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Ragas are derived from scales, so let’s begin by trying to understand what a scale is.

A scale is a musical theme created by choosing a specific set of notes. Think of the twelve notes in an octave as twelve different colors. Now, what if you chose only a few of those twelve colors for a painting? That would be like giving yourself a color scheme. You could create an endless number of beautiful paintings with this color scheme. Every time you paint with it, the result could be something different. And yet, all of those paintings would share a…


In Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, students begin their study of ragas by learning to sing fixed raga compositions called bandish. There are many well-known bandish in each raga. A good bandish paints a brief yet effective outline of a raga’s melody. So, it can be used not just as a learning exercise by students, but also as part of a raga performance. Artists improvise on and flesh out these compositions to create something unique and original.

Bandish (“a composition bound by the rules of raga, rhythm, and verse”) is a generic name for raga compositions, but different kinds of…


Some ragas are more difficult to master than others. This could be because they involve difficult note intervals, because they use complex note patterns, because they use microtones, because they are too similar to other ragas, or other reasons.

This page explores a few such ragas. Ragas like Hamsadhwani, Kedar, and Deskar can be challenging for the artist even though they are pleasant and easy to listen to. On the other hand, ragas like Todi, Bhairav, and Marwa are both difficult to perform and intense in their moods.

Raag Hamsadhwani

Bright and happy Raag Hamsadhwani can be quite challenging, especially on instruments…


Raga families ( raagang) are created when new ragas are derived from existing ragas. Take an existing raga and leave out one note from its scale, and you have a new raga. Add a new note, and you have a different raga. You can also leave out or add notes selectively, say just in the ascending scale of the raga or only in specific note patterns. The melody profiles or chalan (video: “what is chalan?”) of ragas in the same family are often similar.

Take Raag Malkauns, for instance. It uses the notes Sa ga ma dha ni (1, ♭3…


My website, Raag Hindustani

One of my main reasons in creating this website was to put together a comprehensive and easily accessible resource for North Indian (Hindustani) classical music theory, explaining all the basic concepts from scratch with examples and notated demos so anyone, whether with a background in music or not, can understand.

If you are looking for practical training in vocal or instrumental Indian classical music, there are, again, many resources available for both serious and casual students.

A Few Useful Tools and Resources

Please note that I am not sponsored by or endorsing any of the products or services listed on this page. I simply offer them…


In Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, students begin their study of ragas by learning to sing fixed raga compositions called bandish. But in performance, compositions are used only to provide structure. For instance, you might hear a small part of a composition repeated at intervals as a refrain. Most of the music is improvised on the spot.

Artists capable of exquisite hour-long improvised performances are not just gifted, they have also been studying and training for decades. And there are no shortcuts. …


In Indian classical music, we do not notate music for performance purposes because a classical music performance, by definition, is extemporaneous. But we do use notation to teach and learn music. When you learn a new raga, you notate a few basic melodic phrases, patterns and simple compositions in that raga so that you can recall them later.

This page uses a simple composition (socha samajha mana mita piyaravaa in Raag Kedar) to explain three different systems of notation. …


In Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, the most common way to classify a raga is under ten parent scales (called thaat). A thaat is no more than a seven-note scale including one each of the seven notes sa re ga ma pa dha ni (the Indian equivalents of do re mi fa so la ti). Of these, the notes re ga ma dha and ni each have two variants (natural vs. flat, or natural vs. sharp), so there can be 32 different thaats, but 10 occur very commonly in Hindustani music. The video below shows these ten parent scales.

The…

There are hundreds of different ragas, and they can be classified in various ways — by structure, by parent scale, by family, by time or season, by mood, and so on. The seasons and moods ascribed to ragas are more subjective, but classifying by structure, scale, or family helps to get a better understanding of ragas from different perspectives.

On this page, let’s take a look at how ragas can be classified based on their structure into symmetric, asymmetric, mixed (mishra), circuitous (vakra), and compound (jod) ragas. To illustrate, I’ll use a few light ragas — Kafi, Durga, Dhani, Des…


If you have a simple melody that can stand on its own, ornamentation is what is added to this to make it more appealing. There are many different kinds of ornaments (alankar) in Indian classical music. Some add finer nuances to the melody, others give it texture. Together, the various ornaments play a very important role in giving body and expressiveness to a simple melody, making it complete in and of itself without the need for accompaniment.

This page introduces some of the main ornaments used in Indian classical and semi-classical music. …

Sadhana

I study, write about, and make audiovisual content to explain Indian classical music. My website: https://raag-hindustani.com

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