Kartal Beginner Course | Mikey Jay

Welcome to this comprehensive Kartal course, our offering to the bhakti world for Purushottama month. The course developed from my research in kartal playing since joining the 24-hour kirtan department in Sridham Mayapur. Check out the project here:

Although there are some nice basic videos out there, and I link to a few of them throughout the course as extra resources, I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t find a nice comprehensive course in English that teaches the very basics for a brand new kirtaneer, to the fancier things for those who want a bit more spice in their kirtans. I put this together in a way that anybody at home can easily become a very nice kartal player in a short amount of time with enough practice. I hope it will inspire many kirtaneers around the world to learn to play the kartals sweetly for Krishna’s pleasure.

I welcome comments throughout so if you have a better method for anything I teach here or can add corrections or additions, it is very welcome so we can all improve our kartal playing and understanding. If there are enough additions I may add an appendix video or two with the extra information.

So for those who don’t know Kartals are a pair of finger cymbals used in kirtan. They keep a steady beat and are a fundamental rhythm instrument along with the khol or mridanga. Kartals add beauty and energy to a kirtan when played sweetly and can also be played alone if there is no other instrumentation available. In fact, that is how Srila Prabhupada first started the Harinama sankirtan in the West. His voice, a pure devotional heart and a pair of kartals.

Its fun to play the kartals and often the easiest instrument for musicians of any level to pick up. But because of this it’s easy for the kirtan to be disturbed by a well intentioned but inexperienced player. I hope this resource will serve to help enhance the overall sound and mood of the kirtan. If you practice along with the videos in this course and apply that knowledge while playing in kirtan, your kartal playing will become an enjoyable experience for yourself, the other devotees and ultimately Krsna.

The kirtans during Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s time used kartals as described in the famous Gaura Arotik song by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur

śańkha bāje ghaṇṭā bāje bāje karatāla
madhura mṛdańga bāje parama rasāla

Conchshells, bells, and karatalas resound, and the mrdangas play very sweetly. This kirtana music is supremely sweet and relish able to hear. (Verse 5).

Note the music was supremely sweet and relishable to hear. The most important thing in kirtan is our affectionate expression of love and so it is not necessary to be a professional musician. But if we can make some small effort to enhance our contribution to the musical elements of a kirtan, to make them sweet and relishable to hear, this will be greatly appreciated by others participating in the kirtan and ultimately Krishna.

In a nicely written article titled “The Art of Kirtan”, Vraja Kishor prabhu points out that “To make an effort to increase the beauty of ones celebration of Krishna’s name is itself an act of love.” You can find a link below to the full article and it also contains some instructional videos on basic kartal playing.

So how are we going to increase the beauty of our kartal playing in this course? Well the syllabus will cover the following:


  • Buying and Stringing Kartals
  • How to Hold the Kartals
  • Kartal Etiquette
  • Basic Kartal Sounds and Practice Tips
  • Counting/Keeping
  • Time/Tal Basic Kirtan rhythms
  • Basic 4 Beat
  • Basic 6 beat
  • Kartal Strikes/Bols
  • Wrist Loosening
  • Exercises
  • Kaharva Tal Mantras
  • Dadra Tal Mantras
  • Garba Tal mantras
  • Tihais for all Tals
  • Connecting Tihais
  • Alankars (decorations)

Finally nothing beats personal instruction so take every opportunity to get tips from those more experienced than yourself. But if there is no facility I hope this will serve you well. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Hare Krishna.

For more detailed information on kartals in general, I recommend reading the article at KKsongs.org.

You can see the link in the description below.

http://www.kksongs.org/kartal/ The Art of Kirtan by Vraja Kishor: https://vicd108.wordpress.com/2014/12… http://www.mikeyjay108.org

Radhika Raman Das

Raman (Radhika Raman Das) joined ISKCON in 2003 and got initiated by HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami Maharaj in 2011. As the Editor in Chief at Vaisnava Blog, he helps readers around the world hone in their Spiritual Curiosity, express their unique realizations as aspiring Vaisnava writers and enthusiasts, as well as to spread the digital seed of Srila Prabhupada's mission to spread Krishna Consciousness all around the globe.

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