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DIVISION OF SAPTAK

In Indian Classical music three saptaks (Octaves) are usually utilized.

Saptak : When the set of seven notes is played in the order it is called a Saptak (i.e. Sa , Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni). In the keyboard or harmonium the Sa gets repeated after Ni. The frequency of 2nd Sa is twice the frequency of first Sa. Notes of this saptak are indicated by a sign of full stop on right side e.g. S.

 

Mandar Saptak: The one below the madh saptak is called mandr saptak (low). Notes of this octave are sung or played in a low deep tone. This comprises of the saptak that is below the lower Sa of the madh saptak. Notes of this saptak are indicated by a sign of  Full Stop on left side e.g. (.S)

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Madh Saptak: The normal tone of human voice, which is neither high nor low. It is called madh saptak (middle octave). This has got no symbol in the notation system.Example – S, R, G, M

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Taar Saptak: The one higher than madh saptak is taar saptak (high). The notes are high and sharp. The frequency of the second Sa is twice the frequency of the first Sa. The second Sa belongs to taar saptak and in this way the same saptak gets repeated.Notes of this saptak are indicated by a sign of full stop on the right side e.g. (S.)

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The Indian musical scale is said to have evolved from 3 notes to a scale of 7 primary notes, on the basis of 22 intervals. A scale is divided into 22 shrutis or intervals, and these are the basis of the musical notes. Musicians as Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni know the 7 notes of the scale. These 7 notes of the scale do not have equal intervals between them. A Saptak is a group of 7 notes, divided by the intervals is as follows:

Sa     Re      Ga  Ma       Pa           Dha       Ni
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

The first and fifth notes (Sa and Pa) do not alter their positions on this interval. The other 5 notes can change their positions in the interval, leading to different ragas.


NOTES OF A SAPTAK

The notes of the Indian gamut (seven notes of music) are known as sargam. Just as the English word “alphabet” is derived from the Greek letters “alpha,  beta”, in the same way the word Sargamis derived from Sa-Re-Ga-Ma”. Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, is simply the initial notes (swar) of the Indian musical gamut. These swars are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. The intervals of the Indian scale are essentially the same as those of the western scale. The notes in the Western scale are evenly spaced; the ones in the Eastern scale follow the natural divisions of vibrational frequencies.

Musical notes are chosen by certain names. However, the names do not refer to notes of fixed absolute pitch. Having decided on the schedule and key in which the performance is to take place, the singer or musician determines the pitch, which will be the fundamental pitch, and designates it as the first note of the octave, calling it by the label ” Sa “. The succeeding notes of the octave are then given the following names: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa

The full names of the notes are given as under:

  1. Sa Khraj/Shadj (the tonic note)
  2. Re Rekhab
  3. Ga Gandhar
  4. Ma Madhyam
  5. Pa Pancham
  6. Dha Dhaivat
  7. Ni Nikhad

The intervals between these notes can be regarded as the same as those of the standard C major scale of just temperament, and we will denote these notes by S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S.

S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S           (Indian)

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C          (western)

Traditionally, the seven swars are said to derive, as do many elements of Indian music, from sounds in nature: Shadj/Sa is said to imitate the cry of the peacock; Rekhab /Re, the chataka bird crying for its mate; Gandhar /Ga, the bleating of a goat or sheep; Madhyam /Ma, the middle sound, the crane or heron’s call; Pancham /Pa, the fifth sound, the kokila (cuckoo) in spring; Dhaivat /Dha, the horse’s neigh, or the frog in the rainy season; Nikhad /Ni, the trumpeting  of the elephant.

  • Shuddh or natural notes are notated as S, R, G, M, P, D, N,
  • All upper case letters except Sa and Pa refer to ” Sudh Swars” Example,
  • All lower case letters refer to the “Komal Swars”. Example, r g d
  • For (M) refers Shuddh Ma or the natural one and (M’) refers to the ‘Tiver or Kori Ma’.

Sa and Pa are never sharp or flat. Shuddh Ma, however, is written with a lower case M. It is the only note ever referred to as sharp. As tiver or “bright” Ma it is written with an upper case M’. In addition there are of course, certain notes that are komal (flat) or tiver (sharp) versions of some of these.


