In classical music of south India Kalpanaswaram (also called swara kalpana, svara kalpana, manodharmaswara or just swaras), is raga improvisation within a specific tala in which the musician improvises in the Indian music solfege (sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, da, ni) after completing a composition.

The kalpanaswaram start may start at any place in the tala, but the artist must end their improvisation at the first note of the first phrase of the composition, at the place in the rhythm cycle, where that note is. To arrive at that note, one has to approach it from the closest note below.

Kalpanaswaram improvisations increase in intensity the more tala cycles used. One complete tala cycle is called an . While improvising, the musician must abide by the rules of the raga and should sing kalpanaswaram phrases that have been sung over the years. Some ragas omit notes and others have zigzagging ascents or descents. The great musicians develop a vocabulary of phrases in kalpanaswaram as in an alapana, especially when doing kalpanaswaram at low speeds, which allow for more gamaka. The place where the first note of the first phrase of the composition exists in the rhythm cycle is called the .

Kalpanaswaram is performed in a Carnatic Concert for the main song, the singer chooses to perform the Raga Alapana. However in concerts, artists will choose a difficult raga to perform a Kalpanaswaram in. Although there are no set rules, there can be confusion.

Take the Raga Sahana (janya of 28th Melakarta raga Harikambhoji):


Cormack, Josepha A. 1992. Svara Kalpana: Melodic/Rhythmic Improvisation in Karnatak Music. PhD Dissertation: Wesleyan University.

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