Literally translated a gharana basically means a family. The style of that gharana means the style initiated by a particular family of musicians By and large the nomenclature of the gharana or style is related to the city/town in which the initiating musician resided such as Rampur, Gwalior, Patiala Kirana, etc. On the other hand when a particular musician added an outstanding dimension to a perticular style of Vocal music, instrumental music or Dance, then his gharana is known by his name. E.g. lmdadkhanj or Vilayatkhni gharana or Pandit Ravishankarji’s style of sitar playing, etc. In essence, a gharana is established through the medium of specialization. Any musical performance can be divided into the “matter” of music (what you play) and the “manner” of playing (how you play). The emotional content establishes certain amount of specialization to distinguish one gharana from the other. Kirana is basically ‘Bhakti or ‘Shanta’ rasa oriented, Patiala could be ‘Shringar’ rasa based, and Agra could be ‘Vira’ rasa based and so on. It would not be appropriate to say that a gharana projects only one basic rasa - In fact, the rendition is not oriented only to a particular rasa and utilizes the elements of several rasa-s while emphasizing one basic rasa. The importance and therefore the length of different stages of raga presentation i.e., alap, bandish, tan-s, etc., could be governed by the undercurrent of the basic rasa that the particular gharana emphasizes. Both in Agra gharana and Patiala gharana the alap form is relatively shorter. Gharana-s like Jaipur, Patiala, Agra, etc., gives significant importance and emphasis to the tan portion of a presentation Specific raga-s becomes favourites of different gharanas depending upon their mood. Over the period, raga-s like Darbari, Abhogi,, etc., are favourites of Kirana gharana musicians while intricate raga-s like Sawani, Goud-Maihar, Nat, etc., are favoured by the Jaipur gharana musicians. But this is not a basic or fundamental evaluation. A Supplementary of specialization in using the technique of voice production could be the manner in which the fluidity and the ornamental phrases like Murki-s etc. are relied upon by the Performing musicians belonging to different gharana-s. These remarks are no doubt related to Vocal music traditions of Gharanas. But the same remarks with slight modifications can be applied to instrumental music forms as well. Major Styles of sitar playing definitely express their own and individual approach, resulting into specialised renditions.
Gwalior Gharana (founder Ustad Hassu Khan, Ustad Haddu Khan) Most authorities agree that this is the oldest of the khayal gharana-s. The gharana is well-known for its full repertoire as the followers of this school are taught and know a rich collection of composition-types. Bada and chota khayal, thumri, tappa, tarana, bhajan, have been enumerated. The only omission seems to be the dhrupad. In each song-type, singers are also expected to know a reasonably large number of compositions. The gharana concentrates on aam or known raga-s, that is, those which are in general circulation and may not easily be described as rare. However, it is also suggested that the gharana has many rare raga-s in its repertoire but it tends to treat them more as varieties of some known raga than as independent entities
Jaipur Gharana (founder Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Aladiya Khan) Jaipur gharana is well-known for its penchant for rare raga-s. However in the majority of the cases these ragas are rendered with great authority and sureness of touch. It is, therefore, inevitable that the music made by the gharana is replete with intricate patterns. Its music moves more due to the high intellectual content than emotive quality. It may be on account of its dhrupad-orientation but the gharana seems to concentrate on khayal alone. There does not appear to be any room for forms such as thumri, tarana, sadra, tapkhayal, and ashtapadi in its repertoire. However, in spite of its single-minded devotion to khayal, the gharana does not lack variety because of its amazingly large store of rare raga-s.
Agra Gharana (founder Haji Sujan Khan, Ustad Gagghe Khuda Baksh) Agra was an important part of the Braj Bhumi, the land of Shri Krishna and the Bhakti and Sufi saints like Sur Das, Raskhan and others. Sujan Singh Tomar, was the founder of the Agra Gharana of music. He composed seven hundred Dhrupad songs with their Ragas. The members of his family and his successors became famous as the Dhrupadye or the singers of Dhrupad. The Kheyal is another technique of the North Indian Music in which the Agra Gharana excelled. The Agra Gharana of music was continued by the sons and grandsons and the numerous disciples of Sujan Khan. The gharana adopts a kind of voice-production which relies on a flatter variation of the vowel-sound 'a'. The gharana enjoys a rich repertoire of composition-types and bada khayal chota kliayal, dhrupad, dhamar, sadra, thumri, tarana can easily be enumerated.
Kirana Gharana (founder abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan) The fourth major gharana of khayal is of recent origin, but neither in impact nor in spread is it less effective than the other three. The main feature it exhibits is a melodious use of voice with a kind of 'o' vowel sound imposed on it throughout the alap-s. This rounded articulation obviously makes the singers' voices more resonant, an acoustic fact of some importance. To sustain resonance in singing, the gharana falls back on a profuse use of bol-alap-s, that is, it uses words for elaborating melodic ideas. It is common experience that to vocalize with consonants rather than vowels is easier as well as more effective in many cases, because the former requires less breath and, hence, is easier to control.
Benaras Gharana (founder Pandit Gopal Sharma) Benaras thumri is usually equated to the bol banav thumri. The gharana borrows many features of folk songs of the areas adjoining Uttar Pradesh. The Benaras thumri is sung in tala-s, such as deepchandi, dadra, and addha, which are also commonly used by other gharana-s. However, the Benaras treatment is full of poise and restraint, and the tempo is slightly slower. The raga-s too are common to many gharana-s but the treatment in the Benaras school is more serious in keeping with the general tenor of music made.
Lucknow Gharana The gharana presents thumri-s full of delicacy and intricate embellishments. Associations of the gliarana with the art of court-dancing have certainly helped in creating a form full of the suggestion of movement, gestures, and grace. In comparison to the Benaras thumri, the Lucknow version or interpretation is more explicit in its eroticism. Possibly, the ghazal tradition as developed in the Awadh court is the source of this feature. A very distinctive contribution of the gharana is the evolution of the bandish-ki-thumri. It is a composition-type sung usually in a fast-paced teentala and an association with the dance patterns and tabla compositions accompanying it are detectable.
Patiala Gharana (founder Ustad Fateh Ali Khan) The Patiala gharana, though of comparatively recent origin, has made its mark on the musical scene early and in many ways. The chief feature of the thumri in the school is its incorporation of the tappa ang (tappa aspect) from the Punjab region. Thus, the gharana immediately makes its presence felt as a fresh departure from the khayal-dominated Benaras and the dance-oriented Lucknow thumri-s. These thumri-s dazzle on account of their imaginative and extremely swift movements. Of equal importance is the intricacy of tonal patterns - a special mark of tappa. The Patiala thumri is also influenced by folk tunes of the region, which are in Pahadi, and its multiple varieties. The descending and lyrical tonal patterns associated with the Heer songs of the region are known for their moving quality and Patiala thumri has certainly benefited from this regional source.
Some other Gharanas are:- Delhi Gharana, Indore Gharana, Ramdasi Gharana, Rampur Gharana, Bishnupur Gharana, Lahore Gharana, Dagar Gharana etc.