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The power of five note scales

The world of music comprises of seven notes of increasing frequency levels – whether it is western or Indian. As per Indian Music, the sapta swaras- seven notes are given highest importance and value.  Carnatic Music in particular is known for being scale based with the 72 full scale melakartha raaga system which has complete seven note scales. Many Carnatic artists love to choose these full scale ragas to perform at length and the scope for aalapana, neravu and expressivity is definitely top notch for seven note ragas.

But there is another curious combination in the World of Music – not just confined to one particular genre. It is nothing but the powerful five note combination which has tremendous power to attract the audience and also has versatile scope for expressing unique hues. In Carnatic Music, raagas like Hamsadhwani, Mohana, Hindolam, Suddha Saveri, Madhyamavati, Shivaranjani – in short, many popularly admired ragas fall into this “Five” category!  Somehow, the expansion of five notes alone in different octaves gives a fantastic experience to the listeners.  In fact, the convention of starting a Carnatic concert with raaga Hamsadhwani and ending it with Madhyamavati- both being pentatonic scales itself is a living proof of their brilliance!

Pentatonic scales are greatly adapted even in Hindustani music as well as Western Classical. While the full scales of western music like Major and Minor are extensively used in orchestra, the usage of pentatonic scales is no less. It wouldn’t be surprising to know that every pentatonic scale composition is a sure shot winner!

It would be interesting to know that the power of five has expanded to Eastern territories as well in Chinese musical genres. Many of their compositions are essentially based on Carnatic Raaga Mohana- again a most popular pentatonic scale!

Isn’t it brilliant to see a combination of just five notes can bring a sublime effect on the mind? Even legends like Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna came up with Prathi-Madhyamavati (Madhyamavati with prati madhyamam) spontaneously in a concert – leading to another fantastic pentatonic scale!

There is a belief in Indian music discipline that singing a full scale raga is more challenigng than a pentatonic or the other scales. But,these pentatonic raagas are already an inherent part of the system with their uniquness and magical presence.

The power of five is something quite hard to ignore or taken like a pinch of salt- because it is indeed quite amazing and has a great aura surrounding. This aura is universal, and transcends all musical genres- in fact, music itself is beyond boundaries and languages!



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