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Let us learn - By Srikanth for &


Let us learn music-- Part 1

Dear Folks,

This series of articles was initiated by a discussion between MS ( and me to write a set of articles on Western and Indian form of Music. We split
the task into two subsections – Beginner and Advanced. This is an attempt to explain things to a newbie who has just got a Keyboard and wants to
romance with it. In my opinion, both Western and Indian music forms are complex subjects in their own league and any simplification will indeed be a tough
task. Frankly my expertise in both forms is limited and through my constant exposure over the period of years I have a learnt few basics of both. It is indeed
a great pleasure to share the knowledge that I have acquired from my gurus with the DF community.

The first in the series of articles for advanced level can be found @ Chords, carnatic and film music-1.

Any error can be notified and I shall stand corrected. Any further explanation on any of the terms which are incomprehensible may be asked for and I shall
try to make it a little clearer.
In this series of articles I will explain the terminology common to both forms. A primer to understand some basic and advanced concepts in western form of
music will be provided and a comparison with the corresponding Indian counterpart shall be done. I will be ending the story with another primer of “how to
compose music yourself ?” which shall help all those aspiring start-up composers.
Listening to music is a pleasure that most get from birth. This increases to a great extent when you understand the basics and appreciate. But let us go one
more step, what if you could create your own music, something really special to achieve but not rocket science. After all, by nature we are all very creative.
Keeping the above introduction in mind let us jump in.

Music can be defined as collection of small pieces of regular sound played at predefined time interval. Ah! very simple!
“Every sound I hear is music to me ” – Ilayaraja, 1984 , Pretty much true.
Try this take few glass tumblers or beakers fill it with different levels of water and tap them with a spoon, you will amazed it will be fun for few minutes. (An
advanced version of such an instrument is jalatharangam which you may have seen being performed on stages)

As the common Tamil proverb goes “Siru thuli peru vellam” - it is the small water droplets that make the ocean, like wise music is also an ocean that is
made up of small parts, it is called “note”. An ingenious collection of these notes played over a period of time results in a melody which could be a Dikshithar
Kriti or a Beethoven symphony or an Ilayaraja song or a Rahman song or even Back street boys show piece number. Hence both western and Indian or for
that matter any form of regular music has a set of basic notes from which they grow, something like alphabets for a language.

If you see I used the world “regular” music, so you might wonder is there something called irregular music. Answer is no. However there is new concept
evolving called “computer music” where a musician explores beyond the basic notes that are defined in music. We shall discuss at a later stage.

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Let us learn - By Srikanth for &

Let use see more on Notes. - “Notes” what are they? Note can be technically explained as a sound frequency. Yawn! No! Let us get it straight. The sound
that is produced when you press a key on musical keyboard is called as “NOTE”. It does not matter if you press the white key or the black key. Each key
plays a predefined frequency. The note gets its shape by the amount of time you hold down the key and release it. This is called the note length or duration.
Hence to make a “tune” or a “melody” or “song” or a “Symphony” you should play a bunch of these notes at proper duration and length.

Before going more into it, let us explore the keyboard.

A standard semi professional music keyboard has 48 keys. You will see 4 sets of 12 keys. This 12 set of notes is technically called an octave. Why 12, why
not 13?, Good question. The aim of this article is to keep it simple; Advanced details can be found here. Just remember - Carnatic is based on Rational
Division (like PA is always at 2:3 ratio in a scale) while Western is based on logarithmic division. Read the boxed information below, and try to remember it.

Theory: An octave is divided into 12 equal intervals such that the logarithm of the
frequency ratio of two neighboring intervals is the same. This interval is called a semi
tone. There are 12 mutually exclusive half notes in the system. The following table
represents the 12 notes and their relative positions in the 12 note scale.

Is this Octave common to all musical forms around the world? Answer is almost 99% Yes. These systems are time tested and have evolved over thousands
of years. In fact the sound frequencies of these 12 notes are pretty much the same, however some scales like Arabic are slightly different in their
frequencies. Those details are unimportant currently. An interesting similarity - the fifth note from SA which is Pa is called the “Panchaman” note -- in
western music also, Fifth note from C is as 5th . In Carnatic music “Sa” note is based on your Sruthi (reference note) or the key. Meaning Swara Sthanas
change based on Key or to put it in simpler terms “Sa” does not “map” always onto “C”. It could start at F and still form a S R G M PD N scale in which case
the corresponding western notes also change. In the western music system the “C note” itself does not change and “scales” denotes the pitch changes.

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Let us learn - By Srikanth for &

Observe the table below. This is an octave. Thus Western music system has an “absolute” naming for the keys whereas in Carnatic the notation is
“relative”. We will come back and visit this principle of scales in a detail later. Presently you may relate the “Sa” of carnatic to “C” of Western.



K1 K2 N1 N2

You can see same notes are called differently in Carnatic, keep this in mind. A Scale is a set of 7 notes in a proper order and interval. Something
similar to Melakartha Raga. So by now you might wonder about is a Scale and a Melakartha? Following points will shed some light on it.