TWELVE NOTES OF A SAPTAK

No Notes Notes Detail Notes Properties
1 S Sa, which will be represented by S Khraj Sa (Or fixed/constant Sa)
2 r Komal Re, which will be represented by r Komal Re
3 R Sudh Re, which will be represented by R Sudh Re
4 g Komal Ga, which will be represented by g Komal Ga
5 G Sudh Ga, which will be represented by G Sudh Ga
6 M Sudh Ma, which will be represented by M   Shuddh Ma (natural note)
7  M’ Tiver Ma, which will be represented by M’ Tiver Ma
8 P Pa, will be represented by P; (immovable note) Fixed/constant Pa
9 d Komal Dha, which will be represented by d Komal Dha
10 D Sudh Dha, which will be represented by D Sudh Dha
11 n Komal Ni, which will be represented by n Komal Ni
12 N Sudh Ni, which will be represented by N Sudh Ni
Komal means notes with lower voice and Sudh means notes with higher voice. Shuddh Notes are also called natural notes

 

 

  • We can fix any note as khraj note that is “Sa” and corresponding attached notes of scale will be according to the given arrangement. E.g. S, r, R, g, G, m, M, P, d, D, n, N
  • Sa and Pa are immovable or constant. Thus the full twelve-tone scale arrangement of notes is labeled as: S, r, R, g, G, m, M, P, d, D, n, N, S’. Here in the below given picture we have selected first black key as our khraj note.

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                                          Comparing 12 Notes Sargam With 12 Western Notes
  • Each time we change our Khraj note (Sa) the position of notes in scale will also be changed according to below given arrangement where our Khraj note is first white key in the below given diagram.
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                                                   Pic.2 Selecting Sa From the First white key.

So, how do you distinguish between octaves? Mandr saptak is situated in extreme left of harmonium or keyboard and notes of mandr saptak have a sign of Full Stop on left side e.g. (.S) Middle saptak is without any sign and taar saptak is in extreme right. Notes written in taar saptak are shown by a sign of Full Stop on right e.g. (S.)

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                                                          Full 12 Notes in all the three Saptaks.

We will use as the fundamental note the C# which lies in middle octave in western system. This will correspond to Sa in madh saptak of Indian system. So by combining both systems the other notes will correspond as follows:

Most of the singers sing in the particular scale according to their sound pitch. Many male vocalists will use C# or D# as their fundamental starting note. Female vocalists tend to place their fundamental somewhere in the range from F# to A#. Female sound pitch is higher than male. Lowercase (small) letters are shown as “komal” or flat notes, and the uppercase (capital) letters are shown as “tiver” or sharp. All notes except for Sa and Pa have an alter ego, whose nature is either komal or tiver.

Identifying notes and their position:

  •  Shuddh (natural) notes are notated as S, R, G, M, P, D, N,
  • Komal (flat) notes are notated as r, g, d, n
  •  Tiver Ma is also notated as M’ 
  • FullStop(.) + Note (.S .R .G .M .P .D .N) = notes in lower octave (mandr saptak)
  • (S R G M P D N) = notes in middle octave (madh saptak)
  • Note + FullStop(.) (S. R. G. M. P. D. N.) = notes in upper octave (taar saptak).

The lower case letters indicate komal or flat notes, the upper case, Shuddh or pure, natural notes. Sa and Pa are never sharp or flat. Shuddh Ma, however, is written with a lower case m. It is the only note ever referred to as sharp. As tiver or “bright” Ma is written with an upper case M.

Sa of Indian is equivalent to C# of the western system. This need not be the case, since in Indian music ‘Sa’ is not only the most important note (also called the “tonic” note), it is modal, e.g. it can be anything you wish and the other corresponding notes will offset from there as shown in above picture 1a and 2a. However, C, C# are commonly used as Sa. Most persons prefer to play music from the western C# as their starting point. In other words,

they select Sa from C#, which is a common expression which is easy to remember. It is suggested to use C# if you are beginning to play harmonium or keyboard as a student of music for simplicity and ease. After learning you may start playing from any note and corresponding notes will change according to our chosen khraj note.

Indian classical music is principally based on melody and rhythm, not on harmony, counterpoint, chords, and modulation. Before you begin your first lesson, you must go through the initial lessons above. When you have a basic understanding of the notes of a sargam, it will help you sing and play better.


