10 Parent Scales or Thaats and Their Parallels in Western Music

We are pretty familiar with the seven basic modes or scales in western music theory, considered useful in composing music. These seven modes are: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. This post indicates the resemblance of these modes with Indian Ragas. But Before that, I would like to exhibit a chromatic an octave table in both (Indian & Western) disciplines.

Western NotesCC#/Db D#/EbEFF#/GbGG#/AbAA#/BbBC
Indian NotesSrRgGMM’PdhDHniNIS

In the Indian Classical discipline, flat notes are represented in lower case, the sharp note is with apostrophe and natural notes are in upper case. Therefore, there are four flattened notes i.e. komal swaras r,g,dh,ni and one sharp (also termed “teevra“) swara M

‘W’ means whole step and ‘H’ means moving on to half step. All my explanations are in the key of C as it is more approachable and understandable.

1.  Ionian Mode (W-W-H-W-W-W-H)

W  W  H  W   W  W   H
(All natural notes are found in Ionian mode)
C- D- E- F- G- A- B  
Similar to Bilawal Thaat(scale)

This mode is exactly similar to  Bilawal which also consist of all the natural or pure notes : S-R-G-M-P-Dh-Ni

2. Dorian (W-H-W-W-W-H-W)

Western – Similar to  KAFI Thaat
C- D- D#- F- G- A- A#
KafiS- R- g- M- P- Dh- ni

Thaat Kafi consist of all natural seven notes except g and ni. Notes ‘ni’ and ‘g” are flat in this Thaat.

3. Phrygian (H-W-W-W-H-W-W)

Western – Similar to BHAIRAVI ThaatC- C#- D#- F- G- G#- A#
In Bhairavi, notes re, ga, dha ni, are komal or flat.
S- r- g- M- P- dh- ni

4. Lydian (W-W-W-H-W-W)

Western – Similar to  KalyanC- D- E- F#- G- A- B
Kalyan S R G M’ P DHA NI

5. Mixo-lydian (W-W-H-W-W-H-W)

Western : Similar to Thaat KHAMAJC- D- E- F- G- A- A#
KHAMAJS- R- G- M- P- Dh- ni

6. Aeolian (W-H-W-W-H-W-W)

Western – ASAWARI Thaat
C- D- D#- F- G- G#- A#
(as ga,dha, ni swaras are komal (flat))
S- R- g- M- P- dh- ni- SA

7. Locrian (H-W-W-H-W-W-W)

Western – TODI Thaat
C- C#- D#- F- F#- G#- A#
TodiS- r- g- M- m- P- dh- ni

Almost all the notes are used in Locrian and Thaat Todi too.

In this way, these various modes resemble the 10 basic scales or Thaats. These thaats are also considered as parent scales of Ragas and play a vital role in the classification of all the numerous ragas according to day, time, nature, persona in Raag Dhyaan.

The Octave, The Saptak, and The Indian Classical Music

Sapta is a Sanskrit word which means seven. So a saptak in Hindustani music means comprising of seven notes. It is a Sanskrit word for an Octave. In saptak or Octave there are 7 natural or pure notes along with their 5 low and high variants. The sevan pure notes and their 5 variants make 12 in all. If we see roughly, they are only the seven notes with their variants hence the word Saptak.



‘Do’ ‘Re’ ‘Mi’ ‘Fa’ ‘So’ ‘La’ ‘Ti’ – English


‘Sa’ ‘Re’ ‘Ga’ ‘Ma’ ‘Pa’ ‘Dha’ ‘Ni’ – Hindi


Octaves In Indian Classical Music

There are mainly three octaves used in Hindustani classical music.

Madhya Saptak (Middle or the 4th Octave)

This octave starts with C4, the ‘Scientific Pitch‘, termed as the ‘Shadaj‘ or ‘Sa‘ which has frequency of 256Hz.
The notes on the scale after that are placed accordingly.
Middle Ocatve Pure notes are denoted as
Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni

Mandra Saptak (lower Octave or the 3rd octave)

In the lower Octave the frequency of notes is 2x lower (1 octave lower) than in the Madhya Saptak (middle octave). While writing these notes in notation, they are denoted bearing a dot below them:

Mandra Saptak Notation

Taar Saptak( Upper or the 5th octave)

Taar Saptak or Upper Octave:
In the upper Octave the frequency of the notes is 2x higher (1 octave higher) than in the Madhya Saptak (middle octave).
In notation these notes are denoted bearing a dot above them:

Taar Saptak Notation

In addition to these Octaves, Indian classical vocalists and instrumentalist use Ati Mandra saptak or the 2nd octave while singing or playing instruments.