Just as in any form of classical music, notes or “swaras” are a fundamental aspect of Carnatic music. Carnatic music is comprised of seven swaras, referred to as the “sapthaswaras.” The origin of these swaras can be traced back to the ancient Vedic texts of India dating farther back than 1000 BC. These seven notes are denoted S, R, G, M, P, D, N. This can be compared to the seven notes of Western music: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. In notation, higher octave notes have a dot above them, while lower octave notes have a dot below them. The Carnatic system employs the use of half notes starting at S and therefore has variations for some swaras. The S and P do not have variations in Carnatic music. The other notes, however, have either 2 or 3 variations as detailed in the table to the right.
Swara/Sound Notation Western Note
Shadja/Sa S C
Shuddha Rishabha/Ri R1 C#/Db
Chatusruthi Rishabha/Ri R2 D
Shatsruthi Rishabha/Ri R3 D#/Eb
Suddha Gaandhaara/Ga G1 D
Saadharana Gaandhaara/Ga G2 D#/Eb
Anthara Gaandhaara/Ga G3 E
Shuddha Madhyama/Ma M1 F
Prati Madhyama/Ma M2 F#/Gb
Panchama/Pa P G
Suddha Dhaivata/Dha D1 G#/Ab
Chatsruthi Dhaivata/Dha D2 A
Shatsruthi Dhaivata/Dha D3 A#/Bb
Shuddha Nishadha/Ni N1 A
Kaisiki Nishadha/Ni N2 A#/Bb
Kaakali Nishadha/Ni N3 B