Scheme of Swarams

Scheme of Swarams

Carnatic music is almost as complex as our life. We enjoy and love the beauty of the music form at the same time trying to comprehend all the myriad grammar that defines it.

When we first learn caranatic music we are taught only the 12 swarams till we complete geethams and the books have only the 1st & 2nd variety (ex:R1, R2) for each swaram.

We see the arohanam & avarohanam  for geethams & varanams in books listing only the swarams that has identifiable physical position.

R1- Suddha Rishabham; R2- Chathusruthi Rishabham; G1 – Suddha Gandharam, G2-Sadharana Gandharam; D1 – Suddha Dhaivatham; D2-Chathusruthi Dhaivatham; N1 – Kaisiki Nishadham; N2- Kakali Nishadham.

Subsequently when we move on to Kirthanais we come across R3, G3, D3, & N3 which baffles most students.

here is an example…

While in the varnam book the arohanam & avarohanam for the ragam Shankarabaranam is given as

S, R2, G2, M1, P, D2, N2, S / S,  N2, D2, P, M1, G2, R2 S

in some kirthanai books and in most websites it is given as

S, R2, G3, M1, P, D2, N3, S / S, N3, D2, P, M1, G3, R2 S

Which is right & which is wrong? Both are correct! Really?

The swarams for Shanakarabaranam are

Shadjam; Chathusruthi Rishabham, Anthara Gandharam, Suddha Madhyamam, Panchamam,  Chathusruthi Dhaivatham,  Kakali Nishadham

Since we do not normally learn any ragams that has Shatsruthi Rishabham,  Suddha Gandharam,  Shatsruthi Dhaivatham,  Suddha Nishadham, until we reach Kirthanais we do not come across the third variety of R, G, D & N.

Carnatic music follows a 16 swarams scheme, though there are only 12 identifiable positions on an instrument like a veena where the frets for each swaram are clearly marked just like a piano. The other 4 swarams share their places with swarams that already has an identifiable position.

Here are the swarams under the 16 swarams scheme

Sa (Shadjam)  -1

Ri (Rishabham) – 3 -Suddha Rishabham;  Chathusruthi Rishabham, Shatsruthi Rishabham

Ga (Gandharam)- 3 – Suddha Gandharam, Sadharana Gandharam;  Anthara Gandharam

Ma (Madhyamam) -2 -Suddha Madhyamam; Prathi Madhyamam

Pa (Panchamam) -1

Dha (Dhaivatham)- 3 – Suddha Dhaivatham;  Chathusruthi Dhaivatham ;  Shatsruthi Dhaivatham

Ni (Nishadham) – 3 –  Suddha Nishadham;  Kaisiki Nishadham;  Kakali Nishadham

The following swarams share the same position …..

Shatsruthi Rishabham &  Sadharana Gandharam

Suddha Gandharam & Chathusruthi Rishabham

Shatsruthi Dhaivatham & Kaisiki Nishadham

Suddha Nishadham & Chathusruthi Dhaivatham

An easy numbering scheme

To make it easier for students, for better understanding , I have started following a simpler method.

R1 – Suddha Rishabham;  R2-Chathusruthi Rishabham, R3-Shatsruthi Rishabham

G – Suddha Gandharam, G1 – Sadharana Gandharam;  G2-Anthara Gandharam

D1-Suddha Dhaivatham; D2- Chathusruthi Dhaivatham ;  D3-Shatsruthi Dhaivatham

N-Suddha Nishadham;  N1-Kaisiki Nishadham;  N2-Kakali Nishadham

This avoids confusion and there is consistency in the learning process. Of course using the names is better than numbers but if we have to use numbers this scheme works!

One less confusion!


Check out music from Charanams

[reverbnation widget=pro_fancollector artist_id=567387 bgcolor=EEEEEE bordercolor=000000 skin_id=PWFS5005 width=262 height=200] fontcolor=333333

Rehearsal in Flushing Town Hall

Yesterday morning I went to Flushing Town Hall and had a try out session with bass guitarist Clyde Bullard. This was the first time we were playing together, though I had played with bass guitarists earlier. For Clyde, this was his first time playing with a carnatic musician.

I first gave him the notes on the ascending & descending scale (Arohanam & Avarohanam) of the ragam Hamsadhwani. – s r2 g2 p n2 / ś n2 p g2 r2 .
(Shadjam, Chathusruthi Rishabham, Anthara Gandharam, Panchamam & Kakali Nishadham)

Since I have tuned my veena to D# (E flat) the corresponding notes were
e flat – f – g – b – d

I started playing Vathapi Ganapathim as this is my favorite opening piece on the veena and most often I start a concert with this Muthuswamy Dikshithar Kirthana.

I told Clyde that he can play within these 5 swarams (notes) only.  He listened to the Pallavi as I played and quickly understood the scale and then started accompanying me on his bass guitar with matching notes.

Half  hour later my husband ShivRaj,  who composes music on the midi joined us to listen and gave some tips to Clyde as to what notes would sound better at various parts of the kirthanai (a song).  Soon we were playing together, synching well.

Overall it was a good rehearsal. We would meet for another rehearsal next week.

Vathapi Ganapathim is a Kirthanai on Lord Ganesha in the language Sanskrit. Vathapi Ganapathim – KJ Yesudas.

I heard Yesudas ji rendering Vathapi in a concert in Chennai as a kid and fell with that style and Iam both inspited and influenced by his style in this kirthanai.