There are 3 major stages of learning music.

1. Reading music notation and playing it on an instrument / singing
2. Understanding sound & Identifying the swaras by hearing
3. Writing Music Notation by hearing the song

A student becomes a full-fledged musician, only after he completes all the above stages. In addition, students learning musical instruments have to understand the fingering techniques and practice methodically to get fluency in playing the instrument.

Also students (carnatic students in particular) should cultivate the habbit of memorising songs, so that they can perform easily on a stage, and also focus on improvisation.

Arrangement of Swaras (Notes) in a Keyboard

Below is the arrangement of Carnatic notes on the Keyboard, matching with the Western System, as already discussed. A set of 12 keys, consisting of 7 white keys & 5 black keys is called an Octave. This set of keys is repeated many times in a keyboard.

In an octave, there is one 'S', one 'P'., and other notes will be 2 each (one black & one white). If you take 3 sets of keys, the middle set is called 'middle octave'. The one to its left side is called 'lower octave' and the one to its right side is called 'upper octave'. 

              This diagram shows the arrangement of 3 octaves of the Keyboard.


 Carnatic Swaras on the Keyboard


                                                            Keys Arrangement of Western Notes

Note :  '#' and 'b' represent black keys on the keyboard.
           '#' represents a sharp note and  'b' represents a flat note.

eg., C# (C sharp) is a note which is slightly higher than C., which is the same as Db (D flat), which is slightly lower than D. Physically on the keyboard, a black key placed on the right side of a white is a '#' of that white key., and a black key placed on the left side of a white key is a 'b' of that white key.


Understand the different 'speeds' in music.

I speed = 1 note per beat    (Western Equivalent Note Length : 1/4 note)

II speed = 2 notes per beat (Western Equivalent Note Length : 1/8 note)

III speed = 4 notes per beat (Western Equivalent Note Length : 1/16 note)

IV speed = 8 notes per beat (Western Equivalent Note Length : 1/32 note)

Every speed is double of the previous level.

Now let us learn to play the phrase given below in 3 different speeds

S R S R | S R G M | S R G M | P D N S' ||

S' N S' N | S' N D P | S' N D P | M G R S ||

Watch the Video & learn.....


Sruthi - Scale - Transpose

"Sruthi' is a basic frequency based on which the notes of the song are arranged/sung.

"Transpose" (with respect to Keyboard) means switching of the sound of any key. If transpose is varied for a particular key, the sound of the the other keys also change correspondingly.



Anuswarams play important role while playing music on keyboard. They are used to give stress to some notes and beautify the playing. Normally the next note in the raga will act as anuswara. We should touch the anuswaram gently and then play the main swaram. Anuswarams are used in the arohanam only and not in the avarohanam.

For example take the raga 'hindolam'. In this raga, we can use anuswarams for G and D.   Here we will use M as anuswara for G and N for D.

Note: Anuswarams should be handled carefully, and should not be used for all notes.



Gamakas are another important aspect of carnatic music. Initially we will practice straight notes only., and try gamakas at a later stage.

Keyboard is not a perfect instrument to practice gamakas, but yet we can try some gamakas with the 'pitch bend'. After attaining proficiency in music, and understanding the gamakas well through vocal practice, we can slowly implement gamakas on advanced keyboards with portamento/ legato technologies. Through constant practice we can achieve gamakas near perfection.


Tips for Practicing Keyboard

1. Understand the timing first.

2. If you have a vocal recording of the notation, listen to it many times (with the notes on your hand) & try to sing along with the recording before you start practicing the song

3. Try to sing the notes, putting thala on your hands., (if possible try to memorise)

4. Learn the pharases bit by bit & then combine the bits together.

5. If any bit is difficult, do it as many time you require, and clear the bit.

6. Practice the fingering without rhythm, slowly.

7. Then after gaining confidence, play the sequence with rhythm in slow tempo.

8. Then slowly increase your tempo to reach the expected tempo of the song.