What notes are these in this piece of Indian music?
November 14, 2005 10:57 PM   Subscribe

I need help identifying the notes in a snippet of Indian music.

The snippet in question is here.

I need help identifying what notes those are. I understand that Indian music uses the same 12-tone scale western music does. The ultimate goal is to play it on my keyboard and further mess with it there.

That is a sample from Dhun (Folk Airs) by Ravi Shankar. If you're familiar with this piece and Indian music in general, I'd also appreciate it if you could identify which raga it is composed in.

Finally, I'd also like it if someone could show me a way to identify notes programmatically, i.e., by identifying their frequencies and mapping those frequencies to the established values for A, B, C, etc.

Thanks to anyone who can help me out with any of these.
posted by pealco to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Doing it programmatically would be difficult, I think. For this kind of thing I typically sit down with a keyboard or a guitar and try to work it out. Start with the first note. Play that wav on a loop and move up and down until you're sure of the first note.
From there you're looking for intervals. Is it one half-step up? 2? 3? Keep notes while you're doing it.

It doesn't hurt to try to develop your ear a little. I used (and wrote) some ear training software a few years back. The one I wrote is based on a concept I heard of, which plays a chord progression, and then a random note, and you need to identify the placement of that note in the progression (like, is it the root of the key? The 4th? etc. The program gets progressively harder, choosing from a larger set of notes. An excercise like this gets you used to what a 5th sounds like against it's root, or what a flat 7th sounds like, etc. I could probably dig the program up if you like. Certainly I found it useful in learning to hear notes in music.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:05 AM on November 15, 2005

Best answer: It's G-A A A A-C A-G G G-F F

Where G-A means G sliding into A.

(Says my fiancé who has perfect pitch.)
posted by nev at 7:06 AM on November 15, 2005

The fiance is correct.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:44 AM on November 15, 2005

From what I remember, indian classical music does divide the octave into 12 tones (the swaras) but using just intonation (so they do not exactly correspond to a western chromatic scale). Also, there is a finer level of 'microtones', considered the basis - the 22 sruti - but they are not specifically referred to in any of the scales (thats).

I'm not sure which raga is in the sample you linked, but I do remember noticing that many of the recordings marked 'folk song' or 'folk...' are less strict in their adherence to the raga form - actually I think 'Dhun' may specify a free form composition. With a longer sample I might be able to recognize the that (scale) and the tal (rhythmic pattern).
posted by aquafiend at 8:34 AM on November 15, 2005

Here's a table to map MIDI notes to frequencies.
posted by horsewithnoname at 10:26 AM on November 15, 2005

Ah yes, just looked it up.

"DHUN : A light tune, free from the discipline of a Raga."

So it is not in a strict raga.
posted by aquafiend at 10:35 AM on November 15, 2005

I think it would be wrong to say Indian music is on an octave divided into 12 notes. For one thing Indian music is many things. There is hindustani music (of which Ravi Shankar represents an example usually) from the North, and Carnatic music from the South. Both of those use similar systems, but the way the microtones play out is really different. There is also various folk musics which have their own logic.

In broad sweeps some differences: Indian music doesn't have notes fixed to any frequency. In an indian concert they usually just tune to the solo instrument or the vocalist's range, so you can start anywhere and build you notes from some arbitrary point (though now they sometimes use western notes 440hz or something as those points). You can sort of represent the ragas on the 12 note scale, except that a raga is not defined by those notes, but more relationally and through the ways the melodies progress and are embellished which requires the said 22 notes or microtones. What distingushes ragas are sometimes not so much those notes, but their melodic tendencies, the microtones they carry with them, and their patterns of ascent and descent. So in essence the whole idea of a scale in India music is pretty different, though there are some analogies. It is worth mentioning indian music could never be properly played on a piano (hence the dismissal of it in Carnatic music) or fretted instruments without bends because of the microtones.

There is a good article about this by an Indian musicologist, but I can't find it for the life of me. sorry.
posted by aussicht at 9:27 PM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

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