Voice Practice: SA

December 10, 2013


If you’ve seen the movie “The Sound of Music”, or even heard of it, you’ve probably also heard the iconic anthem, “Do, a deer, a female deer/ Re, a drop of golden sun . . .etc” that features Julie Andrews and the (by-now sixty-year-old) kids singing variations on the major scale and dancing in the alpine meadows of Austria. As the song says, “Do” is the first note, the root, and singing through the whole scale will always “bring you back to Do”.

If that reference is too ancient for you, think, “Doh!” a la Homer Simpson.

(More on that later . . .)

Like “Do” in Western music, “Sa” is the root or tonic note of the Indian music scale.  It is a short form of the word “Shadja,” which means, “giving birth to six”.  There are seven notes to the Indian scale (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni ), i.e. Sa plus 6 other notes.  It is thought that all other notes emerge from Sa.


 I teach “SA” as a very simple and personal voice practice:

-Stand with feet comfortably shoulder-width apart, with your hands one on top of the other front of your pubic bone and your eyes closed.

-Breathe normally, and when you are ready, on an out breath, allow a single note or tone to emerge as you sing “SA” until you run out of air.

NOTE:  SA is pronounced “Sah”, with a soft “s” and an “ah”

-Keep sounding the SA on each out breath for whatever practice time you have determined:  between one and ten minutes is good.

-Just like Homer Simpson’s spontaneous “Doh!” when something happens, the “SA” can tell you where you are right now.  What sound does your body want to sing?  Is it high or low? Soft or loud?  Mournful or celebratory? Big and resonant or small and contained?

-The “SA” is also a grounding practice, helping you to connect or “root” your body when you feel a little spacey or out of control.

-If you’re into chakras, “SA” is the sound associated with the root chakra: that is,  with being grounded, present, connected to the earth, in a state of oneness with yourself and all beings.

-“SA” practice can also function as a vocal warm-up before you go into a meeting, start teaching, attend a singing circle, etc.  You can even sound it in the car: but keep your eyes open in that case!


If you have access to a keyboard or keyboard app and some basic musical knowledge, you can also locate and track your “SA” from day to day.  For example, one day it might be near the note A, the next it might shift up to a C or down to an F.  It can vary based on emotions, body tensions, hormones, or stress levels.

Over time you might come to notice patterns, and recognize times or situations when it is very helpful to sound the SA.


Drop me a line to tell me how it went, or get info about some personalized one-to-one practice

References for this article include my study of Indian Ragas as well as The Naked Voice UK.

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