Family Chords in Indian Music System


Western Music and Indian Music systems are different in many ways. And, there are similarities as well. Because, at the end of everything, we all are human being with similarities of moods of likes and dislikes. This article is about the Circle of Fifth’s contribution to the Indian Music system so that the family chords can be formed easily for Indian popular musical compositions. Details of Circle of Fifths, often called as chromatic circle of musical notes, and also the rules of forming family chords for major and minor scales, can be found in my article Mathematics of Chromatic Circle.

Circle on Indian Notes:

The Circle of Fifths is prepared with the musical notes in Indian Music system here. The Table 1 sows the equivalent notes in Indian notes for western notes as an example. Actually, any other key like C can be considered ass the SA, the first note in the octave.

Table 1: Notes and their positional numbers

SA re RE ga GA ma MA PA da DA ni NI SA’
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 0
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A#/Bb B C

Based on the mathematical calculations of the circle of fifths, the new circle of fifths is made with the keys in Indian Music system. The Figure 1 shows the circle for helping prepare family chords for a certain home chord.


Figure 1: Circle of Fifths with Indian Notes

Family Chords on Indian Notes:

Major chords are formed with the counting 0, 4, 7. Therefore, the SA major chord is formed as SA-GA-PA. Minor chords are formed with the counting 0, 3, 7. So, the SA minor chord is formed as SA-ga-PA. Likewise, the SA diminished chord is formed as SA-ga-MA. Here, MA is the Kodi Ma, that is the note in between pure ma and PA. The Figure 1 helps musicians to form family chords easily while performing a number of musical pieces composed in various scales. In the figure, the outer notes are shown as they are equivalent to the western notes in the Circle of Fifths. Let us suppose, we want the family chords of SA-maj scale, we will take the left and right notes as major chords. So, ma-maj and PA-maj are two family chords. The next three notes on the right side are RE, DA, and GA. So, RE-min, DA-min and GA-min are also the family chords of SA-maj. And the next immediate right note is NI, which indicates B-dim is another family chord of SA-maj. Here, NI-dim the diminished chord on the note NI. Therefore, family chords of SA-maj are the seven chords altogether: ma-maj, PA-maj, RE-min, DA-min, GA-min and NI-dim. When ascending through higher notes in music is considered, the order of chords for a major scale always comes like maj-min-min-maj-maj-min-dim. Finally, the family chords of SA-major scale are:

SA maj RE min GA min ma maj PA maj DA min NI dim

The notes presented in the inner side of the circle is just turned the circle three times left because of finding the next notes in one place. The small green circle, as shown in the Figure 1, encloses the diminished chord.

For making the family chords for the home chord SA-Minor, we need to use this diagram in a little different way. Now the first three outer notes will be considered as minor chords, such as, SA-min, ma-min and PA-min. Diminished chord will come right after that. So, RE-dim is the family chord of SA-min. And then, the next three notes will be flattened down by one note (Semitone) and these will be major chords. da-maj, ga-maj and ni-maj are the other three family chords of SA-min. When ascending through higher notes in music is considered, the order of chords for a minor scale always comes like min-dim-maj-min-min-maj-maj. Finally, the family chords of SA-minor scale are:

SA min RE dim ga maj ma min PA min da maj ni maj

The notes with asterisk (*) in the Figure 1 are to be lowered by one note when the family chords will be made for a minor home chord. For any scale with the note SA at any pitch the home chord and family chords can be made accordingly. In fact, the full circle is not being used for preparing the family chords.


Because of the wide variety of Raags and folk forms of music in the Indian Music system, there are compositions where these seven family chords are not sufficient. In the Western Music also, there are varieties and there are some more chords with different counting positions. The other chords may be called 7th chords or otherwise. The names are not so significant. A musician who has a clear understanding on these major and minor chord formations can easily understand the varieties and other kinds of chords. Family chords of 7th chords are also made according to this basic law in the Circle of Fifths.

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