Like scale, a Melakartha is a parent raga that has all the 7 notes.
Sometime around 16th century Venkateswara Dikshitar came up with a work called “Chaturdandi Prakasika” in which he is said to have defined or
grouped all ragas under 72 Melakarthas. He defined that every Mela had Sa (called as reference) and PA (being the 5th or secondly reference). As
you can see from the notation table above, there is only one kind of SA and one kind of PA , however, the note Re, Ga, Dha and Ni have 3 types
Hence to form a Melakaratha raga, 1 sa , 1 pa and one of the 3 types has to be picked for the other 4 notes . So 4x3x3=36 combinations, and Ma
note has 2 types hence 36x2=72 was arrived. From these Mela’s we can extract more ragas called as Janyas. These are “child” ragas.
Just like scales of western music each raga has an ascending set of notes and descending set notes. However the number need not be equal in
each direction. It is this “Aarohanam” and “Avarohanam” (ascend and descend) that define a basic structure in a Raga. Ragas are also group based
on the number of notes in ascend and descend.

For a more complete and detailed discussion on mELakarthas, refer here.

From the above we understood that a Scale is something similar to a Melakartha. Just remember this, a scale is set of 7 notes with predefined intervals;
something similar is a “Melakartha Raga”. The distance between each note is called as interval. Remember Kanadasan’s words “7 swarangalil ethanai
pAdal”, it makes more sense now.

Simple! alright., But all said and done, scales and ragas are not same. Next big question that arises is - How is a scale different from a Raga?

Apart from having seven different notes, there are not many similarities. There is a huge difference between a scale and raga in tonal quality or the sound

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Raga has many dimensions to it. First, it has an emotional overtone or “Bhavam” followed by a structure I call it as “sAyal” meaning “resemblance” and
these are characterized by a disciplined usage of the microtones which are characteristic of that raga. Remember apart from these two aspects, we should
get the proper expression for the raga. Just mere traversing SA to SA can be called as a major scale. Though the notes and intervals are just the same we
cannot or should not call it Sankarabaranam”. To get the raga Sankarabaranam proper emphasis should be given to get the “bhavam”. This is done by note
embellishments called as “Gamakas”, (which will see later). This feature is very special to Indian music. A raga can have 4 or more notes with intervals. This
kind of reduction of notes in a scale is called as modes in Western classical music. So modes are something like janya ragas.

Experts believe proper training is required to play Ragas fluently. This comes by good practice and understanding of note usage (“prayogams”). A western
trained top-notch musician will be able play a phrase of 1/64 note at a good speed but will find it difficult to play raga without proper training. Recently, It took
me about 4-6 hrs to explain the raga “Dharmavathi” to a western trained cello player. She finally hit it however some seasoned pundits will not certify it to be
“Dharamavathi” at a few places.

That is lesson one. : In this section we learnt some basics about note, scales Melakartha ragas. In the lessons to follow, we will see more about, Gamakas,
semitones, scales, types of scales and much more.

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003 & 2003

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Let us learn Music-- Part 2

Let us learn Music-- Part 2

Part 1

Welcome back! Some basics were explained in the last part. In this section we shall extend our understanding a li’l further about notes, intervals, steps and
tempo .

The first in the series of articles for advanced level can be found @ Chords, carnatic and film music-1

Let us first understand the keyboard. Remember you should know to identify each note on the keyboard. The keyboard, when you look at all the 48 keys,
you might be wondering which is what? And How to remember all of them? This can be over whelming when you look at it. It is very easy. First we shall
understand what an octave is. octave. Look at the keyboard and find the black keys. There should be groups of two and groups of three. Locate the
group that has 2 black keys, the white key found on the left of the first black key from the left in this group is a C note. (See fig)

Your octave starts here. Now locate the group that has 3 black keys, note that is below and to the right of the 3rd black key is the B note. The next
note is a C. An Octave starts with a C and ends in an upper C. The other notes are given both in the table and the figure.


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Let us learn Music-- Part 2


You many note that all black keys have a “#” sign added. Like in Carnatic music these keys have different names. You can see the D-sharp(D#) is also
called as E-Flat (Eb). Next, I am going to assign a value of ½ to each key starting from C. I am going to call this ½ value as an interval (1/2 step).
Distances between notes are called ½ steps (Semi-Tone). When you add ½ to C it should give you C#. When you add ½ to C# it gives a D and so on.
Remember this distance from a C note to D Note is a whole step or called as “Tone”.

Scales are subsets of an octave. They are a collection of notes in an octave derived from a root. There are various kinds of scales, which we will
learn very soon. First let us take up the most common scale in western music – “The major scale”

Major Scale:

Major scale is made up of whole note interval except for the degrees of 4 & 5 and 7 & 1.

What does it mean? Let us take the note C as the root (the start note). First Note is “C” by adding 1 to it you get D note. Likewise keep doing this except for
the 4 (F)( or MA) to 5(G)( or PA) note which increased by ½ value only. Same rule applies to B to C (higher C) also.

