Framework in Classical Indian Music

Classical Indian music is a complex and beautiful art form, and one of the key elements is the framework. In this blog post, we’ll explore what a framework is in classical Indian music, and how it helps to create the rich and intricate sounds that are characteristic of this style.


Classical Indian music is based on a system of scales called ragas. Each raga has a specific melodic shape and set of rules governing its use. The performer improvises within the framework of the raga, creating a unique piece of music each time it is performed.

Ragas are usually categorized by the time of day or night they are meant to be performed. There areMorning Ragas, Evening Ragas, and Midnight Ragas. Each raga has a different mood or feel associated with it.

The framework of a classical Indian piece usually consists of an alap, jor, and gat sections. The alap is an improvised section where the performer introduces the melody of the raga. The jor is a more rhythmically active section where the performer begins to play with accompaniment. The gat is the main section of the piece, where the performer plays the melody with accompaniment for a set period of time.

Classical Indian music is based on complex rules and improvisation within those rules. It is a deeply spiritual form of music that has been passed down for generations.

Theoretical Framework

Classical Indian music is a complex and intricate form of art. In order to create a good composition, one must have a strong understanding of the theoretical framework behind it. This framework includes concepts such as raga, tala, and swara. Without a strong understanding of these concepts, it would be difficult to create a good composition.

Definition of Raga

In music theory, a Raga is a melodic framework for improvisation and composition. The Raga gives the musician a set of rules which they can use to create a piece of music. The main element of a Raga is the Vadi, or “most important note”. This note gives the performer a starting point, and they can then improvise around it using the other notes in the Raga.

There are two types of Ragas in Indian music: Melakarta Ragas and Janya Ragas. Melakarta Ragas are the “parent” Ragas from which all other Ragas can be derived. There are said to be 72 Melakarta Ragas, which each have seven notes (swaras). Janya Ragas are derived from Melakarta Ragas, and there are said to be over 300 of them.

Ragas are often said to evoke certain moods or sentiments, and they can be performed at different times of day or night. They can also be classified by their seasonality; some Ragas are only meant to be performed in winter, while others are better suited for spring or summer.

When performing a Raga, musicians will often start with an alap, which is an unmetered section where they slowly introduce the notes of the Raga. This is followed by the Gat, which is a more rhythmic section where the performer improvises within the framework of the Raga.

Definition of Tala

In the Indian musical tradition, Tala (ताला) (Devanagari: ताल, Bengali: তাল, Tamil: தாலா, Telugu: తాలం, Kannada: ತಾಳ, Malayalam: Talam) (literally a clap), sometimes called Talla(ṭāla), is a rhythmic pattern used as a framework for improvisation and composition. The patterns are organized around the time cycle of a beat box called the lehra or tala machine. The basic scheme of a tala involves repeating beats called matras. Talas are often described in terms of number of beats and the relationship between main beats (called Sam ) and sub-beats(called tiSRA). A measure of music contains several talas , each lasting for several cycles.

In Hindustani music , the tala is known as a “time-measure” while in Carnatic music it is more precisely referred to as “beats”. The tala system in both Hindustani and Carnatic music shares common features like number of counts or “time-measures” in each phrase; organizers such as gat (the lead melody) or sollus (fixed percussion accompaniment); openness to improvisation within that structure. Both systems also recognize 2 types of measures: symmetric and asymmetric . However, there are many differences between Carnatic and Hindustani talas . In particular, the latter has only four basic time measures (4-, 8-, 16- and 32-beat times), while there are over 200 talas found in South Indian music today.

Classical Music of India

The history of Indian music is very old. The oldest form of Indian music is the Vedic period which can be traced back to approximately 1500 BCE. This form of music was codified in the form of the Rig Veda, which is a collection of hymns. The Vedic period is also when the first form of Indian music notation was developed.

Hindustani Music

The Hindustani music tradition is one of the two main traditions that arose in northern India around the 12th century CE (the other being Carnatic music of the south). It is sometimes called “North Indian classical music” or “Shāstriya Sangīt”.

There are several types of Hindustani music, all of which share a common musical tradition and some common features, but which differ in emphasis and technique. The two main types are Khyal and Thumri. Khyal is more abstract and technical, while Thumri is more lyrical and emotional. Other types include Dhrupad, Tappa, Tarana, and Ghazal.

Hindustani music is traditionally performed by soloists, although it can also be performed by ensembles such as the string instrument sarangi accompanying the vocalist, or the tabla accompanying a sitar player. It is usually accompanied by one or more percussion instruments, such as the tabla or taraf (a type of drum), and sometimes by a melodic instrument such as the harmonium.

The origins of Hindustani music are found in the Vedic texts of ancient India. The earliest available text relating to music is the Natya Shastra, which was written between 200 BCE and 200 CE. This treatise provides detailed guidelines for performing different types of music, including vocal music, instrumental music, and dance.

Over time, the various traditions of Hindustani music developed distinct schools (gharanas) with different styles and techniques. These schools often became associated with specific regions or cities, such as Lucknow (for the Awadh gharana), Benares (for the Beneras gharana), or Jaipur (for the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana).

Carnatic Music

Carnatic music, Karnāṭaka saṃgīta, or Karnāṭaka saṅgītam, is a system of music commonly associated with southern India, including the modern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is one of the two main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions; the other sub-genre being Hindustani music.

The basic tenets of Carnatic music include svaravalis (also called alankārams or jatiswarams), melakartas (also called janaranjani), rāgas (also called melas or jatis), and talas. It also covers other topics such as yati, gamakas, kshetram and nyasa.


Classical Indian music is based on a framework of melodic modes called ragas, which combine both fixed (static) and ascending/descending (mobile) melodic movements. The Indian musical system is built on two main pillars: the raga, which gives the music its color, and the tala, which provides the rhythmic structure.

A raga can be thought of as a “melodic sketch” or “template”, providing a set of guidelines for improvisation and composition. Each raga has its own unique melodic personality, defined by specific ascent/descent scales (aroha/avaroha), characteristic phrases (pakads) and structural elements such as rest points (nyasa), turning points (vadi/samavadi) and climaxes (kakali). In addition to the main melody, ragas often include one or more subsidiary melodies known as tans.

The tala is the rhythmic framework for a composition or improvisation. There are dozens of different talas in Indian classical music, each with its own characteristic pulse and structure. The most common tala is known as 4 beats (chatushra), but there are also 6 beats (shadja-panchama), 8 beats (mishra-chapu), 10 beats (trisra-jati), 12 beats (ekatala) and 16 beats (jhampa).

The combination of raga and tala creates an infinite possibility of melody and rhythm, making Indian classical music one of the richest and most complex musical systems in the world.

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