Carnatic on Keyboard

In the carnatic music system we distribute the 12 keys of an octave among the 7 swaras of a raga. The seven swaras are sa,re,ga,ma,pa,dha,ni.

Sa & Pa have one key associated with them each ie., the First and Fifth white key respectively.
Ma can take any of the two keys ie., either third black key or fourth white key.
Ri and Ga can share any two of the four keys between Sa (First white key) and Ma (Third black key).
Similarly Dha and Ni can share any two of the four keys after Pa (Fifth white key).

See below for details of representing the twelve keys of an octave in Carnatic keyboard notes.

Keyboard Map

  • s  - Shadjama - First key in an octave
  • r1 - Shuddha Rishaba - Second key in an octave
  • r2 - Chatushruthi Rishaba - Third key in an octave
  • r3 - Satsruthi Rishaba - Fourth key in an octave
  • g1 - Shuddha Gaandhaara - Third key in an octave
  • g2 - Saadhaarana Gaandhaara - Fourth key in an octave
  • g3 - Anthara Gaandhaara - Fifth key in an octave
  • m1 - Shuddha Madhyama - Sixth key in an octave
  • m2 - Prathi Madhyama - Seventh key in an octave
  • p  - Panchama - Eighth key in an octave 
  • d1 - Sudhdha Dhaivatha - Ninth key in an octave
  • d2 - Chatusruthi Dhaivatha - Tenth key in an octave
  • d3 - Shatsruthi Dhaivatha - Eleventh key in an octave
  • n1 - Sudhdha Nishaadha - Tenth key in an octave
  • n2 - Kaisiki Nishaadha - Eleventh key in an octave
  • n3 - Kaakali Nishaadha - Twelveth key in an octave

The above notations refer to middle octave of the keyboard. 

Higher octave (octave immediately above) notations will also be the same as above except that they will be in capital letters. 
For instance: n3 in higher octave shall be written as N3

Lower octave notations will also be same as above except that they will be underlined.
For instance: n3 in lower octave shall be written as n3

Octave above the higher octave (i.e the second higher octave) will be indicated with a capital letter and an overscore above the note.
For instance: n3 in second higher octave shall be written as N3.

Carnatic-Western Keyboard Map

Below is a mapping of keys between classical Indian and Western notations:

Indian Notation Western Equivalent Keyboard key
s C First key in an octave
r1 C# (C Sharp) Second key in an octave
r2 / g1 D Third key in an octave
r3 / g2 D# (D Sharp) Fourth key in an octave
g3 E Fifth key in an octave  
m1 F Sixth key in an octave
m2 F# (F Sharp) Seventh key in an octave
p G Eighth key in an octave
d1 G# (G Sharp) Ninth key in an octave
d2 / n1 A Tenth key in an octave
d3 / n2 A# (A Sharp) Eleventh key in an octave
n3 B Twelveth key in an octave

The above notations refer to middle octave of the keyboard. 

Higher octave notations will also be the same as above except that they will be in capital letters. 
For instance: n3 in higher octave shall be written as N3

Lower octave notations will also be same as above except that they will be underlined.
For instance: n3 in lower octave shall be written as n3

Introduction to the Melakartha System

The Melekartha System is the most scientific system of creation and classification of ragas and forms the basic of the classical carnatic music system.

Melakartha system uses a powerful scientific algorithm to create the fundamental 72 ragas of the carnatic music system. All other ragas in the carnatic music system are derived from one/more of these 72 ragas. The derived ragas are called janya ragas.

In the Melakartha system we divide the 12 keys of an octave (in the keyboard) into 7 swaras as follows:

1. Shadjama

  • S = Shadjama = First key of the octave

2. Rishaba

  • R1 = Shudhdha Rishabha = Second key of the octave
  • R2 = Chathushruthi Rishabha = Third key of the octave
  • R3 = Sathshruthi Rishabha = Fourth key of the octave

3. Gandhara

  • G1 = Shudhdha Gandhara = Third key of the octave
  • G2 = Sadharana Gandhara = Fourth key of the octave
  • G3 = Anthara Gandhara= Fifth key of the octave

4. Madhyama

  • M1 = Shudhdha Madhyama = Sixth key of the octave
  • M2 = Prathi Madhyama = Seventh key of the octave

5. Panchama

  • P = Panchama = Eigth key of the octave

6. Daivatha

  • D1 = Shudhdha Daivatha = Nineth key of the octave
  • D2 = Chathushruthi Daivatha = Tenth key of the octave
  • D3 = Sathshruthi Daivatha = Eleventh key of the octave

7. Nishadha

  • N1 = Shudhdha Nishadha = Tenth key of the octave
  • N2 = Kaishika Nishadha = Eleventh key of the octave
  • N3 = Kaakali Nishadha = Twelveth key of the octave

You can see above that R2=G1, R3=G2, D2=N1 and D3=N2. The reason for this lies in the Melakartha algorithm.

The Melakartha algorithm is as follows:

  • A Melakartha Raga has all the 7 swaras in it.
  • A Melakartha Raga cannot have multiple entries for the same swara. For instance you cannot have both N1 and N2 in the same raga as they both are Nishadas.
  • The same frequency cannot occupy more than one swara, for instance, if R2 is the Rishabha in a raga then G1 cannot be used as Gandhara in that raga as G1=R2.
  • The swara order (increase in frequency called ArOhaNa) is Sa (Shadjama),Ri (Rishabha),Ga (Gandhara),Ma (Madhyama),Pa (Panchama),Dha (Daivatha),Ni (Nishadfha).

Based on the above algorithm we can form the Melakartha ragas as follows.

  • Sa and Pa are the same in all ragas as they have only one entry.
  • Ma has two entries so we can form two ragas for every given combination of all other swaras i.e. if we are given a sa,ri,ga,pa,da and ni combination we can form two melakartha ragas for that combination by using M1 as ma in one raga as M2 as ma in another raga.
    For instance, given S,R1,G2,P,D1,N1 we can form two Melakarthas as follows:
    S,R1,G2,M1,P,D1,N1 and S,R1,G2,M2,P,D1,N1
  • R1 has 3 entries and Ga has 3 entries where two entries are common to both (i.e. R2=G1 and R3=G2). Hence, considering the fact that frequency of Ga has to be always greater than Ri (i.e. the key for Ri cannot come after the key for Ga) ,we can have totally 6 combinations for Ri,Ga as follows:
    R1G1, R1G2, R1G3, R2G2, R2G3 and R3G3
  • Similarly we can have 6 entries for Dha,Ni combination as follows:
    D1N1, D1N2, D1N3, D2N2, D2N3 and D3N3

Thus we have unique 2 entries for Ma, 6 entries for Ri,Ga and 6 entries for Ni,Dha. This makes a total of 2x6x6 = 72 unique combinations of all the 7 swaras defined based on 12 keys in an octave.

Thus using the Melakartha algorithm we can create 72 Melakartha ragas. A mELakartha rAgA is also called a Sampoorna raga as it has all the 7 swaras in it.

credit: Gurudev, hitXP.com