1.What are the programs included in the package ?
There are 8 programs included - Rasika, Gaayaka, Sishya, Novice, Student's Wav/mp3 player, Student's CD Player, Thamboora and Sruthi Box.
2.What is the target group for the software?
Rasika is meant for a typical Carnatic Music listener who has been listening to the music and who is perhaps able to recognize a few raagams, but wants to go deeper into the organisation of the system and would like to acquire knoowledge which would enable him to appreciate the music better and perhaps also develop some swara jnyanam, be able to identify more ragams, distinguish between allied rangams etc. The other group is the music student who can use Rasika to study the theory with the accompaniment of audio.
Gaayaka is for the student and budding musician. It can be used for practicing lessons in between sessions with the teacher and to enter notation from books, play them and improve the notation with gamakam etc. Beginner's lessons come with the software and even lessons not included can be entered and used for practice. For the more adventurous it can be used for experimenting, composing etc.
Sishya is specially for learning beginner's lessons with a better interface than Gaayaka (clearer indication of note being played, synchronised visual for Thalam action etc.) but with the limitation that only lessons supplied with the software can be used. Novice is a step by step guide for the novice in using Sishya
The Student's wav/mp3 and CD players will be useful both for the student and the musician who wants learn new songs recorded (or downloaded)in the PC or from the CD.
3. Can one learn Carnatic Music using this software alone?
Honestly No! Any software for learning has to provide both for lessons and for evaluation of student's progress. The latter is much more difficult to incorporate in Computer learning in dynamic arts like music. At present the software does not provide for recording student's performance and evaluating it. In fact evaluation of musical performance is riddled with uncertainties even when done by a human expert. As on date there is no software for recording and evaluating a Carnatic music student's performance. The subject gets very complicated due to the use of gamakams which can be sung in different ways all acceptable as correct.
However, if there is someone to guide the user, the beginner's lessons can be learnt without a regular teacher. Any one who has an ear for correct intonation and is able to check the alignment of student's singing with the notes produced by Sishya or Gaayaka can guide the student.
For a more advanced student who has no regular access to a teacher, the wav/mp3 and CD players will greately reduce the learning time because of the convenience of quickly starting at any point in the music or looping a difficult part and listening and joining in alternate passes.
4.In what way is the use of Sishya or Gaayaka better than using a cassette for practicing lessons?
In Carnatic music there is no fixed pitch for the tonic (Aadhara Shadjam). A person chooses a sruthi most suited for his or her voice - commonly referred to by the 'kattai' system (the first white key on a keyboard or harmonium is 1 kattai). Male singers usually sing between half and 2 kattai. Children and ladies use 4 to 6 kattai. In a recorded cassette the music would be in the sruthi (kattai) of the singer which may not be the same as the student's. In direct lessons, it is the teacher who adjusts his or her voice to teach in the sruthi of the student. In Sishya and Gaayaka the student can choose an aadhara sruthi to suit his/her voice while if a cassette is used the student has to abandon his natural sruthi to sing with the cassette and then sing in his own sruthi later which is quite difficult for a beginner.
Sishya and Gaayaka also enable change of tempo - lessons can be learnt at a slower tempo in the beginning and later at faster tempos.
The most important advantage is that a part of the lesson can be selected and made to loop indefenitely - the student can alternately listen and join with the music. In the case of a cassette rewinding and locating the beginning of a particluar part of the lesson is difficult and time comsuming and there is no looping facility.
Finally, unlike in the case of a cassette or CD there is a visual interface. In the case of Sishya the thaalam actions are also seen.
5.What about the fine nuances of Carnatic Music? How far are they incorporated in the music produced by the Software?
Rasika which is a description of the system puts lot of stress on gamakams both in the textual narrative and in the music. The more important gamakams are described with audio examples in the Introductory module. The description of ragams in the Raagam module also stresses on the use of gamakams and the audio phrases sound natural as if played on a Veena or Flute (which can be chosen). In Gaayaka enough enhancements (such as control of transit time from note to note, microtonal variation in note pitch) of the current notation system have been incorporated to enable generation of gamakams. However this is not automatic. Notation has to be written for the gamakam which is not easy. To make it easier for the user, ready made notation for more common gamakams used in common ragams are included with the software. This notation can be copied and pasted in the composing screen. Many of the 'Users Contribution' notations have been written by the users by copying and pasting the ready made gamakams. Sishya offers lessons upto Geethams both with and without Gamakam. The Varnams are only with Gamakam
6.Is the software user friendly?
Rasika is very easy to use. It is in the form of a textual narrative which you simply read and when there is a hot spot or link shown in different color and underlined (just as in web pages on the Internet), by clicking on it some visual or audio or audio-visual is accessed. Included in Rasika are 3 quizzes, a glossary and a master index.
Gaayaka and Sishya are easy to use if you want to use the lessons provided for practice or just to listen to the krithis, varnams, ragam phrases etc. You simply click on the required lesson and click 'Play'.
If you want to use Gaayaka for composing or copying notation from a book, it requires some knowledge of the notation system (which is explained in the Thalam module of Rasika and in the Help file of Gaayaka). For composing you need swara jnyanam. There is extensive help in Gaayaka and also tips for copying from books and for students.
7.The size of the software is so small. How is it that many hours of music is included?
The music is synthesized from data in real time. It is the same principle as used in Midi. Just as a midi file contains only data or instructions as to what is to be played, the required data is included in the Rasika package but it is in a totally different format. Just as in the case of Midi only instrumental music is available. Midi is not quite suitable for Carnatic music as it has many limitations in moving over range of notes for producing gamakams and some of the midi commands required for full fledged gamakams do not work in all sound cards. As the music is produced from data instead of storing it as digitised samples the package is quite small.
8.What are the practical facilities available in the package for a student?
Beginner's lessons upto Geetham stage and a few varnams are included and can be played with Gaayaka or Sishya. More files (which can be played with Gaayaka) are put up on the website under 'Users Contributions'   and   'More notation files'
A Sruthi box, a Thamboora are included and can be accessed from the opening screens of Rasika or Gaayaka - Sishya. Rasika has a thalameter which has facility for 2 kalai and thisram.
Using Gaayaka (Thambura.gka) thambura sound in different sruthis can be generated. If auto thalam is set up then a combined thambura and thalameter becomes available.
Melam quiz, note recognition quiz and Raagam recognition quiz are available in Rasika.
The 2 Student's players for playing .wav/mp3 files stored in the PC or for playing Audio CD's would be very useful for a student (or even a musician) to learn new songs. The expanded 'time line' interface and the facility to create blocks etc. make them ideal tools for learning recorded songs.
The different modules of Rasika can help a student in the study of the theory of Carnatic Music.
9.What support is available for the users of the software?
The author can be contacted on phone or by email for any doubts or problems faced in running the software. Where possible any composition requested will be set to Gaayaka notation and supplied by email or put up in this site.
10.What are the limitations of the package?
There is no live vocal music recording included and all music is in the tones of Veena or Flute.
Writing of notation for new compositons in Gaayaka is quite difficult as Carnatic gamakams have never been properly quantified - only qualitative descriptions are available. This drawback is partly offset by the provision of ready made gamakam notation for common ragams.