A typical instrumental performance

A Typical Instrumental Performance

When the musician takes the stage, he (or she) will almost always be joined by a tabla player. (The only exception is Dhrupad-inspired instruments such as the bin and surbahar, which may play either unaccompanied, or accompanied by pakhawaj). Most instrumentalists will use a tanpura as well, but some sitar and sarod players rely on the open strings of their instruments to provide a drone.

After tuning (which for some instruments may take a while) the artist will begin the first raga. Again, development starts with the alaap, in which the raga is built up note by note. Instrumental alaap tends to be more drawn out than vocal alaap, reaching further into the nuances of the raga, and often exploring the lower octaves as well.

When the first part of the alaap is finished, the musician will begin the jor, introducing a pulse into his improvisations. As the pace increases, some instrumentalists (especially sarod and sitar players) will insert rhythms on the drone strings of the instrument, in what is known as jhala. Once the alaap is complete, the tabla will start playing a tala and the first composition will begin.

As with vocal music, the first composition will be slow, although rarely as slow as a slow khayal composition. As usual, the composition serves mostly as a jumping-off point for improvisations within the raga. Again, as with vocal music, a faster composition will follow, and may build into a second jhala, completing the performance of the raga. Many instrumentalists will also incorporate lighter classical pieces into their concerts, most commonly dhuns (folk tunes) from various parts of India. Occasionally, the instrumentalist will sing parts of these songs as well.