I was trying to learn the chromatic scale and associate it with carnatic equivalents (I know equal temperment is not the way with indian music, but it interest me to relate and learn it to certain scales) I stumbled upon this link and found this image.

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I don't understand their abbreviations or interval names and really can't make the comparison with two system. Can anyone please detail the system explained here and make a comparison if possible for better understanding of the usage of abbreviations and interval names.

Edit : 1

Just found a better article which clears some questions on the topic here With this useful image.

enter image description here

  • 2
    I don't have enough info to expand this into a answer, but take a look at this image Oct 19, 2018 at 16:30
  • @Shevliaskovic The image do help in reading the two systems side by side. As you said it's not enough to expand into an answer.
    – RBz
    Nov 19, 2018 at 10:57
  • Related: music.stackexchange.com/q/82734/38256
    – user38256
    Dec 30, 2019 at 12:57

1 Answer 1


Ultimately, I can only give a partial answer, but if I’m understanding the question, I think it will still be helpful.

Often, western music is discussed using solfège: the scale degrees 1–7 are called do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti or si. In many places these are the names of the notes; what, in America, are referred to as notes C–B are referred to in Italy and France as Do–Si. However, for purposes of comparison with the Carnatic system, it’s more helpful to think of so-called movable-do systems, where “do” always refers to the tonic of the key.

For Carnatic music, a very similar system called Sargam is used. The degrees of a raag are sung as sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni. So that’s the origin of those terms in the chart above, they then just use the first letters for their abbreviations and add numbers for any scale degrees that have multiple versions. There are vast numbers of raags, and they all have different ways of presenting these scale degrees. The tuning of, for example, ma, in one raag might be quite different from ma in another. This is vaguely similar to the fact that both western major and minor scales have a “mi” note, but that pitch will be a full half step lower in the minor scales than in the major. However, the similarities end there. For one thing, every raag have “gamaka” associated with each scale degree that will be quite different from one to the next. Gamaka is sometimes translated as “ornament”, but that has an implication of being inessential, the gamaka are part of the essence of each raag. Another huge difference between western scales and raags is that the some scale degrees might have different versions, some might be omitted, and some might be different tunings on the way up than on the way down. One can find some parallels in common-practice western music (such as the so-called melodic minor scale), but the overall soundworld and theoretical world are very different.

So, I’m a little skeptical about the whole idea of a 12-note Carnatic system. It sounds a lot like someone trying to impose a Western concept of pitch organization onto a music that it doesn’t fit very well. That being said, I’m not an ethnomusicologist, and I’m not familiar with the study that produced this chart, so there might be more to it than I can see. I know enough to be very leery of this kind of analysis—especially given the enormous variety of raags in Carnatic music—but not enough to reject it outright or evaluate the central claims.

It isn’t clear from your question, but in case you’re asking about some of the other abbreviations: JI just stands for Just Intonation. 12-TET is short for 12-tone equal temperament. Cents are a way of measuring pitch such that there are exactly 100¢ in an equally-tempered half step.

  • Your answer do help in understanding this comparison at a basic level. However my question is also interested to know more on the treatment of reading notes(Interval names or their abbreviations). For example when you say G1-G2-G3 [M2-m3-M3] it's more like saying Ebb-Eb-E (bb to be read as flat-flat which is actually equivalent to D). This is under the comparison that {C to B} is equal to {Sa to Ni } is equal to {Do to Ti}. What is the significance of calling D as Ebb for instance? OR When you call R1 as shudha-Ri it's like calling C# as pure-D.
    – RBz
    Oct 23, 2018 at 7:39
  • @RBz your assumption (or understanding) of enharmonic tones (Ebb and D) is based on what is called the equal tempered tuning system where an octave is divided into 12 equal steps, each a 12th root of 2. This is an irrational number and impossible to tune to the natural harmonics of the vibrating instrument (rational fractions). The latter tuning is called Just. In just tuning Ebb is not equal to D.
    – user50691
    Nov 30, 2018 at 16:13
  • @RBz, the table you have shown for chromatic must be the nearest rational fraction that produces the true chromatic tone. In Just tuning you have more than one way to define the notes in between the diatonic notes and these result in more than 12 notes between the octave. I cannot count how many musicians have tried to map Easter to Western paradigms. They do not meld together perfectly. imo one should not try. Using western concepts does not lead to a better understanding of Indian music. imo it is a form of ethnocentrism.
    – user50691
    Nov 30, 2018 at 16:20
  • @ggcg the idea of enharmonic equivalence, however, predates equal temperament by centuries, and indeed it was one of the factors that led to the development of equal temperament. E double flat and D are enharmonically equivalent on every 12-tone keyboard, regardless of what temperament is in use.
    – phoog
    Mar 1, 2021 at 1:47

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