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Chapter 19: Applications Using Western Music

 

Up to this point, we have studied harmonium as an Indian musical instrument which accompanies the human voice. Recalling from the previous chapters about the equally tempered scale and chords, we will use this instrument in a more Western perspective. Indian notation will still remain intact. Western music is heavily based on chords. We will only look at a couple types of chords, as this is meant to be an introduction to something that is used on harmonium.

 

A chord is a simultaneous attack of three or more notes, at the same time. Chords may imply something about the melodic phrase played, but it is not melody. Chords are often changed every few matras within an avartan. Melodies have notes changing every matra, even half or quarter matras. We will take a song that we studied earlier, Jaya Radha Madhava and add some chords in there.

 

Before we do that, we will look at some types of chords that are important to know. The first chord we will look at is the major chord. A major chord is a chord with the root note, the fifth of that root note, and major third of that root note. If the root note was Sa, then the Sa major chord would consist of Sa (the root name), suddha Ga (major third from the root note), and Pa (the fifth from the root note) being hit at the same time. Using Western tones, it will be C, E, G given that the Sa is equal to C. This is written as C major or C M. Many Western musicians tend to use chords in the Western tones method as it defines the key. Western music is more based on actual tones, than note positioning or improvisation.

 

Before we move onto the next set of chords, let us go back to the major chord example we just discussed. Notice how the word root note was used, and not Sa. The root note of the chord means the first note of the chord being played. This is not always the tonic. If I wanted to have a major chord based off of suddha ma, then I would let suddha ma be the root note. The major third note is suddha dha. (m M P d D). The fifth note would be Sa. Hence, the three notes played together is ma, suddha dha, and Sa from higher octave (m D S).

 

MAJOR CHORD = Root Tone + Major Third from Root Tone + Fifth from Root Tone

 

In terms of semi-tones:

 

MAJOR CHORD = Root Tone + 4 semitones above Root + 7 semitones above Root.

 

For example: Re major chord:

(R g G m M P d D n N S r R)

(R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7) in terms of semitones

 

The second set of chords is the minor chords. The minor chord consists of the root tone, minor third from the root, and fifth from the root. This is just like a major chord, except for the middle tone. If we wanted a Sa minor, we would play Sa, komal ga, and Pa at the same time. In Western notation, if C was the Sa, then we would play C, Eb, and G together.

 

In terms of semi-tones, the minor chord is the root tone, 3 semitones from the root tone, and seven semi-tones from the root tone.

 

Example:

 

Komal ga minor chord:

 

(g G m M P d D n N S r R g)

(R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) In terms of semitones

 

It can be said that chords are formulas on which notes to hit. Of course, there are more types of chords than just major and minor. For the scope of this study, we will only discuss chord in terms of major and minor chords using Hindustani notation.

 

Now that the two chords are defined analytically, the question arises on how to apply this to songs. Initially, it may take a lot of brain power to think root + 3 semitones + 7 semitones for major. Through practice, counting semitones will become second nature. This is just like trying to change the Sa to a different key other than Sa. Playing a melody using different Sa key will take a good amount of skill and patience. In the same way, play chords based on different swaras like the suddha ma major chord, komal ga major chord, and suddha re major chord.

 

Lets examine a song that we have done in the past, Jaya Radha Madhava from Chapter 12. In that chapter, we learned how to play the melody of the song. Melody is playing a song note-by-note. In this chapter, we will play this song through chords only. Here is the first line of the song.

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Figure 18.1

 

As mentioned from Chapter 12, this song is in Raga Darbari Kanhada. The swar set is S, R, g, m, P, d, and n. The first word jaya which are matra 7 and 8 are in the note S. In applying the chord, we can assume that it can either be Sa major or Sa minor. Lets weigh the options.

 

Sa major = Root + 4 semitones + 7 semitones

Sa major = S + G + P

 

Sa minor = Root + 3 semitones + 7 semitones

Sa minor = S + g + P

 

The Sa major would not be a wise choice, because the Sa major chord has a suddha ga. In this raga, ga is not suddha, but komal. Therefore, we will use Sa minor chord for matra 7 and 8 of the first line with the word jaya.

 

CONFLICT NOTES

 

For line 2, it is shown that suddha re is used mostly. Again we will weigh our options with suddha re, as we did in the previous example.

 

Re major = Root + 4 semitones + 7 semitones

Re major = R + M + D

 

Re minor = Root + 3 semitones + 7 semitones

Re minor = R + m + D

 

We have a problem for Line 2. Neither chord above would be a wise choice due to the presence of conflict notes. Conflict notes are notes in a chord that would clash against the melodic framework of a given musical phrase. Re major chord cause two conflictions, as tivra ma and suddha dha do not exist in the raga. Re minor would have one conflict note, namely suddha dha. Neither chord will suffice for line 2.

 

Our next option is to think of chords that would contain suddha Re. From the knowledge we have, we have a few options. Since we already examined Re as the first note with no successful result, we will examine Re as the middle note and Re as the last note.

 

Re as MIDDLE NOTE:

Re can be the middle note in a major or minor chord. If the middle note was 4 semitones away for a major chord, we would need to find the notes three semitones before Re to get the root note. This principle also applies for finding the last note in the chord. Since the final note is 7 semitones from the root and the middle note is 4 semitones away from the root, then it makes sense to conclude that the distance from the middle note to the last note is 3 semitones.

 

Major chord possibility: komal ni Major = n + R + m

Minor chord possibility: shuddha ni minor = N + R + M

 

Seeing these two possibilities: n M is a better choice than N m. The n M chord has no conflict notes, while N m has two conflict notes.

 

Re as FINAL NOTE:

Using the same thought process as above with Re as the middle note, we can deduce two more chords.

Major chord possibility: Pa Major = P + N + R

Minor chord possibility: Pa minor = P + n + R

 

Again, it is quite clear that the P m chord is also a better choice than P M, due to the fact that P M has one conflict note, as opposed to P m having none.

 

IS THIS ALL FOR CHORDS?

It all depends what you want to do. Indian music was not meant to have chords, as it puts all of its strength in real melody. Even though chord playing is meant for the weaker hand (left hand for the right-handed person), people do play in chords or play in harmony. Unlike the nature of Indian melody, chords can be very subjective. It becomes quite difficult to show all of the possibilities of the chords for this song alone. Each musician will find their strength in different chords to represent a melodic phrase.

 

The analytic information of chords has been presented from this chapter. Chords are a bonus as well as a spice to ones harmonium playing. If you are a beginner, simply focus on melody. Once you develop strength in playing melodies, chords will come naturally.

 

UPDATED: June 18, 2009