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If this seems overly complicated, remember that the melodic and harmonic "rules" for major keys are quite different from those of minor keys. (Consider the melodic and harmonic minor scales, as well as the tendency to use different harmonic progressions.) This actually is quite analogous; the big difference is that Indian music has so many more scale types. Since the nuance and complexity of Indian music are focused in the melody rather than the harmony, it is this large number of scales that allows for a great and varied tradition.

Those who are particularly interested in modes and scales may notice that there is a rough correlation between some Hindustani thats and the Western church modes . For example, the pattern of intervals in Asavari is similar to that of the Aeolian mode (or natural minor scale), and that of Bilawal is similar to the Ionian mode (or major scale). Some thats do not correlate at all with the Western modes (for example, take a close look at Purvi and Todi , above ), but others that do include Bhairavi (similar to Phrygian mode), Kafi (Dorian), Kalyan (Lydian), and Khamaj (Mixolydian). Even for these, however, it is important to remember the differences between the traditions. For example, not only is Asavari used in a very different way from either Aeolian mode or the natural minor scale, the scale notes are actually only roughly the same, since the Indian modes use a different system of tuning.

Tuning

The tuning of modern Western Music is based on equal temperament ; the octave is divided into twelve equally spaced pitches . But this is not the only possible tuning system. Many other music traditions around the world use different tuning systems, and Western music in the past also used systems other than equal temperament. Medieval European music, for example, used just intonation , which is based on a pure perfect fifth . (Please see Tuning Systems for more about this.)

The preferred tuning system of a culture seems to depend in part on other aspects of that culture's music; its texture , scales , melodies , harmonies , and even its most common musical instruments. For example, just intonation worked very well for medieval chant, which avoided thirds, emphasized fifths, and featured voices and instruments capable of small, quick adjustments in tuning. But equal temperament works much better for the keyboard instruments, triadic harmonies, and quick modulations so common in modern Western music.

In India, the most common accompaniment instrument (as ubiquitous as pianos in Western music) is the tanpura . (There are several alternative spellings for this name in English, including taanpura and tambura .) This instrument is a chordophone in the lute family. It has four very long strings. The strings are softly plucked, one after the other. It takes about five seconds to go through the four-string cycle, and the cycle is repeated continuously throughout the music. The long strings continue to vibrate for several seconds after being plucked, and the harmonics of the strings interact with each other in complex ways throughout the cycle. The effect for the listener is not of individually-plucked strings. It is more of a shimmering and buzzing drone that is constant in pitch but varying in timbre .

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Source:  OpenStax, Special subjects in music theory. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2005 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10220/1.5
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