SARGAM

Natural notes (pure or major) are called Shudh notes which are shown as S, R, G, M, P, D, N. The notes, or swars, are Khraj/Shadj, Rekhab, Gandhar, Madhyam, Pancham, Dhaivat and Nikhad. When singing these become Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, and sargam stands for “Sa-Re-Ga-Ma”. Only these syllables are sung, and further designations are never vocalized. When writing these become, S, R, G, M, P, D, N. A sign of fullstop on the right side of a letter (S.) indicates the octave higher, a sign of fullstop on the left side of a letter (.S) indicates the octave lower. Re, Ga, Dha, and Ni may be either shudh or komal; Ma may be either shudh or tivar and is then called tiver Ma. Sa and Pa are immovable (once Sa is selected),

Don’t think there is anything that you can practice that will have as much an impact on your playing as sargam. Take the sargam challenge. Play the sargam every night for one month and then re-assess your playing skills afterward.

In other words Sargam is the collection of music notes or the swar of the scale. It has been mentioned earlier how notes of the sargam relate to the western scale. Practicing to play sargam in music is bit like weight training. Basic rules of weight training are to start with simple exercises with

lightweights. As you get comfortable with lightweights, you increase repetitions or increase the weight you are lifting. You also focus on muscle group you work on. You go to heavier and more complex exercises after you feel comfortable with the basic exercises. When we say sargam, we don’t just mean a scale of notes but it means the act of playing the sargam. Playing the sargam is the single most important thing you can do when you are learning harmonium or keyboard. When beginning to learn harmonium, the teachers should not stress the playing of the sargam too much or enforce it. After all, there is nothing joyous about playing one note after the other in succession, over and over again. Students tend to hate sargam for this very reason. Getting students into sargam is a challenge.

Sargam fixes everything. If your right hand is not strong enough, sargam fixes that. If you are not confident in class, sargam fixes that. If you don’t know where the notes are at the beginning, or how to sit properly for long periods of time or need discipline or you are trying to increase your speed or clarity or timing or rhythm or etc; sargam fixes all. Sargam needs great practice, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Nothing is more boring than playing the same notes over and over again, so spice up your sargam with some of the variations. This will sound like you are actually playing something.


THAAT

The set of seven notes is called a thaat and thaat produce ragas. The system of classification for the raga in different groups is called a thaat. Thaat system is an “artificial” way to classifying ragas. Classification in Thaat system is purely for academic purpose. It is not necessary that Ragas from the same thaat might have same or similar personality. The idea behind thaat is pretty simple. There are 12 notes in an octave – 7 pure notes and 5 flat/augmented notes. If one makes various permutations of these notes, one can think of 72 different combinations. Hindustani system, however, adds further restrictions on the way these notes are used. It is usually not allowed to use both pure and corresponding flat note one after the other (and since this is an evolved art form and not science, there are always exceptions to such rules). When such restrictions are factored in, the numbers of thaat reduce to ten. It is important for beginners to practice Kalyan thaat well to begin with. As they get comfortable with it, they may switch to Behravi thaat. I also find from my own experience that Bhairav thaat too presents some interesting fingering challenges. If one gets command on these three, the other thaat usually follow pretty easily.

If you learn thaat then you can easily learn ragas and can play many songs in keyboard or harmonium. You can play few songs with thaat but unlimited songs can be produced with ragas and ragas produce beauty. It is easy to play songs in a thaat that contain fixed number of ascending and descending notes. In a  raga there may not be fix number of notes in ascending and descending order so, it is not easy to play songs in the first instance. There are certain rules for representation of thaat. These rules of classification of thaat are defined as under.

  1. A thaat must have seven notes out of the twelve notes placed in an ascending or descending order. Both the forms of the notes can be
  2. Thaat has only one arohi and one
  3. Thaat is not to be sung and is for only playing music songs but the ragas produced from the thaat are
  4. Thaat is named after the popular raga of that thaat. For example behravi is a popular raga and the thaat of the raga behravi is named after the
  5. Out of ten thaat about 80 ragas are developed and performed these days. But for a beginner 30 ragas are sufficient to bring perfection in

The set of seven notes or scale that can produce a raga is called a thaat. The system of classification for the ragas in different groups is called a thaat. There  are again several systems of classification of the raga. Presently in Indian classical music the 10-thaat classifications of ragas is commonly known.

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  1. A thaat must have seven notes out of the twelve notes placed in an ascending or descending order. Both the forms of the notes can be
  2. Thaat has only one arohi and one
  3. Thaat is not to be sung and is for only playing music songs but the ragas produced from the thaat are
  4. Thaat is named after the popular raga of that thaat. For example bhairavi is a popular raga and the thaat of the raga bhairavi is named after the
  5. Out of ten thaat about 80 ragas are developed and performed these days. But for beginner 30 popular ragas or less are sufficient to bring perfection in learning.