Hence by this rule, The “C” major Scale is Technically: CDEFGABC i.e., 2 (tone) + 2 (tone) + 1 (semitone) + 2 (tone) + 2 (tone)+ 2 (tone)+ 1
(semitone), Simply: All white keys in the octave.
Remember: the reason we call this as C-major is because we started to calculate from a C Note. We can similarly construct G-major scale by starting with
the G note.

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Let us learn Music-- Part 2

Last time if you remember I was talking about raga (Dheera)Sankarabaranam. By all means this raga has the same notes of a Major Scale. It is quite easy
to play a major scale. However when we start to play it as “Sankarabaranam” you need to remember many rules. Notes that give life to this raga are GA, Ma,
Pa, Ni (E, F, G B) called as “Jeeva” Swaras. If anyone has heard the song “doh a dear” from Sound of music, you will see traces of this raga in the score,
however you also will hear few notes out of the scale towards the end of the score. “ennavendru solvadhamma” by Ilayaraja can be considered as
Sankarabaranam. Please note that identifying a raga comes by practice.
Your ears are well trained to know the difference between a temple bell and a calling bell quite clearly. Likewise you need to match the raga “sayal’ to
identify the raga of a song. You can achieve it by hearing more Carnatic music.

Before we get into playing mode, let us understand the little more basics on Length or Duration of a note. This is very vital to good music. Take your snooze
alarm for example. It plays (an annoying) sound with a length and an interval to make it a beep. Hence it is the time and duration that decides if the sound is
music or not. In western and Indian classical music or any form of music “Time” is the most important aspect.

First let us learn some counting. Assume you play each note for a second on your keyboard starting from C. It will take about 8 seconds to complete the C
major scale upstream. (C to C), we reach a C note every 8th second; this is called as a Beat Cycle. No let us change little here, play 2 notes per second.
You will reach C in 1/2 the time now. So the amount of time you hold the note is very important. Notes durations are divided into following.

Whole 1 whole count

Half Whole/2 or 1/2 2 makes a whole
Quarter Whole / 4 or 1/4th 4 makes a whole
Eight Whole/8 or 1/8th 8 makes a whole
16th Whole /16 or 1/16th 16 makes a whole
32nd Whole /32 or 1/32nd 32 makes a whole
64th Whole /64 or 1/64th 64 makes a whole

Above-mentioned “Counts” are not necessarily seconds. We shall call this as simply “count”. This counting speed or the time duration for each count
depends on a clock. We will call this clock as “Tempo”, which measured by a unit called BPM or beats per minute. Human ears can appreciate songs in
50bpm to 260 BPM. A song is made up of notes with proper lengths and duration play in a predefined tempo.

Try this: Select the rhythm Polka in your keyboard and set the tempo 144 bpm, this should match the song “Raja kaiyavecha” .

In this section we saw, how to calculate a major scales, time structures etc. Soon we will get some more details of timing structures in Western music and

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Let us learn Music-- Part 2

Carnatic music.

End note:

Carnatic music is a great intellectual art that is been growing in spite of technological distractions. Recently I met couple of jazz musicians in here in Dc. I
went there to learn some of their techniques. These guys simply breathe jazz. It was small band of oldies. They asked me about Indian music etc, Pt. Ravi
Shankar was only popular Indian classical musician they knew. I told about them about Carnatic music and I requested them to hear another superior form
of Indian music that is not harmony based. I played a few concerts of Shri. Sanjay Subramaniam and Shri Kadri Gopalnath. The notes, their placements, the
melody etc attracted them so much later that evening we jammed the raga Charukesi for about 2 hrs, it was really an exciting experience.

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003 & 2003

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Let us learn Music-- Part 3

Part 2
More on Major Scale:

Every note in the keyboard has a major scale associated to it. If you remember I told that scale depends on the start note technically called as the “Root”. If the
root is C then it becomes a C Major, so we can calculate a major scale for every note on the keyboard. Let us take the E note; E note is the third white note from C.
So let us appl the formulae I gave (1/2 value to every key) 2 (tone) + 2 (tone) + 1 (semitone) + 2 (tone) + 2 (tone)+ 2 (tone)+ 1 (semitone)
E + 2 = F#, now get a black key as your second note, 3rd note and so on. So by this you will understand how the scales are structured. It does not matter if
is black or white, it is the value from the root, which we are concerned about. E major scale will be E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E. Try to form the F major scale,
and A major scale.

Minor Scale:

Like Major scale Minor scale has all the 7 notes. There is a slight change in the tone. There are 3 variants of this scale, called a natural minor, the harmonic minor and
the melodic minor. Let us first learn the Natural Minor. A Natural Minor scale is made up of whole note interval except for the degrees of 2 & 3 and 5 & 6, means
taking the note C as the root (the start note) By adding 1 to it you get D note. Likewise keep doing this except for the 2 (D)(RE2) to 3(D#)(GA1) note, which
increased by ½ value only. Same rule applies when you move from 5th to 6th note, which is G to G# (Only a ½ increase). C Natural minor scale is C D Eb F
G Ab Bb C

Harmonic minor scale:

When the 7th note of a minor is raised by another ½, in the above explained C minor scale
Bb or A# (7th note) is raised to Natural B, which is C D Eb F G Ab B C.

