Kalyani is a prominently used raga in Indian music. Here we have a look at how to connect it with familiar western scales and harmonize Raga Kalyani using the relationships it has with the major scale and its modes.

Kalyani and the Lydian scale / mode

The Lydian mode / scale and raga Kalyani have the same notes. The scale becomes the raga by following the 'micro melodies' (gamagas and the connecting paths) prescribed at each step (swara or scale position). Since those raga movements are also made of the scale notes, we can safely use the chords of the Lydian scale to play over Raga Kalyani.

Kalyani from Lydian

For example when singing 'Sa Ri…' (notes:C D) in Kalyani, you could play the two notes as a phrase like 'S G3 R2 G3 R2' (notes: C E D E D)

'Sa Ri Ga' can be sung as 'S G3 R2 G3 R2 M2 G3 M2 G3'

In both the cases, the main note, Ri or Ga is emphasized and the phrase comes to rest on those notes, while touching the nearby notes to form the characteristic raga sound from the scale notes.

The lydian scale and the major scale has just one note different. The major scale has a perfect 4th while lydian has a sharp 4th. Shankarabharanam has a shuddha madhyamam while Kalyani has a prathi madhyamam.

If the lydian scale has just one note different from the major scale, we can get the diatonic chords of Lydian by changing just that one note in each of the diatonic chords of major scale, where the note to be changed exists.

Chords of Kalyani from the major scale chords

C major scale: C D E F G A B C

C Kalyani: C D E F# G A B C

Change the F to F# to get C kalyani from C major scale (or C shankarabharanam)

If we change the F note to F# in each of the diatonic chords of C major scale, where the F note is present, we get the diatonic chords or safe chords for C kalyani.

Raga Kalyani and the major scale

The lydian scale is the 4th mode of the major scale that has the same notes.

For example the F lydian scale has the notes: F G A B C D E F

Those are the exact same notes present in the C major scale: C D E F G A B C

The F lydian scale starts from the 4th note of the C major scale, and uses the same notes as the major scale.

When we play Kalyani from F as the Sa, we are using the notes of the F lydian scale. So, we can see Kalyani as based on the 4th mode of the C major scale. Raga Kalyani starting from F note as the Sa, uses the same notes as the C major scale.

This means that we can try using the diatonic chords of the C major scale to harmonize F kalyani (Kalyani starting with the F as Sa and therefore uses the notes of F lydian scale)

The diatonic chords of the C major scale are: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

To use these chords over F lydian or F kalyani, start with F major over the Sa or root of the F lydian or F kalyani. Try G major chord over the Ri of the Kalyani, try Am over the Ga of F kalyani. Similarly with the other notes.

Since F kalyani and the C major scale have the same notes, the chords of C major scale are safe to be used over F kalyani. Begin with these chords, then add, reharmonize, change according to what sounds good or what sound is needed.

Example: which chords to use over C kalyani

To follow the above procedure,

  1. find which major scale C kalyani or C lydian is a part of
  2. find the diatonic chords of that major scale

Which major scale has the same notes as C lydian?

Remember that Lydian is the 4th mode of the major scale which has the same notes. We saw that F lydian is the 4th mode of the C major scale. Take a guess, count. You will find that if you start counting from G, the notes are G A B C. C is the 4th note of the G major scale. C lydian is the 4th mode of the G major scale

The diatonic chords of G major scale

The notes of the G major scale are: G A B C D E F# G.
You can find the diatonic chord notes by starting from each note of the scale, taking two more alternate notes. For example, if you start from B, skip C, take note D, skip E, then F# note. You get the notes B D F# which is the B minor chord. (diatonic means 'within the scale')

Another way of finding the diatonic chords is by remembering the pattern of minor, major and diminished found among the diatonic chords of the major scale. Above we wrote the chords of the C major scale. Follow the same pattern to write for G: G AM Bm C D Em Fdim G

More about chords? The chord code.

Try playing or singing Kalyani over the chords as discussed above. In the next post we will see how to play chords for Kalyani by understanding the one note difference Lydian has with the major scale.