Basics of Carnatic Music

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These notes are created by me for the benefit of those who are keen to gain a theoritical introduction to South Indian Classical Music which is also popularly known as Carnatic Music.This document represents my views on Carnatic Music whose origin dates back to thousands of years; yes you read it right - thousands of years. It is a very evolving and enduring form of divine music.I am keen to publish the basic musical notes. But this will be based on the responses I receive for this document.

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March 10, 2013

Basics of Carnatic MusicIntroduction to South Indian Classical Music

Pavithra Rajesh

Basics of Carnatic Music

ContentsBasics of Carnatic Music................................................................................................................................ 2 Introduction .............................................................................................................................................. 2 Pitch .......................................................................................................................................................... 3 Scale .......................................................................................................................................................... 3 Raagam or Raaga ...................................................................................................................................... 4 Thalam or Thala ........................................................................................................................................ 4

Basics of Carnatic Music

Basics of Carnatic MusicIntroductionClassical South Indian music or Carnatic music is based out of 7 basic Swaras. A swara is the musical sound of a single note. S Shatjam R Rishabam G Gandharam M Madhyamam P Panchamam D Dhaivadham N Nishadham S & P are called Prakruthi Swaras (meaning they will never change). R, G, M, D, N are all called Vikruthi Swaras (meaning they are subject to change). Each of the Vikruthi Swaras can be categorized as follows: 1. Rishabam Suddha Rishabam, Chathusruthi Rishabam (equivalent to Suddha Ghandharam) & Shadsruthi Rishabam 2. Gandharam Sadharana Gandharam (equivalent to Shadsruthi Rishabam), Anthara Gandharam & Suddha Gandharam 3. Madhyamam Suddha Madhyamam & Prathi Madhyamam 4. Dhaivadham Suddha Dhaivadham & Chathusruthi Dhaivadham (equivalent to Suddha Nishadham) & Shadsruthi Dhaivadham 5. Nishadham Kaisika Nishadham (equivalent to Shadsruthi Dhaivadham) & Kakali Nishadham Though there are 16 notes in total usage, there are only 12 places or Swarasthanas. These 12 notes are called Suddha Swaras. The remaining four Swaras namely Shadsruthi Rishabam, Suddha Gandharam, Shadsruthi Gandharam and Suddha Nishadam also called as Vivadhi Swaras (denoted with the subscript 3) occur in scales in the place of Suddha Swaras. The above mentioned equivalent Swaras will never go together in any Raaga. In the olden days only Suddha Swaras were used. Later with the introduction of the Vivadhi Swaras the 16 notes theory came in to existence.

Basics of Carnatic Music In colloquial terms the Suddha swaras can also be referred as follows: Suddha Rishabam Small Rishabam (R1) Chathusruthi Rishabam Big Rishabam (R2) Sadharana Gandharam Small Gandharam (G1) Anthara Gandharam Big Gandharam (G2) Suddha Madhyamam Small Madhayamam (M1) Prathi Madhyamam Big Madhyamam (M2) Suddha Dhaivadham Small Dhaivadham (D1) Chathusruthi Dhaivadham Big Dhaivadham (D2) Kaisika Nishadham Small Nishadham (N1) Kakali Nishadham Big Nishadham (N2)

The Vivadhi Swaras are denoted as follows: Shadsruthi Rishabam R3 (G1) Suddha Gandharam G3 (R 2) Shadsruthi Dhaivadham D3 (N1) Suddha Nishadham N3 (D2)

PitchThe frequency chosen for a song is called a Pitch. Based on every individuals voice range (the extent to which they can accurately hit a lower note as well as a higher note for a particular swaram), a pitch can be chosen.

ScaleThere are 3 scales in Carnatic music. A scale is referred to as Sthayi. 1) Manthrasthayi bottom most 2) Madhyasthayi middle 3) Tharasthayi uppermost

Basics of Carnatic Music

Raagam or RaagaThe tune of a song is basically called the Raaga. It is the Raagam that brings out the emotion or bhavam of a song. Every Raaga consists of Aarohanam and Avarohanam which are formed by simple combination of the 7 Swaras. Aarohanam is the stepping up of the Swaras and when they are stepped down it makes the Avarohanam. There are totally 72 Melakartha Raagas (Janaka Raagas / Parent Raagas) in Carnatic music out of which the first 36 Raagas are called Suddha Madhyama Raagas and the rest are called Prathi Madhyama Raagas. The descendant Raagas of each of these 72 Mela kartha Raagas are called Janya Raagas. Each Janya Raaga bears the swaras exactly the way it appears in its kartha Raaga. Only the combination of the swaras differ. Further these Janya Raagas are divided in to Sampoorna Raagam bearing 7 swaras, Shadava Raagam bearing 6 swaras and Owdava Raagam bearing 5 swaras.

Thalam or ThalaThala in Sanskrit means a clap. Thalam forms the rhythmic basis for Carnatic music. Precisely it is nothing but time which is measured in terms of beats. There are 7 most important Thalams in Carnatic music represented as follows. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Dhruva Thalam 1 0 1 1 Madya Thalam -1 0 1 Rupaka Thalam 0 1 Tchampa Thalam 1 + 1 + Audhrutham + Dhrutham Tripuda Thalam - 1 0 0 Ada Thalam 1 1 0 0 Eka Thalam - 1

The above mentioned Thalams have forms (Jaathi) like Tisram, Chathusram, Ghantam, Misram and Sankeernam which altogether form 35 Thalams in Carnatic music.

To be continued

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