Melodic Minor is similar but 5 to 6 is a whole step. Hence C D Eb F G A B C

The major and minor scales are very basic elements of a musical score. The musical harmonics depends on this to a great extent.Many have asked me if
the notes for both forms of music are same, what then, is the difference between Western and Indian music. Is the difference in the raga or musical flow?
The answer is Harmony. Carnatic music is monophonic ( plays single note at a time), while western is polyphonic ( multiple notes at a time).
What is Monophony ? In a Carnatic concert, the lead artist sings the melody phrases. An accompanist usually a violinist will be just following the
lead vocals. The violinist almost plays identical notes in parallel with the lead singer. The note interval is almost zero, meaning if the lead singer sings Sa the
violinist also backs him using a Sa note. There is only one note played at a given instant of time.
Polyphony on the other hand means “many sounds” played simultaneously. There are certain rules to play these multiple notes which coupled with
the improvisations from the composers, are played in Harmony’. Deviation from this melodic behavior would amount to cacophonyJ. Harmony is the most
interesting aspect of Western music.

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What is harmony? The reason I explained the scales earlier is because it will be easy to understand harmony. Assume, we now ask a violinist to
play just 1 note "C" at a preset tempo and duration, (tempo + note lengths - let us call this as time signature for now). Next we ask another Cello player to
play the note "E" with the same time signature. They will play the notes simultaneously. If you see the interval or the gap between notes are now 2 whole
notes. They are now said to in harmony. This is called as two-note or 2 part harmony (seconds), now we add third instrument a viola player and we ask him
to play the note G at same time signature. Here again "G" is 2 notes away from "E". (1 3 5), intervals are equal. Congratulations! You just learnt what a
three-part harmony means. This is now a three-note or 3 part harmony. It is not over yet. Assume that we compose 3 melodies with the same time intervals.
We ask them to play it together. Remember: the rule is they have the same note intervals among each part. This is a simple western music arrangement.
The interesting aspect of western music is that the sound becomes different when the interval sizes start to vary. With some intervals, notes blend
naturally (perfect Harmony) together to create a pleasing or consonant sound. Some intervals create a more jarring or dissonant sound, at times creates a
thriller kind of feel. Like when we play a G and G#, together we get a thriller tone. When you observe the background score in movie “Poovi vizi vasalile” by
Ilayaraja, you will hear these kinds of tensed combinations.

In the last part we saw what a major scale is all about.? I gave a method to calculate a major scale.
Similarly there is method identify the Melakartha number for a raga. In the first part I told how the number 72 was arrived. How ragas were divided into 72 melakarthas.
Let us learn about a formulae to calculate the raga number. This method is called in Sanskrit as “KATAPAYADI SANKHYA”., How does it work?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Ka Kha Ga Gha Nga Cha Chha Ja Jha
Ta Tta Da Ddha Na Tha Thha Dha Ddha
Pa Pha Ba Bha Ma
Yadyashta Ya Ra La Va Sa Sha Sa Ha

Raga “Dheera Sankarabharanam” the first 2 letters of this raga is Dhee and Ra. Now find the sound Dhee (Ddha) (9 in the second row). Similarly fid Ra,
you will find it in the 2nd place in the 4th row. Now join them 9&2=92 just reverse them 29, hence the melakartha number for this raga is 29. You can read
see how all ragas are numbered here (Courtesy: Hindustani music has a scheme similar to melakartha called as “Thaat”.

End Note:
I see people discussing about how songs are made – whether a song is made out of a chords progression (we shall talk about it soon) or a melody is made
first and chords written successviely. Here is my take on it. Everything depends on the composer and his/her artists. Composing a melody and placing

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chords is an interesting task. Like wise setting a chord progression and getting a nice melody line is also very creative. Composers like MSV usually have a
session called “composing”. Apart from the Music director usually they have limited artists (a Guitar/ a percussion guy), and few assistants who write down
the notes. The director with his crew is also present and the key person will also be the lyric writer. They get out many tunes and lyrics for the director to pick
what he wants. Usually the chords and the background are created properly just before the recording or sometime during the actual song recording.
Arrangements can change on the spot.

There are many methods we can adapt; we can try all of them in one recording no harm. Last few years my strategy has changed a little as I have been
working on pre-written lyrics. Myself and the singer(s) sit together without any detailed home work, we start from scratch (ING our head) with a simple
rhythm structure then slowly build the song, we don’t care which comes first, I tell the singer to sing a basic tune, if he/she is experienced they will explore
and give variations on the spot, which will inspire the composers. At times I try to change the backgrounds on the spot for the lead tune or get out a
background completely then try around with the melody. Some singers sing well if they hear the bass guitar and some do well with a nice flow of chords. We
can do anything which suits us. Please don’t restrict yourself to one. What ever comes first “chords” or “melody”, does not matter, and the final product “the
complete song” should be the main focus. That has to sound good at the end of day.

