Anthara Gandharam / Ga3

Nov 2, 2016 • Ananth Pattabiraman

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

When carnatic Ga3 and western Major 3rd are played together, one can clearly hear the beating because of the frequency difference, which is about 14 cents and is quite considerabale.

Putting that in the context of Sa, this recording would help you get the taste of real Ga3 and distinguish it from western Major 3rd.

  • 1st Phrase –> Sa and carnatic Ga3 are played separately and together.
  • 2nd Phrase –> Sa and western Major 3rd are played separately and together.
  • 3rd Phrase –> Carnatic Ga3 and western Major 3rd are played together.

In conclusion, western keyboard should not be used naively as a learning tool for Carnatic music. Instead of resorting to tools designed without consideration for our music, we shall develop and support tools that are created specifically for carnatic music. Our Shruti Carnatic Tuner (Android app) is one such effort. It provides accurate reference tones for pure carnatic swarasthanas.

*Equal Temperament is the tuning system used for keyboards. This is a western tuning system.
#Cent is a logarithmic unit of measure used for musical intervals.

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.