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Pietro Sarrantino’s Music Blog

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Some of you might have hear sitar played. It is a native Indian instrument. The scales used in Indian music are called raga.

Ragas differ from the Western church modes and major or minor scales with the main difference is that Indians have sharp fourth note from the tonic note of a scale.

C major scale

tonic = c

supertonic = d

mediant = e

subdominant = f

dominant = g

submediant = a

lead tone = b

octave = c’

The fourth note is subdominant. Sometimes the fourth note is sharp = f#. A half note higher than the natural. In some raga scales the second, sixth and seventh note are flat, meaning a is ab. A half step lower than the natural.

Sitar: Wikimedia Commons, Musicalsindia CC


India has other string instruments such as veena, sarod, sharang, swarmandalj, dilruba, esraj. Some of them are played by bow such as sharand and esraj or dilruba. Swarmandalj reminds of psalter or Finnish kantele. Tambura is kind of bass instrument to accompany sitar on the background.

Shehnai is a woodwind instrument with range of two octaves A3-A5 with a nasal tone quality, kind of an oboe.

Drums that Indian are using consists of pakhwajal and tabla. Tabla is two small drums set together vertical direction and pakhawajal one bigger drum played horizontally.

In order to listen to Indian music, I would recommend you to listen to Anoushka Shankar. Or perhaps even his father Ravi Shankar.


Chinese instruments consist of guzheng, which is a similar to the kantele, except it has bridges to move the string shorter or longer in order to change the pitch or tone.

Sheng is a mixture of pan flute and harmonica with bamboo reeds and one mouth piece plus pads to choose which note is played. Japanese equivalent is shō.

Pipa is a string instrument.

Erhu is a bowed two-string instrument. I recall hearing the cellist Tina Guo play it and I liked it. She has also played jouhikko, Finnish folk instrument.

Both Chinese and Indian music have instruments made out of the clay or metal cups of different sizes filled with water to have them play a different pitch of notes played by some bamboo or a metal stick. (Cultural India & Wang, Peter. 2019.)


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