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003
Have questions! you can reach me at & 2003

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Let us learn Music-- Part 4

Let us learn Music-- Part 4

Part 3 Part 5
In the last few articles we learnt notes, Major & Minor scales. In this one, we are going to learn the most important and fundamental aspect of music, “Time
Signatures” in western or popular music.

You might often see musicians using terms like 4/4 or 3/4 or 7/8. What are these fractions? What do they denote? They are called time signatures. They
don’t have anything to do with the song tempo. Time signatures denote how many and what kind of notes per measure are present in a beat cycle. In simple
words, the number on the top is the number of notes per measure or cycle and the bottom one denotes the kind of note.

Let us the take the most common beat cycle 4/4. The bottom number denotes the note type; here it is 4 or 1/4, which is a quarter note. The top
number denotes number of quarter notes in the beat cycle.

The bottom number can take the value 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 etc. Here 1 = a whole note, 2 = half note, 4 =quarter note, 8 = 1/8th note and 16 is 1/16 note. (Please
Refer to part one for more on note values)

Now let us refresh a little. In earlier parts I mentioned something on “Count”. “Counts” are not necessarily seconds. They are units for music. Counting
speed or the time duration for each count depends on a clock. We will call this clock “Tempo”,

Let us examine 4/4 more. We need to count 4-quarter notes for a cycle. Eg: 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 |.
Each number is a quarter note. In this example you see a line that separates 4 quarter notes. Consider this to be a boundary line. So at a predefined tempo,
we start counting 1,2, 3, and 4: Four-quarter notes can be fit into this boundary. This boundary is called a “BAR”. The time interval between each of the beat
Cycles is called a “BAR”.
Did you know that most musicians calculate the song length based on the number of bars in the song? If you have keyboard-based sequencers (like Korg
Triton), the length of a song is always set on bars count only. In Triton you can find a default value of 64, which means 64 bars.
Remember the time duration of a song is always based on the time signature tied to a Tempo.

After knowing about 4/4 you might wonder if I can I add two 8th notes in a 4/4 time signature. The answer is YES! You can. Over all you should get a sum of
1 per bar. 11 2 3 4 | 11 2 3 4|, this is valid. A bar can be one whole note, that is denoted by dots, | 1 . . . |. Let us substitute notes rather than number now. |C
D E F | G A B C | CC D E F| GG A B C |C . . . | G . . .|

Likewise, there are other beats, ¾ - 3 quarter notes per cycle. This is called waltz, 1 2 3 |1 2 3|. Carnatic music calls it as Rupakam. 6/8 is just like ¾
however has more quarter notes per cycle. Other complex cycles are 7/8, 5/8 etc. Some famous songs in ¾ are “Aayar padi maligaiil “ by MSV (Krishna
ganam) and Agaya vennilave (Arangetra Velai). An interesting aspect of the latter is that the melody lines are in 3/4 while percussion is set to 4/4. Listen to
the song “Adisaya thirumaNam”(Paarthaale Paravasam) by A.R.Rahman. This song can be called as a Tala maliga. Check out how many times the cycle

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Let us learn Music-- Part 4

changes. It starts with 5/8 then goes around many beat cycles. If you are a keen jazz listener, you can hear weird beat cycle changes. Beat Cycle is the
backbone of a song. Try to listen to a famous song and try to spot where the cycle starts and ends.
This shall improve your skill to identity the beat cycle. Starting point of the beat cycle is called “Samam”, meaning first beat of a beat cycle. Most songs start
here. However, there are songs that are placed from 2nd beats. If you hear “ANNatha adurar” by Ilayaraja, the song starts on the first beat, however the
percussions are only placed on 2nd and 4th position of the cycle through out the song. You will find it very interesting to hear.

Some beat aspects in Carnatic music. This scheme is slightly different. First some common words. Western classical music has a concept called
movements; they are something similar to tempo of a song. Adagio – means slowly, Allegro – Cheerful, Andante – Moderate.

The above are the common ones we find marked on the score sheet. Similarly, in Carnatic music too there is such a classification. It is a little more complex
than the western scheme. Beats in Carnatic music are divided into smaller parts called “Angas”. Angas are classified as Laghu (slow), Dhrutha (Fast) and
Anudhrutha (Faster).

The Dhruth takes 2 beats, and Anudhrutha takes 1 beat. However the number of beats “Laghu” takes is a variable. It can be anything from amongst 3,4,5,7,
and 9. There is one more aspect called “Jaathi” This depends on the number of beats laghu can take in that Taala. Theesra (3) or Chatushra (4) or Kanta
(5) or Misra (7). There is also a 9 beat cycle called Sankeerana.

