We are doing regularly Harmonium Workshops for beginners and also intermediate levels. Check our Agenda of Events to see what is coming up.
questions? write to and explain a bit about your musical background with your inquiry, so we can answer better.
A whole morning intensive workshop designed for beginners, or for those who think that would have interest in choosing this instrument for further learning and want to find our more what is the technique and the studying requirements. Students who have learnt with western instructors the wrong way (playing chords) are also welcome in these workshops, since have to re-learn the technique from the beginning.
We teach the right style and from the roots of the Indian music system and with the proper Harmonium-playing technique. Note that Harmonium is an instrument from India and is played using melodies, not harmonies (though Harmonies may be used, one has to know how, and their presence should be minimum.)
Also, it is important to mention that these workshops are not a "crash course" - it is impossible to learn any Indian arts in a fast method. These workshops are designed to teach the different aspects of Harmonium playing and the basics of Indian music that will have to be further learned to pursue a deeper learning of this instrument. Like any other instrument, Harmonium also needs years of study, practice and dedication.
If you like the workshop and you think Harmonium is the instrument you would like to learn, then it is suggested to take lessons with a teacher who learnt Harmonium in India with the Indian music system - otherwise you will learn wrongly... and to correct an improper training will be more difficult (just like if you learn to ski without the right technique it will require much more effort to correct that learning later.)
Manish started teaching Harmonium in the west (and before in Pune to visitors) as a request from his students of Indian music, Mantra singing and vocal training. Indian music is played melody-based, not chord-based and this is a key difference in being able to transmit the feel of music from India when we play Harmonium. There are elements of Ragas used in the playing. So to sing songs from India - whatever they may be - classical, folk, mantra, kirtan, etc, the adequate technique has to be developed (as well as the related feel) in order to represent this music genre from India gracefully.
In this way, through his teachings, Manish tries to bring the true way of accompanying music from India with the wonderful help of Harmonium. He will teach the proper use of the instrument, in order not to develop wrong habits - posture, technique, raga, how to combine melody and chords, and how to use the Harmonium in one's own private singing practice.
Lessons are usually 60 or 75 min. and they can happen in combination with singing - since this is the main way to use harmonium in India. Singing can be of different styles of music from India, depending on the interest of the student (sacred, popular, folk, classic, kirtan, etc.). Many students want to learn only sacred songs, other prefer classical music approach, and others devotional songs and Kirtans. So the fan is very broad and the possibilities on how to use harmonium are many.
Manish is based in Kanton St. Gallen, Switzerland where he offers individual and group lessons on a regular basis. Besides that, he offers workshops in different cities around the world, since the interest has risen so much in the use of this instrument during the last few years. Online lessons are available, but it is suggested to combine them with presence-lessons sporadically.
Manish learnt Harmonium 35 years ago, as part of his music training. In India, there are no specific 'Harmonium lessons' since professional singers simply are taught how to accompany their singing with Harmonium, so they learn through this practice, almost spontaneously and intuitively - playing melodies in raga style. One can say that there is no singer in India who is not able to play harmonium. When we speak of 'professional singers' in India, we refer to musicians who have started learning maybe at 8 or 10 and continue learning for a whole lifetime with a Guru or teacher. In India one never 'completes' the learning cycle... it goes on for life and lifetimes...
Bear in mind that Indian music is based on Ragas (even when using Mantra in the music) so the teachings are based on Raga (melody-scales chosen according to the mood of the piece.)
The signature of Manish's teachings is authenticity and staying connected to the source.
Innovation is good, but a tradition should be properly passed and respected as it was conceived, in order to keep the real system alive and present it with a certain integrity and knowledge. Then, over that, one can experiment with fusion, but the basis should be strong and well taught, to know how to incorporate the fusion gracefully and subtly in whichever piece of Indian music is chosen.
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ABOUT THE INSTRUMENT
Harmonium is a musical instrument that was birthed, died, and was reborn in the 230 or so years of its existence. The harmonium was invented in the West (with a different design than the Indian Harmonium) but today largely resides in the East, particularly in the Indian subcontinent; so much that many mistakenly think it to be an Indian instrument.
