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Indian Classical Music Notation System : Introduction

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Chapter – 8:

Bridging the Musical Divide:

Indian Classical Music Notation –Vs– Western Music Notation

The western system of musical notation has been described in beginner level detail in these chapters. That should be enough to get any budding musician started on his or her quest for knowledge, so as to speak. Now, especially for the benefit of those that have been learning music in the Indian system and wish to read or transcribe from western notation available on the internet, a brief bridge article is being provided here.

Similarities between the West and the East are the most striking in the fact that both these systems divide the octave into 12 semitones of which 7 are basic notes.
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, (C) are the Western basic note while the Indian ones are:
Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, (Sa). This, in now way implies that “C is the same as Sa” and so on – these are mere names.

It must be stated here, that:
(i) The Carnatic branch of the Indian system has 22 “micro-tones,” meaning 22 divisions per octave. This is not of much importance to a modern western instrument player as micro-tones aren’t playable on these 12 TET instruments.
(ii) The intervals in Indian system are calculated as just intonation (simple ratios) and not as equal temperament (logarithmic division). So it may not be possible to reproduce an “Indian sound” from a “Western instrument”, especially for Carnatic music.
(iii) “Classical” Indian music, before being influenced by western ideas, didn’t have a fixed frequency per note – just ratios. Any base note will be taken up and the rest of the song sung or played taking that frequency as a reference level. Presently, this has changed to western standards.
(iv) One may take any western 12 TET note to be the Sa of the Indian scale, and transcribe pieces between the systems. Commonly though, Sa is treated as C.”
(v) Here, owing to the complexity and lack of relevance to western instruments, the Hindustani notation is discussed alone and not the Carnatic one.

The base notes are referred to as “Suddha (meaning: pure),” the flats as “Komal (meaning: soft),” and the sharps as “Tivra” (meaning: harsh). Komal and Tivra are together referred top as “Vikrit” (meaning: altered)

Indian Classical Music:

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