10 Thaats Diagram with Sudh, Komal & Tiver Notes.

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RAGAS

Ragas are derived from ten thaats or parent modes. These thaats are sampooran i.e. containing seven notes in the octave, whereas a raga may contain five, six or all the seven notes or any combination thereof. A thaat is only a group of abstract tonal forms, but a raga is a combination of notes having the power of generating and creating emotional values. Ragas are the melodic modes used in Indian classical music. A raga describes a generalized

 

form of melodic practice; it prescribes a set of rules for how to build a melody. It specifies rules for movements up (arohi) and down (amrohi) the scale, which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more carefully, and so on. The result is a structure that can be used to compose or improvise melodies, allowing for everlasting variation within the set of notes.

 

All the Ragas have a name and a character, which can be devotional, bold and gallant, or tragic. Raga usually comes with a time of the day when it is best performed. Some ragas are related to seasons, for example the raga malhar is usually performed mainly in the monsoon season, or it can be sung at any time.

 

Ten Thaat & Their Important Ragas

 

Thaat                                       Some Well Known Ragas
Kalyan Kalyan, Shuddh Kalyan, Aiman Kalyan, Aiman/Yaman, Bhupali, Kamod, Chhayanat
Bilawal Bilawal, Bihag, Durga, Hansdhwani
Khamaj Khamaj, Jhinjhoti, Desh
Kafi Kafi, Pilu, Bageshri, Miyan Ki Malhar
Asavari Asavari, Jaunpuri, Darbari Kanada
Behravi Behravi, Bilaskhani Todi, Malkaus
Bhairav Bhairav, Gauri, Lalit, Jogiya, Ramkali
Todi Todi, Multani, Gurjari Todi
Purvi Purvi, Puriya Dhanashree, Shree, Basant
Marwa

Marwa, Jait, Vibhas, Bhatiyar, Puriya, Sohni

 


ALANKARS

 Alankars are different sets of the swars that will enable you to practice and familiarize yourself with the different sounds. You should practice these till you can play them correctly without looking at the keyboard. While you practice, please sing along with notes so that you can improve your voice.

The term Alankar literally means an ornament or decoration; it is the repetition of musical notes from a Raga in a particular pattern.

Alankars are of four types:

  1. Asthai Alankars, which returns to the initial note
  2. Arohi Alankars, which is a ascending sequence of notes
  3. Amrohi Alankars, which is a descending sequence of notes
  4. Sanchari Alankars, which combines elements of the above

Alankars are extremely useful for practice and are a great way of getting familiar with your keyboard or harmonium.

Here are some more Alankars for practice; try to play them continuously for an extended period of time; its extremely important that your fingers move smoothly on the keyboard because when you are playing a metered melody, an extra second’s hesitation is enough to send you out of synchronization with the taal or rhythm.

Basic Alankars

  1. AROH – S R  G  M  P  D  N
    AVROH – S.  N  D  P  M  G  R  S
  2. AROH – SS RR  GG  MM  PP  DD  NN  S.
    AVROH – S.S.  NN  DD  PP  MM  GG  RR  SS
  3. AROH – SRG RGM  GMP  MPD  PDN
    AVROH – S.ND  NDP  DPM  PMG  MGR  GRS
  4. AROH – SRGM RGMP  GMPD  MPDN
    AVROH – S.NDP  NDPM  DPMG  PMGR  MGRS
  5. AROH – SRGMP RGMPD  GMPDN
    AVROH – S.NDPM  NDMPG  DPMGR  PMGRS
  6. AROH – SRGMPD RGMPDN
    AVROH – S.NDPMG  NDPMGR  DPMGRS
  7. AROH – SRGMPDN
    AVROH – S.NDPMGR  NDPMGRS
  8. AROH – SRGMPDNS.
    AVROH – S.NDPMGRS
  9. AROH – SR RG  GM  MP  PD  DN
    AVROH – S.N  ND  DP  PM  MG  GR  RS
  10. AROH – SG RM  GP  MD  PN
    AVROH – S.D  NP  DM  PG  MR  GS

Note: Practice all of these alankars in given below ten thaats to get better results.

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