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Gamakas are subtle (and not-so-subtle) decorations of notes, usually referred to as "shaking the note." They come in various forms and are incorporated into ragas, giving each note a unique characteristic and a delicate beauty when performed.

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The types of gamakas are below:

aarOha - this is the ascending scale. Moving from one note ascending to the next is a gamaka. These can also be done rapidly and in succession, giving long runs of great beauty when executed with skill. ex: s r g m p d n S R G M
avarOha - similarly, moving down from a higher note to the next lower note is also a gamaka. ex: M G R S n d p m g r s
daatu - using one note as a base and jumping to others in succession. This is great for emphasizing one note and also giving almost a rhythmic tone to the singing. ex: sr sg sm sp sd sn sS
spuritam - these are repeated notes, in twos. In such cases, the second note is usually stressed. ex: ss rr gg mm pp dd nn SS
kampitam - this means singing a note between two notes. For example, ma can be sung instead as gpgpgp... giving a shake to the note
aahatam - using notes in succession (ascending) but paired with the next note. ex: sr rg gm mp pd dn ns It can also be used as gmg rgr srs
pratyaavatam - the same as aahatam but in the descending scale. ex: Sn nd dp pm mg gr rs It can also be used as sns ndn dpd ...
tripuccam - repeated notes in threes. ex: sss rrr ggg mmm ppp ddd nnn sss
aandOLam - also called dOlakam, this is, for example, srsg srsm srsp srsd srsn srsS
moorcanai - this is using the proper gamakam of the raaga. If a raga requires the use of a particular gamaka for a certain note, this must be performed when singing the scale or whenever the note is sung or performed
daaTu - this is jumping of notes within a scale, skipping notes. ex: sg rm gp md pn dS
jaaru - a glide or slide from one note to another (whether successive or from a distant note) ex: s .... S
hampitam - a rarely used gamaka in recent years, this is the use of the syllable "hoom" (like boom)
naabhitam - swelling a note in volume (like a crescendo)
mudritam - humming, singing with the mouth closed ex: mmmmm...
tribhinnam - performing multiple (usually 3) notes at once, as in a chord. This is for instrumental performers only
mishritam - using a mixture of any gamakas listed above

Next: How to Practice Singing

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updated on 03/20/2009