September 24, 2021

Harmonium Lesson 3

Notes of a saptak in a Harmonium or Keyboard

The notes of the Indian gamut (seven notes of music) are known as sargam.  Just as the English word “alphabet” is derived from the Greek letters “alpha, beta”, in the same way the word Sargam is derived from Sa-Re-Ga-Ma”.  Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, is simply the initial notes (swar) of the Indian musical gamut.  These swars are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. The intervals of the Indian scale are essentially the same as those of the western scale.   The notes in the Western scale are evenly spaced; the ones in the Eastern scale follow the natural divisions of vibrational frequencies. Musical notes are chosen by certain names.  However, the names do not refer to notes of fixed absolute pitch.  Having decided on the schedule and key in which the performance is to take place, the singer or musician determines the pitch, which will be the fundamental pitch, and designates it as the first note of the octave, calling it by the label ” Sa “.  The succeeding notes of the octave are then given the following names:    Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa  

The full names of the notes are given as under: 

  1. Sa        Khraj/Shadj (the tonic note)
  2. Re        Rekhab
  3. Ga       Gandhar
  4. Ma       Madhyam
  5. Pa        Pancham
  6. Dha     Dhaivat
  7. Ni        Nikhad 

The intervals between these notes can be regarded as the same as those of the standard C major scale of just temperament, and we will denote these notes by  S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S.

S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S (Indian)
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C (western)

We will use as the fundamental note the C# which lies in middle octave in western system.  This will correspond to Sa in madh saptak of Indian system.  So by combining both systems the other notes will correspond as follows:  

S, r, R, g, G, m, M, P, d, D, n, N, S’
C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#

Nos.Name of NotesIndian SymbolWestern Symbol
1
Sa  shuddh (natural)
S
C#
2
Re komal (flat)
r
D
3
Re shuddh (natural)
R
D#
4
Ga komal (flat)
g
E
5
Ga shuddh (natural)
G
F
6
Ma shuddh (natural)
m
F#
7
Ma teevr (sharp)
M
G
8
Pa shuddh (natural)
P
G#
9
Dha komal (flat)
d
A
10
Dha shuddh (natural)
D
A#
11
Ni komal (flat)
n
B
12
Ni shuddh (natural)
N
C

Traditionally, the seven swars are said to derive, as do many elements of Indian music, from sounds in nature: Shadj/Sa is said to imitate the cry of the peacock; Rekhab /Re, the chataka bird crying for its mate; Gandhar /Ga, the bleating of a goat or sheep; Madhyam /Ma, the middle sound, the crane or heron’s call; Pancham /Pa, the fifth sound, the kokila (cuckoo) in spring; Dhaivat /Dha, the horse’s neigh, or the frog in the rainy season; Nikhad  /Ni, the trumpeting of the elephant.

  • Shuddh or natural notes are notated as S, R, G, m, P, D, N,
  • All upper case letters except Sa and Pa refer to “Tiver Swars” Example, RGDN.
  • All lower case letters refer to the “Komal Swars”. Example, r g d n.
  • For ‘Ma’, m  refers Shuddh Ma or the natural one and M refers to the ‘Tiver or Kori Ma’.

Sa and Pa are never sharp or flat. Shuddh ma, however, is written with a lower case m. It is the only note ever referred to as sharp. As tiver or “bright” Ma it is written with an upper case M. In addition there are of course, certain notes that are komal (flat) or tiver (sharp) versions of some of these.

Harmonium notes with 3 saptak

NoNotesNotes DetailNotes Properties
1SSa, which will be represented by SKhraj Sa (Or fixed/constant Sa)
2rKomal Re, which will be represented by rKomal Re
3RTiver Re, which will be represented by RTiver Re
4gKomal Ga, which will be represented by gKomal Ga
5GTiver Ga, which will be represented by GTiver Ga
6mKomal Ma, which will be represented by mKomal or Shuddh Ma (natural note)
7MTiver Ma, which will be represented by MTiver Ma
8PPa, will be represented by P;  (immovable note)Fixed/constant Pa
9dKomal Dha, which will be represented by dKomal Dha
10DTiver Dha, which will be represented by DTiver Dha
11nKomal Ni, which will be represented by nKomal Ni
12NTiver Ni, which will be represented by NTiver Ni
  • We can fix any note as khraj note that is “Sa” and corresponding attached notes of scale will be according to the given arrangement. E.g.  S, r, R, g, G, m, M, P, d, D, n, N
  • Sa and Pa are immovable or constant. Thus the full twelve-tone scale arrangement of notes is labeled as:  S, r, R, g, G, m, M, P, d, D, n, N, S‘. Here in the below given picture we have selected first black key as our khraj note.

Division of a Saptak

In Indian Classical music three saptaks (Octaves) are usually utilized.

Saptak : When the set of seven notes is played in the order it is called a Saptak (i.e. Sa , Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni). In the keyboard or harmonium the Sa gets repeated after Ni. The frequency of 2nd Sa is twice the frequency of first Sa. Notes of this saptak are indicated by a sign of apostrophe on right side e.g. S’.

Mandr Saptak: The one below given saptak is called mandr saptak (low). Notes of this octave are sung or played in a low deep tone. This comprises of the saptak that is below the lower Sa of the madh saptak. Notes of this saptak are indicated by a sign of apostrophe on left side e.g. ‘S.

Madh Saptak: The normal tone of human voice, which is neither high nor low. It is called madh saptak (middle octave). This has got no symbol in the notation system.

Taar Saptak: The one higher than madh saptak is taar saptak (high). The notes are high and sharp. The frequency of the second Sa is twice the frequency of the first Sa. The second Sa belongs to taar saptak and in this way the same saptak gets repeated.

The Indian musical scale is said to have evolved from 3 notes to a scale of 7 primary notes, on the basis of 22 intervals. A scale is divided into 22 shrutis or intervals, and these are the basis of the musical notes. Musicians as Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni know the 7 notes of the scale. These 7 notes of the scale do not have equal intervals between them. A Saptak is a group of 7 notes, divided by the intervals is as follows:

The first and fifth notes (Sa and Pa) do not alter their positions on this interval. The other 5 notes can change their positions in the interval, leading to different ragas

Comparing 12 notes sargam with 12 notes western

Each time we change our Khraj note (Sa) the position of notes in scale will also be changed according to below given arrangement where our Khraj note is first white key in the below given diagram.

So, how do you distinguish between octaves? Mandr saptak is situated in extreme left of harmonium or keyboard and notes of mandr saptak have a sign of apostrophe on left side e.g. ‘S. Middle saptak is without any sign and taar saptak is in extreme right. Notes written in taar saptak are shown by a sign of apostrophe on right e.g. S’.

We will use as the fundamental note the C# which lies in middle octave in western system.  This will correspond to Sa in madh saptak of Indian system. 

Most of the singers sing in the particular scale according to their sound pitch. Many male vocalists will use C# or D# as their fundamental starting note.  Female vocalists tend to place their fundamental somewhere in the range from F# to A#. Female sound pitch is higher than male. Lowercase (small) letters are shown as “komal” or flat notes, and the uppercase (capital) letters are shown as “tiver” or sharp. All notes except for Sa and Pa have an alter ego, whose nature is either komal or tiver.