The following table classifies Taalas. We give a value of 1 to Laghu, 0 to Dhruth and Aby

The seven Taalas are defined in terms of the number and sequence of Angas. If Laghu is denoted by 1, Dhrutha by O and anudhrutha by U, Taalas can
be classified as follows.
Taala Aavartana Explanation
Eka 1 a laghu
Roopaka 01 a dhruta, followed by a laghu
Triputa 100 a laghu, followed by 2 dhruta-s
Matya 101 a laghu, then a dhruta, and then a laghu
Jhampa 1UO a laghu, an anudhrutha, a dhruta
Ata 11OO Two laghus, and then two dhruta-s
Dhruva 1O11 laghu, dhruta, laghu, laghu

End note

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Let us learn Music-- Part 4

Few weeks ago, I checked on a new instrument at the local guitar center. When I played it I had no second thoughts about it; I had no hesitation to add it to
my studio arsenal. This is a percussion instrument called Roland Hand-Sonic; it has a bunch of touch sensitive pads arranged in a circular form. Each one
of the pads have touch response with velocity, it responds based on position of your hand and stroke or play method - palm or finger strike or glide in tabla
etc. The best part I liked about it was this contains all the Indian percussions (tabla, dhol, dholak, madal, ghatam) . Apart from these, kick-ass sounds from
South America, Africa, Arabic and Asia are also there. Besides, it contains regular drum sets, about 600 tones to have fun with. All the sounds are
programmable, meaning you can change the pitch, EFX, LFOS, Resonance etc and get a new sound altogether. When played by a (trained) percussionist it
is 100% similiar to the natural ones. Basically when Roland got out their V-Pads or octopads , it was a revolution for the drum players as they didn’t need to
carry gear that occupied space and took time to set it up.

Like wise for hand percussionists, this will be a big boon. This has all the world sounds at the touch of a button. The Bongos & the Thumba are very
authentic and gets the weight of the real one when played. Tabla, Madal, dhol are also very much original like it can be glided just like the real ones. Roland
has arranged the sounds and pads very close to the original ones; hence the artist plays it like the real one. All these can be stored as midi file into
sequencers and replayed back. An outstanding technological wonder but the catch is that this comes with a (high) price tag on it. It came out in 2001-2002,
but still retails for about $995 and not yet found on Ebay. A great tool for any music composer. I am having fun with it.

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003
Have questions?! you can reach me at & 2003

3 of 3 5/1/2011 12:55 PM
Let us learn Music-- Part 5

Let us learn Music-- Part 5

Part 4 Part 6
Chords, what is so special?
Let us examine the basics of chords and let us understand as to how it serves as a major factor in western music. In simple words, Chords are just different
notes played together at the same time. These are mere note combinations based on rules. These rules decide the type of chords. You can call it
a structured combination of notes played together. Chords are identified by the root key in the combination. Majority of the chords are called Triads, meaning
they are made up of 3 notes; it is like arranging 1/3 note on the top of another. The lowest note in the chord is called as the root, followed by 3rd (note above
root) and 5th (note above root) There are 4 types of popular triads called Major, Minor, Augmented and Diminished.

Major Chord: As the name denotes a major chord is often associated with a major scale. We shall compute a simple formula to calculate a major chord for
a given root note.
First let us assign a value of "1" to each key, regardless of being a white or black key. Just think that every key in the keyboard has a value of 1. In the
following example I will take note "C" as the root note. The simple formula for the major chord will be 1+5+8, where C=1 find the 5thnote (C+4) from C which
is E and 8th note from C is G Hence a C major is C+E+G.
Hope you got it, if not read the above again and you will get it is quite easily.

In the same manner let us try D major chord. D=1. Now, 5th note from D is F# and 8th note from D is A, hence D major is DF#A. It is quite easy to find a
major chord. So just remember 1+5+8 to compute a major chord.

Next question will be "Where to use a major chord"? What is so great about using this chord? We will find the answer for these questions if we explore just
one song composed by Ilayaraja . Take the song lines “Anjali Anjali Anjali” . The song is in the key D .You can see (rather hear) the D major chord being
used. So the choice of using the D major chord is associated directly with the song’s key, which is D (2).
anjali anjali | D | % | % | % | (the % sign denote repeat the chord)

However, something more interesting happens in the prelude of this song. Though the key is D, for the chorus lines “Ammamma pillaikani” – chords are
quite different, “A” major and a “D” minor (just hold till we get to minor) is played, this is just to get some kind of tension in the music. You see how it clearly
reflects in the video. But the mood is changed in the ”Pon mani chinna mani” lines, which takes you to a major progression creating a happy mood in the
song. The way in which Ilayaraja comes back to the key is quite appealing “A Bm G A “- he hits D in the word “konjida” which is a happy word by all means
to highlight the key note in the score, this is done by playing the major chord (D) over it. Simply wonderful.

One more song that I will discuss is Rajavin paarvai raniyin pakkam, this is in A minor but in the line “Purana nilavo”, the key changes to major and major
chord is played by an accordion part.
A trade mark in MSV-MGR combo songs. Try to identify major chords in the songs.

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Let us learn Music-- Part 5

Take “manguyile”, see where major chords hit the song. Quite interesting.

Form major chords for all the keys. Write it down and then start playing it slowly, I am sure you will get the hang of it.


