Tip #237 – Understanding the Salagam Scale

The Carnatic music of South India has 72 scales (melakartas) comprised of seven different notes in either an ascending (arohana) or descending (avarohana) fashion. These scales are used in a kind of India music called rāga and are extremely beautiful. In addition these scales are grouped into different chakras, based on certain similarities.

Today’s melakarta is the Salagam scale, the first scale from the seventh chakra.

Below is a representation of the scale as if it was put into Western notation:

Both the first (SA) and fifth (PA) scale degrees are in a placement normal to most scales found in Western music.  However, the lowered second (RI) and third (GA) scale degrees create a chromatic line.  So do the raised fourth (MA) and lowered seventh (NI) scale degrees create a chromatic line.

Try playing around with the scale, possible harmonies, and progressions!

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