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You should find a proper kirtan teacher first. Most kirtan teachers make a ton of shortcuts and won't go through Sur Abiyaas (practice hitting vocal notes) and the proper alankaars to get you warmed up so when you play a shabad you will hit the note properly. Harmonium is a great starting instrument if you want to practice your voice and learn kirtan. It takes a month or a couple months to get the basic alankaars, sur and basic shabads. After that it's all about daily practice and how much you put in will dictate how much you progress.

I'm just a beginner right now too, but I didn't know how big of a process and undertaking it is to learn kirtan. The benefits are endless though.

From my understanding after you learn the basics you can start learning Tanti Saaj (or you could start right from there if your Ustad ji teaches it). What I'm doing is learning Harmonium and Tabla first. Once I learn enough I begin to learn Saaj - from what people have said is that many instrument's notes translate over from Harmonium notes and by then your voice will have been solidified on Harmonium making it easier.

Good luck, hardest part is finding the right Ustad

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I'm looking into learning how to play raag and obviously I'll need an instrument to do so. What instruments would you recommend for a beginner at kirtan? I'm leaning towards the sitar but im not sure. I'd like to hear your input.]

Sitar is okay but first you will need to sing sa re ga ma pa da ni sa//Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do before you progress any further. You must sing these in solfege number. Solfege provides solmization therefore very important to master it straightway. This will save a tremendous amount of heartache and disappointment later on. Tabla is fine too.

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My favourite instruments are Taus and Dilrubba. Esraj and Sarangi, also appeal to me very much. I only listen to classical kirtan where most of the Sikh classical instruments are played.

I also love the taus and dilruba, especially since they are creations of our gurus. The reason I would rather the sitar is because bowed instruments just aren't my thing and i prefer plucked string instruments or percussion instruments. I currently play primarily the mandolin, and i know that is used in kirtan sometimes, but I have hardly any knowledge of how to play kirtan. But really the instrument that i end up playing doesn't matter, I just want to learn kirtan!

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I also want to learn the Saranda and Taus but you have to do your due diligence and start from somewhere. Whatever instrument you start with you will have to do Sur Abiyaas regardless and mostly is done with a harmonium I think

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Could it be done with a piano or keyboard?

If it's in proper tune then maybe. I don't think piano will work because the sound is a bit different. The tanpura has a closer matching to a human's throat/voice and thus that's ideal to practice with for advanced people (from my understanding) and the harmonium is also very similar (but nowhere near as close to tampura) in terms of practicing. You would probably be making things a lot harder on yourself by doing that.

Trust me bro, I've been there and I also wanted to start on tanti saaj right away, but if you're in it to learn for long haul start wherever you can and start properly and then progress. Many teachers - even those dudes with nice websites, flashy pictures and 1000s of dollars in fees cut shortcuts in teaching the basics.

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If it's in proper tune then maybe. I don't think piano will work because the sound is a bit different. The tanpura has a closer matching to a human's throat/voice and thus that's ideal to practice with for advanced people (from my understanding) and the harmonium is also very similar (but nowhere near as close to tampura) in terms of practicing. You would probably be making things a lot harder on yourself by doing that.

Trust me bro, I've been there and I also wanted to start on tanti saaj right away, but if you're in it to learn for long haul start wherever you can and start properly and then progress. Many teachers - even those dudes with nice websites, flashy pictures and 1000s of dollars in fees cut shortcuts in teaching the basics.

I have a MIDI keyboard with a harmonium sound and it sounds semi realistic. But maybe that won't work? Not sure. What do you think?

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I have a MIDI keyboard with a harmonium sound and it sounds semi realistic. But maybe that won't work? Not sure. What do you think?

No idea bro, you will have to check with your teacher and they will tell you if it will work

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