Seven Modes Interpreted With Indian Classical Ragas/Thaats


We are pretty familiar with the seven basic modes or scales in western music theory, which are considered useful in composing music. These seven modes are: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. For my better understanding and grasping  of these modes, I have tried to perceive how they resemble some of the Indian classical ragas. But Before that, I would like to exhibit a chromatic an octave table in both (Indian & Western) the disciplines.

Western Notes :

C,    C#/Db,   D     D#/Eb,   E       F     F#/Gb      G     G#/Ab      A     A#/Bb    B      C

Indian Notes :

S         r         R         g         G      M       m           P       dh          DH       ni       NI     S

(In Indian system, all the sharps and flatted notes are represented in lower cases and natural notes are in upper cases. Therefore, there are four flattened notes i.e. komal swaras r,g,dh,ni and one sharp i.e. teevra swara m)

‘W’ means whole step and ‘H’ means moving on to half step. All my explanations are in the key of C as it is more approachable and worth understanding.

1.  Ionian Mode: (W-W-H-W-W-W-H)

w    w    h    w    w    w    h

C—D—E—F—G—A—B—C     (All natural notes are found in Ionian mode…Raga BILAWAL

This mode is exactly similar to Raga Bilawal which also consist of all the natural notes : S-R-G-M-P-Dh-Ni-Sa

2. Dorian: (W-H-W-W-W-H-W)

Western:  C-D-D#-F-G-A-A#-C      Similar to Raga KAFI

Raga Kafi:  S-R-g-M-P-Dh-ni-SA

As Raga kafi consist of all natural seven notes except g and ni. swara ni and g are flat in this raga which is similar to the structure of Dorian mode.

3. Phrygian:      (H-W-W-W-H-W-W)

Western:        C-C#-D#-F-G-G#-A#-C      Similar to Raga BHAIRAVI

Raga Bhairavi:    S-r-g-M-P-dh-ni-SA

In Bhairavi, notes RE GA DHA NI are Komal or flat … similar to the phrygian mode.

4. Lydian         (W-W-W-H-W-W-H)

Western:    C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C        Similar to  Raga YAMAN

Raga Yaman:  S R G m P DH NI SA

5. Mixo-lydian         (W-W-H-W-W-H-W)

Western :              C -D-E-F – G -A-A#-C

Rag khamaj :        S – R-G-M-P-Dh-ni-SA     Pretty similar to Raga KHAMAJ

However, Raga Khamaj consist of both the NI notes – natural and flat as in natural in ascending order and flat ni while descending like SRGMPDNSA-SAniDPMGRS

6. Aeolian  (W-H-W-W-H-W-W)

Western :   C-D-D#-F-G-G#-A#-C….Similar to Raga ASAWARI

Asawari :   S-R-g-M-P-dh-ni-SA    (as G DH NI swaras are komal (flat))

7. Locrian   (H-W-W-H-W-W-W)

Western: C-C#-D#-F-F#-G#-A#-C     Resembles Raga TODI

Todi :   S-r-g-M-m-P-dh-ni-SA

Almost all the accidentals are used in Locrian and Raga Todi too.

In this way, I have perceived that all these various modes resemble the one or the other basic Indian ragas which are also called ‘Thaats’. These basic Ragas or thaats are also considered as the origin of Ragas and play a vital role in the classification of all the numerous ragas according to day, time, nature, persona etc..


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