I. Intervals

II. Scale Degrees

III. Scales and Keys

IV. Modes

V. Intro to Modulations

VI. Modulations of Aeolian and Ionian

VII. Other Modulations and Ethnic Scales

VIII. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 Tone Scales

Part I: An Introduction to North and South Indian Scales

The idea of a “scale” is not completely the way the Northern Indians looked at a set of notes. The North Indian equivalent for a musical scale is called a raga. However, this name is not directly translated as scale, but more like “A set of notes to be used to make a melody”. Even then the meaning goes much further as the name implies many other things relevant to the culture.


The raga became an integral part of Indian life and spiritual practice. There were set ragas that were to be played at various times of day and also special ones for ceremonies. In addition, they were commonly used in meditation and prayer, sometime as chant. A lot of the time these scales were sung vocally, but they are played on a variety of instruments as well.


What you must remember is that for a long time, the system of ragas was a complete mess. And understandably so: There were originally a small set of ragas from which most everyone worked from but over time, due to many different events in history, cultural diffusion, invasions, and geographic barriers, many of the original ragas began to undergo modifications by different people and many new ragas were added.


The South Indian system was a bit more organized but refers to a raga by a completely different name. The concept is identical however. This system is the primary one in use today in South Indian music (Carnatic Music). Note that that South Indian music used completely different scales than North Indian music, but there is some overlap evident. This system was organized by Venkatamakhi in the 1600’s.


North Indian (Hindustani) remained a mess for much longer. In the 1800’s, Chaturpandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936) managed to create a system known as the “That” (sometimes spelled “Thaat”) to classify all the ragas. Unfortunately, as useful as this system was, it still failed to account for many of the ragas. It is however the primary system in use today. There are two other ways to classify ragas which will be discussed in greater detail further in this section.


In South India, the word for a musical scale is mela. The Northern and Southern Indian music greatly differ from each other in sound and in instruments but many share the same scales. In addition, you will often find that a large majority of the scales are identical to many of the ones named in the previous lessons.


The application of these scales in terms of Indian music in general goes beyond this scope of this website but if you wish to incorporate some of the exotic sounds of these scales into your music then that is probably the best usage for them.


As I mentioned earlier, many of the scales overlap into the Western System of scales. The most common name for the Western Equivalent will be given on the side. Some of these alternate names may be scales that we have not discussed at all.