In Europe, the Harmonium became an important instrument in the folk music of Scandinavia, Finland in particular. While the instrument largely disappeared from Europe after 1980s, it remained an essential part of many Scandinavian bands. Other than that, the European harmonium is now basically extinct, only to be found in antique shops, museums, and in the homes of collectors of musical instruments.
With the British invasion, European Harmoniums made their way to India where they became known by Indian musicians. One such musician was Dwarkanath Ghose, whose company became a leading manufacturer of musical instruments in Kolkata. In 1875, he brought out his version of the Indian hand-Harmonium, an instrument more than half in size from the first European harmonium because it was pumped by hand-operated bellows located at the back of the instrument instead of foot-operated ones; allowing the player to sit on the floor.
Indian musicians traditionally sat on the floor when they gave concerts, and the modified Harmonium could be played while placed on the ground.
Note that Western music is based on harmony, but Indian music on melody. Therefore it was quite feasible to pump the bellows with one hand and play the melody with the other. One did not need both hands on the keyboard. India started manufacturing its own harmoniums, and by 1915, had become the world’s leading producer of the instruments.
This new incarnation of the harmonium was more durable, far less expensive to build, and easier to maintain and repair. Ghose, in India, simplified the internal mechanism of the instrument, and added drone stops that would render it suitable for Indian classical music.
In the pre-Harmonium days, Indian vocalists would be accompanied by musicians playing the Sarangi. Though said to approximate the human voice, the Sarangi was technically extremely difficult to master and needed extensive re-tuning for each Raga - then the Harmonium began to replace the Sarangi as the instrument of choice to accompany vocalists.
Nevertheless, no keyboard instrument can meet the concept of Indian swara (note); it can only play one note or the next. Thus, the Harmonium could not generate the meendor gamaka (a glide from one note to another) in the way a Veena or a Sitar could. Therefore the Harmonium cannot produce alankars (sound ornamentations,) the trills that are so beloved in Indian classical music! A given swara in two different ragas has subtle intonational differences; so musicologists claimed that the Harmonium could not bring these out effectively. Due to this, All India Radio banned the instrument from its airwaves from 1940 to 1971.
The instrument initially was the darling of Rabindranath Tagore, who used it to compose many of his songs, although he later not only fell out of love because of its musical limitations but condemned it outright and forbade its use in his residential school Shantiniketan.
But the Harmonium had other good points: without a doubt it was easier to master than the Sarangi or the Veena; it was excellent for group singing, loud enough for the drone to fill a concert hall, and it became the key instrument in teaching students the rudiments of music and song. Hindu and Sikh groups quickly adopted it for their devotional music (bhajans, kirtan, dhun, shabads...) using Tabla or Dholak for the rhythms, and often also with other accompaniments. Eventually, Sufi singers also adopted it in their concerts and performances.
Whereas Western music is based on a fundamental diatonic scale (C-D-E-F-G-A-B, or, Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti) and a repeated octave, Indian classical music uses a seven note movable scale (Sa-Ri-Ga-Ma-Pa-Dha-Ni) and additionally employs semitones as well as inflections smaller than a semitone - so the European Harmonium was improved and adapted better to Indian music, producing an instrument that can generate the required microtone by providing knobs positioned below the keys, the pulling of which activates additional reeds.
The musicians from India devote twelve hours of the day or more to the practice of the different rhythms, improvising on them. In the end, they produce a psychological effect that is not music but magic, a magic that can thrill a person and penetrate his heart. It is a dream, a meditation, it is paradise. By hearing it one feels in a different world. Yet the music is hardly audible. instead of playing before thousands of people, only one or two or three persons of the same quality and nature must be together to enjoy that music thoroughly. If a foreign element is present, the musician does not feel inspired.
I don't mean to say that music of this kind can be universal music. It belongs to some rare person in a remote place.