There is some confusion on pitch for a few who have emailed me. Sruthi and scales. Let me keep it simple, In Carnatic music, traditionally, the basic
reference is the “Tambura”. Vocals and accompaniments are tuned based on the “sa pa sa” notes from Tambura. Tambura plays the major role to get all of
them in one single frequency. Thanks to the monophony, things are easy. But how does it work for polyphonic music?
In western music middle C is the key, it is about 440khz, there are automatic tuners, which will help you to tune your string instruments. Often in light music
shows middle C is referenced from a keyboard. You can often spot a singer signaling a 2 or 4 meaning the current key is D or F. (2nd note from middle C or
4th note from middle C)
What is Transposing? In simple terms it is the method of changing the key of a song. Like we might have rehearsed a song in E major but singers range
might be in D. Chords are not same now, they are transposed to a lower key, a keyboard player can use the transpose button to shift the frequency, he still
plays in E but the output will sound in D. Thanks to electronics. However, guitarist or a violinist cannot sit and retune, they are trained to play the progression
based on the key. Still, there are attachments (bridges etc) for a guitar, which will transpose for you. I have played with people who just use it. Transposing
is just moving keys relatively, and as mentioned a VB or Java script can do the relative mapping. The following website will help to find the transposed
chords --

I also noticed few people referring to Scales as Ragas (in Carnatic) in DF. Once again, I insist, they are not the same. A “doughnut” might look like a “medhu
vada”, but the taste is quite different. J

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003
Have questions! you can reach me at
ps: many have emailed me, thanks, as and when i find time, questions will be answered in the order they were received J & 2003

2 of 2 5/1/2011 12:56 PM

Let us learn Music-- Part 6

Part 5 Part 7
Chords, what is so Special?
In the earlier part we learnt about a major chord. Now let us see a minor chord.
The Root and the 3rd note in the chord are just the same as the major chord. However the middle note is changed. Formula will be 1+4+8. Considering C as
the root, C minor chord will be starting from C=1(sa), 4th note from C is D#(ga1) and 8th note from C which is G(pa). Hence a C minor will be 1+4+8.
(C+D#+G – sa +ga1+pa). Add this ga1 will complete the change in the sound.

Let us analyze some basic usage of C-minor. Most of us know mohanam and sivarajani which are common ragas in film music. Let us take the arohanam
and avoraham of both the ragas, (what is arohanam (Ascent) & avorohanam (Descent)? These are the basic sets of notes that define the raga.)

Mohanam : sa re2 ga2 pa dha2 sa

Sivarajini : (sa re2 ga1 pa dha2 sa)
The basic difference between mohanam and Sivaranjini is the “ga” note, GA1 for SivaRanjini and GA2 for Mohanam. In the above, the bold notes denote
the chords in the note structure of the raga. We find that Mohanam uses a major chord. All the notes of a major chord falls in the arohanam and
avarohanam of Mohanam. Likewise, for Sivaranjini, we can use a minor chord.

I hope you now know the secret of framing a chord progression for ragas. At times some chords might have foreign note(s), meaning some notes might not
be present in the ascent and descent of the raga. It is up to the composer to frame such chords in a proper manner. In mohanam (taking C as the root),
assume the score has a ga(E) note, instead of playing a C major, we choose to play a E-major, this contains notes (G#&B) not found in the ascent or
descent of mohanam.
If you play this, it would convey a tense mood. This sort of usage can be found in old film songs. You can find similar chords in “Unnai kaanatha kannum
kanalla” (K.V.Mahadevan)

Let me explain one more chord usage to highlight something in the score.
We can show the difference in ragas Sivaranjini and misra-sivaranjini with the 2 chords we learnt. Sivaranjini is known as misra-Sivaranjini when a natural
Ga (ga2) is added to it.
When playing sivaranjani we can use a C minor and when it changes to misra-sivaranjini, the ga note changes to a natural one. A major chord can be used
to highlight this.
From a film song perspective consider the song ennadi rakkaamma by MSV, take the lines “deviyana sakalathi valikurathi”. These lines are in a minor
progression, ga1 is used with sa and pa. But when the song goes to “thappamal nan unnai sirai eduthen” the song changes its GA1 to GA2, To denote this
change, the chord progression also changes to a major chord from a minor. Similar structural changes can be heard in “mangkuyile”, the lines “kurapatu

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selai” changes to a major note where chords also become A major. If you listen to the 1980’s Lionel riche’s song “Hello”, most part of the song is in minor
progression. However the very last chord played in the song is a major chord. The major minor changes are trademark of MGR-MSV combo songs.
Ilayaraja’s trademark is the major to minor change. Quite often we can see this. Poove sempoove is one such example. Ilayaraja’s score has proper
structured chord arrangements than most scores in Indian music.

Quick Recap: assign a value of one to every key on the keyboard regardless of black or white. A major chord is 1+5+8, a minor chord 1+4+8.

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003
Have questions! you can reach me at & 2003

2 of 2 5/1/2011 12:56 PM
Let us learn Music-- Part 7

Let us learn Music-- Part 7

Part 6 Part 8

Chords, More Chords...

