3. The Musical Scale

The Indian scale, like the western scale, consists of seven basic surs (notes—also known as swaras). In the solfege, or sargam notation used here, notes named in upper case letters indicate the shuddh (unaltered or natural) forms of the note; notes named in lower case letters indicate the altered forms—komal (flatted or lowered) second, third, sixth, and seventh—and tivra (sharp or raised) fourth. Like western music, the notes of Indian music are arranged in an octave (saptak) format. In the notation for this Web site, notes in the middle octave (madhya saptak) are unmarked; those in the upper octave (tar saptak) are overlined; and notes in the lower octave (mandra saptak) are underlined.

The seven basic notes of Hindustani music are shown in line one below, paralleling the solfege system of western music (line two), the letter notation system (line three), and an indication of the numerical interval (tonic, second, third, and so forth) of each sur.

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni (the second Sa being an octave higher)
Re Mi Fa Sol La Do  
C D E F G A B  
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8/1  

All twelve Hindustani chromatic notes, paralleling those of the western scale, are:

Sa re Re ga Ga Ma ma Pa dha Dha ni Ni Sa
Do Reb Re Mib Mi Fa Fa# Sol Lab La Tib Do
C Db D Eb E F F# G Ab A Bb B
1 2- 2 3 3- 4 4+ 5 6- 6 7- 7 8/1

or abbreviated:

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

The full names of the notes of the Hindustani scale are Sadja, Rekhab (or sometimes Rishabh), Gandhar, Madhyam, Pancham, Dhaivat, and Nikhad (or sometimes Nishad).

Once again: Each note is called a sur or swara; natural notes are called shuddh; flat notes are called komal; and the single sharp note (essentially only the fourth) is called tivra; the notes with an upper case letter are shuddh, and those with a lower case letter are komal (for re, ga, dha, and ni) or tivra (for ma.).

-- Brian Q. Silver

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