H. Inayat Khan
"Since the popularity of Mantras in the west, many people’s interest has increased in learning and playing Harmonium along with Mantras and Kirtans. But since I am living in Europe, I've observed that no one is teaching the correct art and technique of harmonium playing. It is because most had a very basic training with harmonium and have no knowledge of the Indian music system and how to use it to accompany the singing." MANISH VYAS
Residing most of the year in Europe, Manish Vyas is offering an authentic, genuine and correct approach to learn and play harmonium. His well designed methodology and approach to the essence of the instrument in Indian music will help the students to learn the art of fluent harmonium playing, which combines the playing style of India, yet accessible to the west musical ear and training. He gives in depth knowledge of the Ragas, the Indian music system and its systematic exercises will make your harmonium playing smooth, melodious and perfect blend with the mantra singing - or another indian genre of your interest.
Multi instrumentalist, composer and singer Manish has been playing harmonium since the age of 10 and along with his training in tabla and singing, his harmonium skills flourished over the years, mainly playing in Kirtan groups and gatherings in India, where he was born and brought up. For many years, he was the leader of the Kirtan band at Osho Commune International. see more in biography section.
A hand-pumped harmonium has a hand bellows that blows the air. It is used in music of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan and is also used in otheŗ asian contruies. In a hand pumped harmonium only one hand can be used - and this is ok because a melody can be played using the fingers of one hand and Indian music is melody-based (not cord-based). It is used as an accompanying instrument in classical Hindustani music, Sufi music, bhajan singing and a variety of genres.
Indian classical music has 7 basic notes (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni), with five interspersed half-notes, resulting in a 12-note scale - S, r, R, g, G, m, M, P, d, D, n, N - the base frequency of the scale is not fixed, and inter-tonal gaps may also vary.
"Music is a vast subject. There is mathematics and grammar in music. Unless one knows all of it, he cannot become good singer. One should learn music for 15 years before actually trying their hands at singing ghazals." Jagjit Singh
BUYING A HARMONIUM 'MADE IN INDIA'
with excellence of quality and trust
If you would like to buy an instrument for your lessons, or to practice, Manish offers harmoniums which he selectively brings from India. He carefully chooses the best maker and the model according to the student or the player. He has been working with the best harmonium brands in India during 25 years - when he was teaching tabla and harmonium in Pune to visitors from out of India, he used to get them the best quality instruments and at very good price.
He will know how to guide you on which is the best harmonium for you and for your practice. Most of the harmoniums are in stock, and some have to be made by order, which takes approximately 1 to 2 weeks. Buying an instrument is a long term relationship, so for a better personal advise, contact us by email and we will reply or call you back, to tell you which are the best options, depending on your level, the use you will give to it and your budget.
If you have in mind a different harmonium style, we happily find it and order it from our harmonium-craftmen in India, so that the quality is not compromised. Manish will also tell you honestly if it is a harmonium recommended for you. Some new students of Manish, sometimes come with a harmonium they acquired online without any reference... without advise, and they were many times bad quality or sold at unfair prices... His advise is, don't hurry up to buy... get first a good advise.
Just write to us with any question !
Thank you so much for this intensive, beautiful harmonium day. For me, it was like two weeks squeezed in 4 hours :-) You shard so much knowledge, for me I only can practice a little of all this in a day... its like learning a complete new language far away from my tribe... but deep down in my cells there must be a memory with the joy of this Indian music... thank you. Love. C. (Switzerland)
Thank you so much for the workshop yesterday, it was awesome, I'm so glad I was able to attend, I learned so much and it really cemented some stuff in. I love sharing with others, so it was really great to meet everyone. H. (Austria)
After this wonderful mantra-harmonium-workshop today, I really want to get some lessons from Manish, to improve my harmonium-playing some more. H. (Switzerland)
Thank you so much for an incredible first time for me to play any musical instrument ! I am totally elated and savoured and still revelling in every second of such a beautiful and enriching face to face gathering. I love my new harmonium and everything we did today. Thank for all you do to make these gatherings happen and to you Manish for your transmissions that speak so clearly and directly to my heart and now to my fingers ! A. (UK)
Dear Manish, this is exactly what I'm looking for - to learn to play the harmonium in a traditional Indian way - it is really a deep wish to learn the Eastern style. M. (Germany)
The workshop was great 🙂 L. (Australia)