Swara

From Academic Kids

fr:svara

The notes, or swaras, of Indian music are Shadjamam, Rishabham, Gandharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatam and Nishadam. Collectively these notes are known as the sargam, the Indian solfege. In singing, these become Sa, Ri(Carnatic) or Re(Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Da(Carnatic) or Dha(Hindustani), and Ni. ("Sargam" stands for "Sa-R(i,e)-Ga-M(a)"). Only these syllables are sung, and further designations are never vocalized. When writing these become, S, R, G, M, P, D, N. A dot above a letter indicates that the note is sung one octave higher, a dot below indicates a note one octave lower.

In certain forms of Indian classical music and quwalli, when a rapid, 16th note sequence of the same note is to be sung, sometimes different sylables are used in a certain sequence to make the whole easier to pronounce. For example instead of "sa-sa-sa-sa-sa-sa-sa-sa" said very quickly, it might be "sa-da-da-li-sa-da-da-li" which lends itself more to a quick and light tongue movement.

Indian Music
Indian classical music
Carnatic music
Composers
Purandara Dasa
The Trimurti
Tyagaraja
Muthuswami Dikshitar
Syama Sastri
Ootukkadu Venkata Kavi
Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma
Mysore Sadashiva Rao
Patnam Subramania Iyer
Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar
Papanasam Sivan
Singers
M.S. Subbulakshmi
Hidustani music
Modern music
Filmi music
Folk music (Indian)
Concepts
Sruti
Raga
Melakarta
Katapayadi sankhya
Swara
Tala
Mudra

Classification of swaras

Although the sargam contains only seven kinds of notes, each member of the sargam (Sa, Ri or Re, Ga etc.) may have up to three different forms. The exceptions are Sa and Pa, which are fixed, and Ma, which has only two forms. The basic mode of reference is that which is equivalent to the Western Ionian mode (this is called Bilawal thaat in Hindustani music). All relationships between pitches follow from this basic arrangement of intervals. In any given seven-tone mode, the second, third, sixth, and seventh notes can be natural (shuddha, lit. 'pure') or flat (komal, 'soft') but never sharped, and the fourth note can be natural or sharp (tivra) but never flatted, making up the twelve notes in the Western equal tempered chromatic scale (but without Western pitch equivalencies like, for example, A# and Bb). When abbreviating these tones, the form of the note which is relatively lower in pitch always uses a lowercase letter, while the form which is higher in pitch uses an uppercase letter. So komal Re uses the letter r and shuddha Re, the letter R, but shuddha Ma uses m because it has a raised form--tivra Ma--which uses the letter M. Sa and Pa always are always abbreviated as S and P, respectively, since they cannot be altered. If a note with the same name--Sa, for example--is an octave higher than the note represented by S, an apostrophe is placed to the right: S'. If it is an octave lower, the apostrophe is placed to the left: 'S. Apostrophes can be added as necessary to indicate the octave: for example, ``g would be the note komal Ga in the octave two octaves below that which begins on the note S (that is, two octaves below g).

Full form (Carnatic) Abbreviated form (Carnatic) Full form (Hindustani) Abbreviated form (Hindustani) Western
ShadjamamSaShadjSaC
Suddha MadhyamamSuddha MaShuddha MadhyamMaF
Prati MadhyamamPrati MaTivra MadhyamM'aF#
PanchamamPaPanchamPaG

What they mean

Each swara (e.g. "Sa", "Ri", "Ga", "Ma", "Pa", "Da", and "Ni") is believed to correspond with the natural sound of an animal/bird, and some have a meaning of its own.

Swara Expansion Meaning Animal/bird
Sa Shadjam (षड्जं) -- Peacock
Ri Rishabham (रिषभं) Bull Bull
Ga Gandharam (गान्धारं) -- Goat
Ma Madhyamam (मध्यमं) Middle Dove
Pa Panchamam (पंचमं) Fifth Cuckoo
Da Dhaivatam (धैवतं) -- Horse
Ni Nishadam (निषादं) Outcast/Hunter Elephant
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