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Notations in Hindustani Music

The harmonium keyboard shows the saptak (octaves) and positions of the swars (notes) in the key of C.


          In all of the creations in nature, sound was one interesting creation. Sound came in two forms. Sounds with a soul and sounds without souls. The sounds without souls were unpleasant and unbearable to hear. Sounds with a soul are pleasant to hear. Sounds with soul are musical sounds. In Satya Yuga, almost all speech was musical. Today, most speech is not, thus unpleasant and unbearable. Nonetheless, musical sounds exist in some form or another. Musical sounds originate naturally from seven sounds in nature. The seven sounds are known in Indian notation as sadja, rsabha, gandhara, madhayam, pancham, dhaivat, and nisada. Namely, sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, and ni. The specific origins came from specific sounds in nature. Sa comes from the sound of the peacock, Re comes from the skylark, Ga from the goat, Ma from the heron, Pa from the nightingale, Dha from the horse, and Ni from the elephant. These notes also represent colors. Sa is the lotus leaf, Re is red, Ga is golden, Ma in kundan powder, Pa is black, Dha is yellow, and Ni is all of them combined.


Since these seven notes are from nature and are pure, they are called suddha swars. Because of the effects of transposing notes, five other notes originate. Four of these notes are flattened, or komal swars, while there is one sharpened note called the tivra swar. These combinations of five notes are collectively called vikrita swars, or distorted notes.


The entire scale is sa, komal re, re, komal ga, ga, ma, tivra ma, pa, komal dha, dha, komal ni, and ni. Sa and Pa are considered the immoveable notes as they dont have different forms. With the exception of Sa and Pa, all notes have distortions. To write these notes in a simplified manner, we can write the entire scale of twelve notes as follows:

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

Tivra ma is capitalized here, as it is the sharper between ma and tivra ma.


Beyond, N is S in a higher octave. Sa at a higher octave is shown by S. Below the middle S is N, followed by D, so on and so forth. The notes below the middle S is showed by a X. Thus, the lower scale goes like S N D P


This is a general scope of Hindustani musical notation. This will hopefully give some light to understanding the general notation throughout the website.


UPDATED: August 31, 2015