Tip #99 – Understanding the Vanaspati 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 Vanaspati (meaning “fruit-bearing tree”) scale, the fourth scale from the first 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 other scale degrees are lowered as well as clustered in chromatic runs. In addition, the sixth scale degree (DHA) is raised, creating a tendency to resolve upwards. While this may sound dissonant or exotic, this scale gives a great amount of opportunity to play with tension and chromatic passing tones.

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


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #97 – Understanding the Ganamurti 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 Ganamurti (meaning “icon of music”) scale, the third scale from the first 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 other scale degrees are lowered as well as clustered in chromatic runs. In addition, the seventh scale degree (NI) is raised, which creates a tendency to resolve upwards. While this may sound dissonant or exotic, this scale gives a great amount of opportunity to play with tension and chromatic passing tones.

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


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #94 – Understanding the Ratnangi 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 Ratnangi (meaning “gem bodied”) scale, the second scale from the first 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 other scale degrees are lowered as well as clustered in chromatic runs. While this may sound dissonant or exotic, this scale gives a great amount of opportunity to play with tension and chromatic passing tones.

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


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #91 – Understanding the Kanakangi 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 Kanakangi (meaning “golden bodied”) scale, the first scale from the first 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 other scale degrees are lowered as well as clustered in chromatic runs. While this may sound dissonant or exotic, this scale gives a great amount of opportunity to play with tension and chromatic passing tones.

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


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #89 – Crafting Modal Interchange from a Tone Drone

Going back to an early topic of borrowed chords and altering a harmony by changing a chord quality to its parallel major/minor – here is another way on how to view it:

Say you have a melody that you want to craft around a single note drone. In this example, the tone used will be E.

So, E what?? E major? E minor? E Dorian mode? E Mixolydian mode?

Well… why not all give them a shot?

With keeping the tone drone constant in the harmonies (either as a chord tone or upper structure tension), try changing each section of the melody to be in a different mode. Below is the example with every measure changing to a different mode corresponding to E as the center tone.


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Tip #62 – Using the MpyƐmɔ Harmonic Progression and Scale

In some south and central African countries, musicians use homophonic multipart singing style in their songs.  That means that the group of people sing the same song rhythmically, but move in parallel motion at different pitches.  Typically, it is a fourth (interval) apart, but not always.

Below is an example of a multi-part harmonic progression called the MpyƐmɔ tribe progression from the Central African Republic as well as the derived scale. Notice how skipping every other note in the scale on the right produces the functional harmony on the left.  Also, observe the pitch fundamentals that build the harmony as well as act as a bourdon (open drone).

Besides advising you, the reader, to experiment, investigate, and take inspiration from these African harmonic progressions I strictly indorse you not to impose classical theory on these progressions.  While it is tempting to analyze these progressions with the idioms of Western music notation, I recommend not to as it takes away the purity/authenticity of African music’s own stylistic practices by framing it within a box.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #61 – Using the Nguni Harmonic Progression and Scale

In some south and central African countries, musicians use homophonic multipart singing style in their songs.  That means that the group of people sing the same song rhythmically, but move in parallel motion at different pitches.  Typically, it is a fourth (interval) apart, but not always.

Below is an example of a multi-part harmonic progression called the Nguni/Nyanja tribe progression from Malawi as well as the derived scale. Notice how skipping every other note in the scale on the right produces the functional harmony on the left.  Also, observe the pitch fundamentals that build the harmony as well as act as a bourdon (open drone).

Besides advising you, the reader, to experiment, investigate, and take inspiration from these African harmonic progressions I strictly indorse you not to impose classical theory on these progressions.  While it is tempting to analyze these progressions with the idioms of Western music notation, I recommend not to as it takes away the purity/authenticity of African music’s own stylistic practices by framing it within a box.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.