(Augmented, Diminished and Suspended)

I have been getting good number of emails from many. Thanks for your kind words. I am happy that it is reaching many people. For questions that require a
specific answer please use email and I shall answer them in the order they are received. Other general questions will be addressed in the article.

Till now we have seen 2 major forms of triads, the major chord and the minor chord. Next we shall learn 2 more popular triads. They are the Augmented
and Diminished chords.


The word “augmented” means something more or extra. To get an augmented chord just add one to the major chord formulae. A major chord is 1+5+8, and
hence an augmented chord is 1+5+9. The last note of the major chord is raised by a ½ tone. When played, you will find that this chord gives a tense sound
or mood. Taking C as the key, C Augmented chord will be C, E and G#. This chord is denoted by C-Aug or C+. D-Aug will be D - F# - A#.


I am sure some of our friends here are already typing me an email with a question “Why cannot we augment a minor Chord?” I will answer it and save an
email. Read it carefully.

“When a minor chord is augmented it becomes some other major chord.”

For example, let us take the minor formulae 1+4+8 for C and add one to the last note. We get 1+4+9 which is C+D#+G#, which is nothing but an inversion
(i.e. a combo of the same keys in a different order) of G# major chord which is G# - C - D#. So augmenting a minor chord does not result in anything new.
However a minor chord can be reduced or diminished. Yeah!, You got it - we reduce a number from the minor formulae. A minor chord is 1+4+8, hence a
diminished chord will be 1+4+7. This chord also creates a tense mood. Movies released in the before 70s depended or used these chords to accentuate
thrilling action sequences. Modern film music also uses it in plenty, eg: Oh Priya Priya by lIayaraja has diminished chords.


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Let us learn Music-- Part 7

With these we have covered the major triads or I would say common triads. There is also one interesting chord called “Suspended”. (Often confused or
incorrectly called Sustained.) This chord is just a Tone Cluster. Formulae for the Suspended is 1+6+8, C+F+G, It gets the name suspended when the
middle note in a major or minor chord is suspended. If we use the 4th note it is called as Sus4. If second note is used instead of 4th, it is called as Sus2
(1+3+8). These chords will be perfect for songs in raga Madyamavathi or Brindavana Saranga or even Hamsadwani.

Four noted chords:

We will now switch gears to 4 or more noted chords. The most popular 4 noted chord is the Seventh (7th ). When the seventh Semi Tone from the root is
added to a major chord it is becomes a Dominant 7th. C+E+G+A# is the C7th chord. We all know the song “Athisa ragam “ sung by KJY, composed by MSV
in the raga Mahathi. This raga is supposed to have been created by Dr.M.BalaMuraliKrishna. This is made up of Sa Ga pa ne1 , which is nothing but a C7th
chord. C7th works well with ragas where the n1 gets emphasis or is dominant. Eg: Thilang, Most songs in Thilang 7th chord, sometimes the Sa (C) note will
be removed and it then becomes E diminished. I will continue more on this in the next article.

Here I give some chord progressions for a few popular ragas with C as the root key. Placements of these chords are quite tricky and we need be cautious in
using them. Remember that it should not hurt the raga flow. Incorrect inversions or progressions will take toll on the raga. Also here we may have to step out
some western music rules to get the proper progression for the raga. We may compromise on some Western basics.

The goal is you need to satisfy 3 different sets ears, Western, Carnatic and General - a tough proposition for a composer. People have achieved this and I
am sure you can also do it.

1. Hamsadwani s r2 g2 pa n2 s – C D E G B C
Suggested Chords: CMaj | Emin| Gmaj |Gsus

Usage :
When the melody travels or gives emphasis to Sa or Pa (C G) you can play the major chords.
When you have a Ga (E) in your melody, try Em It will give a different mood. You may use Suspended chords for
transition from eminor to major to complete the progression It would be better if at least one note in the chord is found in
the melody line.

Suggested listening: va Va va kana va , Thogai ila mail ada, kalam maralam

2. Dharmavathi or Madhuvathi -- sa r2 g1 m2 pa d2 n2 s -- C D D# F# G A B C

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Let us learn Music-- Part 7

Suggested Chords: Cm,Cdim, Bmaj (inversions also) Bminor B aug D major Dsus D#dim D#Aug

A “big” raga, it has all the seven notes, so you have more chords to play with.Just C Minor alone will not highlight this
raga, But with a C Dim transition we can achieve this. Cdim Dmajor , Dsus, there is one called D6th which I have not
covered, this is widely used for songs in this raga. D6th is D F#A and B.

Suggested listening: AmmAnai Azathividum Kanmanai, Kadhal kadhal endru pesa, Hello My dear wrong number,
Meedum Meedum va, Ottagatha katiko or My composition “nallathor vennai seithe.” J

If anyone is interested to ponder more, I can setup an empty chord progressions and then compose a melody next and vice-versa. Let me know.

(c) Studio1234, USA 2003
Have questions! you can reach me at & 2003

3 of 3 5/1/2011 12:56 PM