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MUSIC 1SI: Introduction to Indian Classical Music Lecture 3 – Hindustani Melodic Structure


Hindustani swaras are very similar to Carnatic swaras. The Hindustani system uses 12 swaras, which are divided
among the Shuddha and Vikrut notes.

There are 7 Shuddha notes –


There are also 5 Vikrut notes that have the same names as the shuddha notes, but are slightly different in pitch. 4 of
these (ri, ga, dha, & ni) are called komal, while 1 (ma) is called teevra. The vikrut notes are written in lower case,
alongside their Shuddha counterparts, below

SA ri RI ga GA MA ma PA dha DHA ni NI

Of these 12 notes, the lower half is called Poorvang, while the upper half is called Uttarang.

Hindustani Raags

Swaras and Raags form the basis for Hindustani melodic theory. Raags are at a very basic level, a set of swaras
chosen from the 12 mentioned above. There are 6 rules that every Raag must follow:

0. A Raag must be pleasing to the ear

1. Every Raag has to have a SA

2. Every Raag has to have a PA and/or one of the ma’s

3. Every Raag must have at least 5 notes

4. No two forms of the same note can exist in the same movement

 Each Raag has two movements: an Aaroha (ascending scale) and Avroha (Descending scale)

 For example, we can have a raag where the Aaroha contains SA RI GA PA DHA NI SA, while the
Avroha contains SA NI DHA PA GA ri SA

 Although there are two different Ri’s in the raag, since one of them is in the Aaroha and the
other is in the Avroha, it’s perfectly legal

5. The Vadi and Samvadi cannot exist in the same half of the raag
MUSIC 1SI: Introduction to Indian Classical Music Lecture 3 – Hindustani Melodic Structure

 The Vadi is the most important swara in the raag (the captain of the raag)

 Appears frequently

 Phrases of notes will end on the vadi often

 The vadi is sung for longer stretches of time

 The Samvadi is the second most important swara in the raag (the vice-captain)

 In other words, this statement means that the vadi and samvadi cannot both be in the poorvang or

 Depending on what note the vadi is, the raag will be polarized towards the poorvang or uttarang


For each raag sung in a performance -

 Exploration of the raag begins with an Alap – improvised piece that uses the raag, but has no set
rhythmic structure.

 Then, a bandish is sung. A bandish is a song that is in the chosen raag, set to a taal (rhythmic

 Within the bandish, the performer improvises patterns that follow the raag and rhythmic
structure of the bandish

 If the performer wants to sing at a faster speed, they might choose another bandish to perform
in the same raag