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The basis of music is "nadha"

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  • The basis of music is "nadha"

    The basis of music is "nadha" or pleasant sound in an organized form. Any sound without any pattern or structure is unpleasant and would be termed noise. Naturally "nadha" is found in all objects in this universe. The tides of the ocean rise and fall to produce a nadha. The blowing wind carries a nadha. Even our heart beats with a nadha and laya (rhythm). Man-made nadha is produced by exercising the vocal chords in a controlled manner (this holds true for all animals too) and also through instruments built to resonate and produce pleasant sound. When air is blown into a conch shell or flute, it gives rise to a nadha.

    The nadha can be at different levels of sound. These levels become a distinct "swara". "swayam + ranjakam = swara" , i.e. it gives a sweetness on its own. A tiger's growl, a koel's coo, a horse's neigh, an elephant's trumpet - each has a distinct sound level. It is believed that the saptha swaras (Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni) in our music system were modeled on these natural sound levels of birds and animals. The tamil names of the saptha swaras also reflect the source of the sound levels. (I do not wish to get into the carnatic and tamil swara names in detail at this point). Hence now we know how "swaras" came into being.

    The earliest form of music originated in the vedic age when only three sound levels were involved – a basic note (udhaatham), a note lower than that (anudhaatam) and a note higher than that (swaritham). They were employed in chanting of the vedic phrases. Even till date, our veda parayana and shloka chanting follow the same pattern.

    Technically speaking, each swara represent a different frequency of sound. Minute difference in frequencies will not be perceptible to human ear. So the swara is categorized into steps of frequency such that each level could be distinguished by human ear. In total there are 12 such levels in a single octave. But we know that there are only 7 swaras or sound levels that are recognized. So what is the difference? Where do the extra levels fit in?

    The explanation lies in the classification of swaras as follows. The 7 swaras divide into 2 constant notes (Sa, Pa - known as Prakruthi swaras) that sound at only one level and 5 varying notes (Ri, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni – known as Vikruthi swaras) that can change or can sound at two levels or frequencies. In total, they give rise to 2 + (5*2) = 2 + 10 = 12 distinct frequencies, which we call the 12 “swara sthanas”. They are the sthanas or positions at which the 7 swaras occur. A symbolic representation of the 12 swara sthanas can be found below:

    Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni
    It is to be noted that each vikruthi swara can take only one position at a time, hence there will be only maximum of 7 swaras in any given raga. Practically no single raga can have all 12 swara sthanas occurring in it. (more about raga and its structure explained below)

    In general, the sound of the first note "Sa" is taken as the basis for singing practice. This is what we call "sruthi". This is called "fundamental" in western music. The set of all 7 notes in the increasing order form one octave or "sthayi". The first octave (X) in a particular sruthi, starting from the fundamental note is called "madhya sthayi". If these frequency levels double (2X), we can hear the same 7 notes in the next octave ("mel sthayi or thara sthayi") and when they quadruple (4X), it is heard in the second higher octave (athi thara sthayi). Similarly if they are halved (X/2), the notes go to "mandhra sthayi" and when quartered (X/4), they will be in "anu mandhra sthayi". Human voice can traverse in 3 sthayis, the first lower, normal and first higher octave. Rarely some musicians are able to touch upto 5 or 6 sthayis.
    Last edited by dhivya; 26-06-13, 23:29.

  • #2
    Re: The basis of music is "nadha"

    Seems my swarasthana illustration is not displaying properly. I'll give a simplified version here. Let me see if this works properly.

    S , R1 , R2 , G1 , G2 , M1 , M2 , P , D1 , D2 , N1 , N2
    | |____| |____| |____| | |____| |____|
    Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni


    • #3
      Re: The basis of music is "nadha"

      there is a problem in displaying the symbolic representation of the swara sthanas. I tried different methods, but it is not correctly displaying in the post.

      So I'll simply give how the swarasthanas are notated:

      Sa - S
      Ri - R1 , R2
      Ga - G1 , G2
      Ma - M1 , M2
      Pa - P
      Dha - D1, D2
      Ni - N1 , N2

      Note that the variant 1 is lesser than variant 2 in its sound level. So all the swarasthanas are listed in their ascending order of sound level.