I failed to find a piece of classical indian music that modulates from a chord to another one. Can anyone give a example of not "mono chord" indian music, and if not possible, is there a reason for this?

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    I see what you mean and why you're curious, but possibly this question can't really be answered. Note that the concept of chords isn't something universal – in fact it's rather specific to western music after ~1800. It evolved out of particular patterns in three- or four-voice counterpoint, which in turn is based on the concept of consonant and dissonant intervals. But AFAIK, Indian music has traditionally no such concepts, so it doesn't really make sense to even talk about chords. Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 22:16
  • There is now a closely related question. In particular, see @Khalian's answer regarding "melharmony".
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 7:12

3 Answers 3


In Indian Classical music we usually don't have a chord system. There is usually a drone (mono chord) playing in the background through a stringed instrument assisted by the tabla,harmonium, flute etc in the foreground. Music is based on a Raga and various forms which are played over the drone in the background.

Majorly two drones are used :

1) सा (C) , प ​(G)

2) सा(C) , म(F)

Check this out

The reason for this may be the answer to the question - Why do some painters choose a plain background for their art over a coloured background?

As of today, most of the film industry music in India is the fusion of the two - pure Classical Indian and the Western Chord system.

  • To fully satisfy people reading this answer, can you perhaps also tell us whether there are any pieces of music where the drone modulates? Do you ever switch from 1) to 2) mid-song for instance? If I were Nicooga, this would be my next question. :-)
    – Lee White
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 8:57
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    @Lee No ,we never switch from 1) to 2) mid-song. Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 9:10
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    @LeeWhite I suspect that the same was true of western European music many centuries ago, and the idea of changing the drone during the piece was one of the things that led to the development of western European style harmony.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 20:37

In classical music, there is a rare practice called Murchana or graha bheda or shruti bheda, which changes the tonic, but all the notes of the base raga remain the same. As a result the raga sounds different. In light music, the tonic key may change, but the raga remains the same. In the second category, the chords will change, try this out:


To answer your question (in a non fusion context) both traditions of ICM do not have western harmony (i.e. motion of chords from one to other either in a functional or non functional sense).

We do have drones though. A drone fixes reference pitches against which a performer sings/plays their instrument.

The most common drone configuration is 5-8-8-1 (perfect fifth, two octaves, tonic). For the ragas that do not have the perfect fifth you can also use 4-8-8-1 (perfect 4th instead of 5th).

Note there is no harmonic motion in a drone. Its literally these notes played over and over.

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