Concerts. 

Joys of Learning Carnatic Music Lessons
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it is an absolute joy to see my daughter perform on such a big stage. I am proud of her. thank you raaga school of organizing such an amazing student concert

~ Sreevidhya Balasubramanian, Proud Parent

A parent's perspective

As parents, we are always looking for ways to help our children reach their full potential. One way to do this is by exposing them to our cultural traditions at a young age. When we ask parents of our students why they want their children to learn Carnatic and Hindustani music at such a young age, their responses typically fall into the following categories.
  1. Cultural exposure: First and foremost, parents want to expose children born and brought up here in the US to get exposure to a rich cultural tradition with a deep history and heritage. By exposing toddlers to this type of music, we are helping to instill a love and appreciation for culture in them at a very early age.
  2. Enhanced speech: Most children that grow up in western societies are not able to pronounce quite a few of our syllables – especially rolling the ‘r’s, etc. Learning Carnatic and Hindustani music requires children at an early age to practice these producing these sounds that are unique to our Indian languages.
  3. Improved cognitive development: Studies have shown that early exposure to music can help improve a child’s cognitive development. This includes areas such as memory, language, and spatial reasoning — irrespective of the type of music — Western, Chinese or Classical Indian music.
  4. Increased creativity: Both Carnatic and Hindustani music are art forms that encourage creativity and self-expression. By exposing toddlers to this type of music, we are helping to develop their creative minds and encouraging them to think outside the box.
  5. Improved focus and concentration: Most importantly, learning Carnatic and Hindustani music requires focus and concentration. As toddlers practice and perform, they will develop the ability to focus and concentrate, which are helpful in all areas of their lives.
If you are interested in learning more about how to get started with introducing your toddlers to Carnatic or Hindustani music lessons, please reach out to us. We invite you to come observe one of our Tiny Tots classes to evaluate if we have the right program for your Tiny Tot.

Tiny Tots Performance

We are very proud of all our Tiny Tots that prepared and performed at our Annual Student Concert

Come try a lesson with us. See if we are the right school for you.

Most of our students that attend a trial class are inspired to learn Classical Indian Music.