Concept in Indian Classical Music Crossword

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


If you’re a fan of Indian classical music, this crossword is for you! Test your knowledge of some of the key concepts in this musical tradition with this fun and challenging puzzle.


Indian Classical music is a rich and diverse tradition that has been around for centuries. It is characterized by its use of improvisation, intricate melodic and rhythmic patterns, and a wide range of musical styles.

This crossword covers some of the basic concepts in Indian Classical music. It is designed for beginners, but even experienced musicians may learn something new!

1. A type of melody that is based on the notes of the scale 4. The main section of a composition, typically in the middle 8. A rhythmic pattern that is repeated throughout a composition 11. A group of instruments that all play together 13. The specific kind of sound that an instrument makes 15. The higher or lower pitch of a note 16. The fast-paced section of a composition DOWN
2. A slow-paced section of a composition 3. When two or more notes are played at the same time 5. The main melodic line in a composition 6. When one note is played after another 7. A repeating pattern of notes 9. The speed at which a piece is played 10. The beat that keeps time in a piece 12. An improvised solo 14 .The note that gives a piece its identity

The Raga

In Indian classical music, a Raga is a melodic framework for improvisation and composition. Each raga provides the musician with a set of rules which govern the number of notes that can be used, the relationships between these notes, and the type of mood or feel that the music should evoke. A raga can be thought of as similar to a scale in Western music, but with a few important differences. Firstly, whereas Western scales are based on an equal division of the octave into twelve semitones (or “tones”), ragas are based on a smaller number of ground notes, which are then embellished with incidentals (called “ornamentations” or “embellishments”). Secondly, whereas Western scales are often described in terms of intervals between successive tones (e.g. whole tone, minor third etc.), ragas are more concern with melodic contours – the precise order in which notes should be played.

The Tala

The Tala (IPA: [ˈt̪əla]) is the rhythmic cycle in Indian classical music. It is also referred to as Jati. A tala consists of a prescribed number of beats (usually 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13 or 16) which are rational subdivisions of one whole beat. Each beat is itself subdivided; the smallest such fraction being called a Matra. The sequence of beats subdivision forms the tala. In the popular Carnatic music tradition, talas have roots in more ancient musical traditions and follow a highly mathematical structure where each Tala has a set number of divisions (or time units), with each division itself being divided into sub-divisions. This composite rhythmic structure states precisely how long each note value (or “pulse”) should be held relative to the other notes in any given piece to conform fully with one cycle of a chosen Tala. The basic pulse duration is called Sam or Saccha, and already contains 3 sub-divisions; but it can further be divided into 2, 4 or even 8 equal parts to give different levels of faster movement within it.[1]

Different types of talas are classified according to how many beats they have in their cycle – for example ” Dadra ” has 6 beats and ” Rupak ” has 7 beats; certain types such as ” Ektal ” have 12 beats while others such as ” Jhaptal ” have 10 beats. Rarely used talas such as Sankeerna also exist.[2]

All except the very rarest cycles can be constructed from permutations and combinations of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 6 Matras (beats), wherethe note value assigned to each matra may itself be subdivided several times over to produce rapid passages within it if desired.[1]

The Melody

The melody is the part of the music that stands out the most and is usually what people remember after hearing a song. In Indian classical music, there are two main types of melody: ragas and talas. Ragas aremelodies that follow a certain set of rules, while talas are repeating rhythmic patterns. Each type of melody has its own unique history and tradition.

The Rhythm

The Rhythm in Indian Classical Music is based on the concept of ‘tal’. ‘Tal’ is an important percussion instrument which provides the basic framework for any composition. The beat of the tal is further divided into smaller units called ‘matras’. The tempo of a composition is determined by the number of matras in a tala. The different rhythms used in Indian music are categorized into three broad types:

1. TALA – A fixed cyclic rhythm of a certain number of beats.
2. LHUDA – A variable rhythm with no specific number of beats.
3. KRIYA – A rhythmic movement or gesture, usually without any fixed tempo.

The Drone

The drone is a continuous sound, typically made by string or wind instruments, that serves as a background against which melodic phrases can be played. It is common in folk music from around the world, but particularly in Indian and Celtic music.

The most common type of drone is the fundamental note of the scale played on a string instrument such as the tambura (a plucked lute-like instrument) or the shruti box (a small hand-pumped organ). The drone provides a constant pitch reference against which other notes in the melody can be played, helping to give the music its characteristic modal sound.

In Indian classical music, the drone also serves an important rhythmic function. While the melody is rendered in notes of unequal duration, the drone sustains a steady pulse that helps to anchor the rhythm. This is why most Indian percussion instruments are designed to play only a limited number of notes, typically just the tonic and dominant of the scale.

The drone is an integral part of Indian classical music and gives it its distinctive sound. If you’re new to this style of music, listening for the drone is a good way to get oriented to the melodic and rhythmic structure of the piece.

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