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Learn the basics of the Indian Classical Music System – Svara and Saptak

To understand and play the classical notations, you should have a basic knowledge of the terminologies and concepts used in the Indian classical music system.
Indian classical music system is a vast subject and we have tried to cover the basics around svara and saptak in this article. After reading this, you would have a basic idea of classical notation which would help you in playing the songs posted here at SargamHub.

Basic terminologies of Indian Classical Music System

Naad

The sweet sounds generated via regular and stable frequencies are known as Naad. In other words, the sounds that come in use of music are called Naad.

A few characteristics of Naad

  • We can produce these naads lightly (chhota naad) as well as heavily (bada naad). This basically refers to the volume with which a naad is played or sung. For instance – if we pump less air into the harmonium, the volume with which the sound is produced is lower.
    This can also be understood in terms of wavelength. The wavelength of sound waves generated by chhota naad is smaller as compared to that of bada naad.
  • We can sense whether a particular naad should be placed higher or lower compared to others. For instance – if I play two naads, you can tell which one should be placed higher by judging their frequencies.
    – When compared with Sa, Re is regarded as Ooncha Svara.
    – When compared with Ga, Re is regarded as Neecha Svara.
  • Different kinds of naads have their own character. They have a quality about them that distinguishes them from others. For instance, we can easily tell a Harmonium sound from a Sitar sound.

Shruti

In a saptak, there may exist infinite naads that are higher or lower than each other. However, these naads would be so close to each other that it would be impossible to tell them apart. For this reason, Indian classical music system acknowledges 22 naads in a saptak that are uniquely identifiable and can be sung. The collection for these 22 naads is known as shruti.

Svara

Svara (also spelled Swara) refers to a musical note or a sound that is fundamental to a melody. It is a basic building block of Indian classical music.

Each Svara has a unique frequency, and the combination of different Svaras creates a melody. Svaras are the basic unit of the Saptak (seven-note scale) and are used to create the melodic structure of a raag.

Saptak

Saptak refers to the system of seven notes that make up a musical scale. Saptak literally means “group of seven” in Sanskrit. The seven notes of the Saptak are named Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni.

Saptak is divided into three parts or registers, called the Mandra Saptak (lower octave), Madhya Saptak (middle octave), and Taar Saptak (upper octave). Each register has a unique tonal quality and emotional character.


Classical representation of Svaras on Harmonium / Piano

The following representation is in accordance with Scale C#.

The orange-colored notes represent Madya Saptak. The same pattern is followed for the lower octave (Mandra Saptak) and the higher octave (Taar Saptak).

Classical representation for Scale C#
Classical representation for Scale C#

More about Svaras and Saptaks

See the Sanskrit and English representations of Svaras along with their meanings. You can also check the frequencies associated with each svara. The frequencies for all svaras changes with the saptak. For instance, Mandra Saptak Sa has a frequency of 120 Hz and Madhya Saptak Sa is 240 Hz i.e. double as compared to Mandra Saptak Sa. Similarly, the frequency of Taar Saptak Sa is double as compared to Madhya Saptak Sa which comes out to be 480Hz. The same is followed for all other svaras.

SvaraMeaningFrequency
सा़ (‘S)Mandra Saptak Sa120 Hz
रे़॒ (‘r)Mandra Saptak Komal Re128 Hz
रे़ (‘R)Mandra Saptak Shuddha Re135 Hz
ग़॒ (‘g)Mandra Saptak Komal Ga144 Hz
ग़ (‘G)Mandra Saptak Shuddha Ga150 Hz
म़ (‘m)Mandra Saptak Shuddha Ma160 Hz
म़॑ (‘M)Mandra Saptak Teevra Ma168.75 Hz
प़ (‘P)Mandra Saptak Pa180 Hz
ध़॒ (‘d)Mandra Saptak Komal Dha192 Hz
ध़ (‘D)Mandra Saptak Shuddha Dha200 Hz
ऩि॒ (‘n)Mandra Saptak Komal Ni216 Hz
ऩि (‘N)Mandra Saptak Shuddha Ni225 Hz
सा (S)Madhya Saptak Sa240 Hz
रे॒ (r)Madhya Saptak Komal Re256 Hz
रे (R)Madhya Saptak Shuddha Re270 Hz
ग॒ (g)Madhya Saptak Komal Ga288 Hz
ग (G)Madhya Saptak Shuddha Ga300 Hz
म (m)Madhya Saptak Shuddha Ma320 Hz
म॑ (M)Madhya Saptak Teevra Ma337.5 Hz
प​ (P)Madhya Saptak Pa360 Hz
ध॒ (d)Madhya Saptak Komal Dha384 Hz
ध (D)Madhya Saptak Shuddha Dha400 Hz
नि॒ (n)Madhya Saptak Komal Ni432 Hz
नि (N)Madhya Saptak Shuddha Ni450 Hz
सां (S’)Taar Saptak Sa480 Hz
रें॒ (r’)Taar Saptak Komal Re512 Hz
रें (R’)Taar Saptak Shuddha Re540 Hz
गं॒ (g’)Taar Saptak Komal Ga576 Hz
गं (G’)Taar Saptak Shuddha Ga600 Hz
मं (m’)Taar Saptak Shuddha Ma640 Hz
मं॑ (M’)Taar Saptak Teevra Ma675 Hz
पं (P’)Taar Saptak Pa720 Hz
धं॒ (d’)Taar Saptak Komal Dha768 Hz
धं (D’)Taar Saptak Shuddha Dha800 Hz
निं॒ (n’)Taar Saptak Komal Ni864 Hz
निं (N’)Taar Saptak Shuddha Ni900 Hz
Frequency Chart for Svaras

Explore SargamHub for Sargam Notations

Now that you have a basic understanding of the different terminologies and representations used in the Indian Classical Music System… Go through our recently posted songs (or search for one) to see some examples of Sargam Notations…

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