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But there are important differences, too. Western scales come in only two different "flavors": major and minor. The two are quite different from each other, but any major key sounds pretty much like any other major key, and any minor key sounds basically like every other minor key. This is because the relationships between the various notes of the scale are the same in every major key, and a different set of relationships governs the notes of every minor key. (Please see Major Keys and Scales and Beginning Harmonic Analysis for more on this.)

The seven-note that s of Indian music, on the other hand, come in many different "flavors". The interval pattern varies from one that to the next, and so the relationships between the notes are also different. There are ten popular that s in Hindustani music, and Carnatic music includes over seventy mela .

Although the first note of an Indian scale is often given as C, Indian that s and ragas are not fixed in pitch ; any raga may actually begin on any pitch. The important information about each that and raga "scale" is the pattern of intervals , the (relative) relationship between the notes, not absolute frequencies .

Some example that

Here are the scale notes for some that . For ease of comparison, it is assumed that each raga is beginning on a (Western) C. Notice that the pattern of half step, whole step, and minor third intervals is unique to each that . Do you notice anything else? (Answer is below, in the section on tuning .)

Making for even more variety, a piece of Indian classical music may not even use all seven of the notes in the that . The music will be in a particular raga , which may use five, six, or all seven of the notes in the that . And a that can generate more than just three raga s (one pentatonic , one hexatonic , and one full raga ). For example, Bilawal raga includes all 7 notes of Bilawal that (which corresponds to the Western C major scale). Meanwhile, Deshkar and Durga are both five-note ragas that are also based on Bilawal that . Deshkar omits the two notes (Ma and Ni) corresponding to F and B; and Durga omits the two notes (Ga and Ni) corresponding to E and B.

Further confusing the issue for the novice, the two traditions often use the same name for completely different ragas, and there can be disagreement even within a tradition as to the name or proper execution of a particular raga. Ragas may be invented, combined, borrowed from other traditions, or dropped from the repertoire, so the tradition itself, including the "theory", is in many ways more fluid and more varied than the Western tradition.

It is also important to understand that a raga is not just a collection of the notes that are allowed to be played in a piece of music. There are also rules governing how the notes may be used; for example, the notes used in an ascending scale ( aroha ) may be different from the notes in a descending scale ( avaroha ). Some notes will be considered main pitches, the "tonic" or "most consonant" in that raga , while other notes are heard mostly as ornaments or dissonances that need to be resolved to a main note. Particular ornaments or particular note sequences may also be considered typical of a raga . The raga may even affect the tuning of the piece.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Special subjects in music theory. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2005 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10220/1.5
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