Sādhakam Carnatic Ear Trainer is an android app which helps students build their Swara Gyānam. Practicing with the app, doing the interactive exercises, students gradually develop their ability to identify swarams they hear. Hearing a sound and being able to tell the swarasthanam instantly is a wonderful skill, isn’t it?

Challange answered correct

This article describes how the app works, various stages of swara gynam development, and how to get the most out of it.

In an earlier post, we had demonstrated the difference between Carnatic Ga3 and its closest matching note on keyboards, the Major 3rd. It sparkled some discussion on forums and social media, and some of the readers began to think that only Ga3 is different from what is on keyboards while other swarasthanas are ok.

Actually, all swarasthanas deviate from their respective western notes!

Take a look at this visualization that shows the deviation of carnatic swarasthanams from their nearest western equal-tempered notes:

deviation of carnatic swarasthanas from their nearest ET notes

As you can clearly see from the chart:

  • Eight swarasthanas sound lower than keyboard notes.
  • Three swarasthanas sound higher.
  • Range of deviation is -15.64 cents (Dha2) to +11.73 cents (Ri1)

As a result, most swarasthanas will collide with their equivalent note on a keyboard and produce the out-of-tune beating effect as we have heard in case of Ga3.

Many carnatic music teachers make their students practice swarasthanas on keyboard in the hope that it might help them to improve their swara gyanam. Contrarily, it will only destroy their sense of swarasthana as most of the notes on a keyboard are very wrong. Let us fully understand the danger: according to this study, use of harmonium, which is also an equal tempered keyboard, has permanently skewed Hindustani music’s swara ratios. Fortunately, influence of harmonium is minimal in carnatic music, and the study says, we still retain the purity of our swarasthanas.

What is the alternative?

Absence of appropriate technology for carnatic is the reason why our teachers and students have to resort to other means such as keyboards.

On our part, we have created Shruti Carnatic Tuner, a reliable companion for authentic carnatic swarasthanas. It provides accurate reference tones. It also detects and shows you the swarasthanam when you sing or play. We, at kuyil, will continue to innovate apps tailor-made for carnatic that will empower teachers, students and performers.


Ananth Pattabiraman is a musician and co-founder of Kuyil, a startup dedicated to crafting apps for carnatic.
Shruti Carnatic Tuner, their android app, assists carnatic musicians and students with precise reference tones for swara sthanas.

In carnatic music, Anthara Gandharam (Ga3) has a peculiar characteristic. It can be heard clearly even when we play just Sa on tambura. It is a Swayambu Swaram, comes alive automatically due to the wonderful acoustics of tambura. This phenomenon is fundamentally important for carnatic music.

On a keyboard*, Major 3rd is used to approximate Ga3. However, Major 3rd (western music) is 400 cents# whereas proper carnatic Ga3 is at 386.31 cents above Sa (5/4 ratio).

ga3 is several cents flatter than major 3rd on keyboard

Stuff on carnatic music is not usually hard to come by. Nowadays, one can look up Arohana/Avarohana of a Raga or list of compositions by a composer with a quick web search. And then there are resources- massive, huge, immense resources- that serious students and researchers should be thankful that they exist online.

Journal of the Music Academy

14th February is Musicologist Professor P. Sambamurthy’s birthday. I started reading his treatise, South Indian Music (6 volumes), when I got more than slightly interested in Carnatic music. I can’t say I liked it very much at first. But I knew it was a very important resource and kept coming back to it often.

At first, it didn’t feel like a crisp, concise theory book. I thought it had a lot of fluff and unnecessary boasting (about the system of music). I began appreciating the quality of the contents only after reading a few more theory books. Some of them had passages literally copied from Sambamoorthy’s, while others didn’t have much of theoretical value IMHO (particularly the ones began with “Carnatic music originated from Shiva’s head”)

Professor Sambamurthy's books

Feb 18, 2015

#2

Feb 18, 2015

#1

Dec 15, 2014

Sep 22, 2012

Jul 6, 2011

Reaper is my main Digital-Audio-Workstation. It’s just awesome!

Another score graduated from my Carnatic Scores Repository - Saint Tyagaraja’s kriti Brochevarevare in Sriranjani Ragam, Adi Talam

A typical page in a music theory/appreciation book looks like this -

Introduction To Music Appreciation - Miller

Problem: It’s difficult to go through the musical examples. One must look for the recordings, or try to play them on an instrument (or sing). In some books, musical examples are printed in a separate section and referred through out the book (Refer: Ex. 1…). This makes reading the book unnecessarily complicated while the material discussed itself may not be that difficult.

Dec 22, 2010

Added two varnam tables. 8 Adi Thala Varnams (from year 2, certificate course, AP govt. music colleges).

Working on this -

I’ve created a repository for Carnatic Music Scores. One can download Carnatic Music Notations/Scores for Varnams, Kritis along with the source file/document which generated the score. At present the repository has a few completed scores and a few more almost ready scores.

Sep 12, 2010

An Avant-Garde Tuesday, Composed and Performed by Ananth.

Occasion: Annual day celebrations, Sri Bhakta Ramadas Govt. College of Music and Dance.

Music Theory notes for Carnatic Music at Government Music colleges, Andhra Pradesh/Telangana

Carnatic Music Theory - Year I (pdf, ~110 KB)

Year II (pdf, ~217 KB)

  • “Chalamela” - Varnam
  • Ragam: Dharbar, Thalam: Adi, Composer: Thiruvotriyur Tyagayyar
  • Score Transcribed by Ananth. March 2010
  • License: Creative Commons - Free for Non-Commercial, Share-alike use.

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