Timing in Music Notation

The most important element of music is timing. Music can be written in any language - carnatic, western or anybody's own way of understanding. But it is essential that the notation is written with proper timing.

You can see on the net a lot of song notations written for lyrics. But in most of the notations timing aspect is missing. Without timing, there can be no organised music. If you want to play an instrument with another person (on another instrument), timing is the common factor, based on which you can synchronize your playing with the other person. In an orchestra of several musicians, timing plays a vital role.

Hence anybody who learns/teaches music should do the same with proper timing from the very first lesson itself. The Electronic Keyboard gives good technology support for learning music with timing, with a variety of rhythm (style) patterns.

"Speed" in Indian Music (Carnatic)

In Carnatic music, speed refers to the number of notes (swaras) played per beat (akshara).
I speed - 1 note per beat
II speed - 2 notes per beat (double of I speed)
III speed - 4 notes per beat (double of II speed)

Please understand the difference between tempo and speed. 'Tempo' refers to number of beats per minute, whereas 'Speed' refers to number of notes played per beat.

In addition there are some 'nadai's in music, representing different numbers of notes per beat.

They are thisra nadai (3 notes per beat), chatusra nadai (4 notes per beat), kanda nadai (5), misra nadai (7) and sankeerna nadai (9). We use some words to understand the number of notes per beat like 'thaka', 'thakita' etc., representing various numbers.

1 - tha
2 - tha ka
3 - tha ki ta
4 - tha ka dhi mi
5 - tha ka | tha ki ta
6 - tha ka | tha ka dhi mi
7 - tha ki ta | tha ka dhi mi
8 - tha ka dhi mi | tha ka dhi mi
9 - tha ka dhi mi | tha ka tha ki ta

By using these words along with thalam, we can understand the minute timing of notes in a sequence. We also use these words to fill up gaps in songs, or even to begin a song after a gap.


Take the song 'Siva Siva' which starts like this :  - - S' S'   , N D ,   P , P ,   , G M , ......

For easy understanding, we can read this as:   thaka S' S'   , N D ,   P , P ,   , G M , ......

The song enna thavam starts like this :               - - - G    , M P ,     G , , R   , , n , | S , , , ....

For easy understanding, we can read this as : thakita G    , M P ,     G , , R   , , n , | S , , , ....