How to find chords for any Raga or Scale or Phrase

Any raga, scale or phrase has a group of notes. Choosing from within the notes gives us chords.

Below is an example using the Hindustani ragas Marwa, Pooriya and Sohani each of which are based on the notes: C Db E F# A B C.

As the chord player, our job is to find chords that fit the phrase or using the notes within the scale (you can choose to use notes outside the scale if that is your personal taste of harmonization, about which we won’t be discussing here).

The grouping, combination and dynamics of the notes according to the raga is mainly the responsibility of the melody player [chalan bheda (differences in melodic formulation), uccharana bheda (differences in intonation of swara) and vadi bheda (differences in relative emphasis of swara) etc that differentiates one Raga from the other even though the same notes are used].

But, knowing the emphasis of swaras is useful for us to decide which notes out of a phrase to consider for the chords.

Chords from the notes

The notes: C Db/C# E F# A B C

  • Consider the notes C E and A (alternate notes starting from C) which gives us the chord Am (notes: A C E: root – minor 3rd – fifth. Swaras: Dha, Sa, Ga)
  • The notes: A C# E gives us the A major chord. (Swaras: Dha, Ri, Ga)
  • Consider the notes F# A C# – gives us the F#m chord (Swaras: Ma, Dha, Ri)

The Lydian Flat 9th scale

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

C Lydian b9: C Db E F# G A B C

The notes of the raga Marwa or Pooriya or Sohani are same as that of the Lydian b9 scale. In the raga, we don’t use the Pa or 5th note (G) – that is the only difference.

Go through the information about chords for each mode of the Major scale, chords for the Lydian scale/Kalyani, and chords for b9 scales. Practicing these parts gives us further idea about find chords for ragas with #4th (lydian) and b9 notes.

How will the Raga chord resource help you find chords for any scale or raga?

As mentioned in the above section, the basics to deal with each kind of scale or raga is given in the resource. When we get used to the basic methods, any raga or scale we deal with will be seen as a combination of the different basic scales or parts of a scale.

Chords for Raga Marwa

The raga Marwa has the characteristic use of Ri and Dha, which can be emphasized by the A major and F#m chords which have both the Ri and Dha swaras.

The absence of Pa, (note G) and the phrasing with importance to Dha and Ri, often gives us a feeling that the phrases are based on the Dha and Ri based chords: A or F#m. When the phrase lands on Sa, the absence of Pa and dominance of Dha may lead us to use the A minor chord for Sa.

Below are a few phrases of Raga Marwa, which are good examples of the sound of Raga Marwa.

Phrase 1: D, m G r G m D, D m G r 

Phrase written as Notes: A F# E C# E F# A, A F# E C #

The whole phrase is made of the notes: F# A C# E.

  1. As mentioned before, F# A C# is the chord F#m, which can be used in places where the swaras Ma, Dha and Ri appear.
  2. Using all the notes in the phrase: F# A C# E gives us the F#m7 chord (notes: F# – A – C# – E = root – minor 3rd-5th – minor 7th) which is a definite ‘safe chord’ for the phrase.
  3. The notes ‘A C# E (Dha, Ri, Ga)’ gives us the A major chord, which can be used in phrases where the swaras Dha and Ri are prominent (which happens a lot in Raga Marwa)

Phrase 2: D’ N’ r G r, N’ D’, m’ D’ S N’ r, S

Phrase as notes: A B C# E C#, B A, F# A C B C#, C

D’ N’ r G r (A B C# E C#)

The notes used in the phrase are: A C# E B

A C# E gives the A major chord.

Adding the note B to the A major chord gives the A major added 9th chord (A add 9th).

The note B is a major second interval from the root note A (A-root, A#- minor 2nd, B – major 2nd). The major 2nd note is also known as the 9th note. Therefore adding the B note to the A major chord gives us a chord with the name: A add 9th. (The A 9th chord is slightly different from the A add 9th chord. The A9th chord will need a 7th note in addition to the notes of A add 9th).

N’ D’

Notes: B A

Usually in Marwa, Dha will be the emphasized note. Therefore, use a Dha based chord for the phrase. Try A major, F#m or even Aminor and use whichever suits according to you.

If we want to include both the notes B and A, A sus 2 (notes: A B C# = swaras: Dha Ni Ri) will be apt. All the notes are from within the scale of Marwa.

m’ D’ S N’ r, S

Notes: F# A C B C#, C

Example chords 1

  • m’ D’ S N’: Let us choose (m’ D’ S) as the swaras for the chord. Swaras (m’ D’ S) = notes (F# A C). The notes F# A C give us the F# diminished chord (Notes: F# – A – C = Root – minor 3rd – flat 5th)
  • Ri: use the A major chord
  • Sa: use the A minor chord

Example chords 2

If we were to give importance to the swaras (m’ D’ r) out of (m’ D’ S N’ r), the notes of (m’ D’ r) = (F# A C#) give us the chord Fm.

Sa, again Am

Example chords 3

If (m’ N’ r) is given importance, the notes (F# B C#) give us the chord F# sus 4. Since usually Dha and Ri are given prominence in Marwa, use Ni based chord only if sounds suitable.

Phrase 3: D N r” N D, m D N D S” 

Try it on your own. Explanation available within the Raga Chords Resource.

Raga Pooriya

Need help with chord symbols? How to easily understand and make chords with extensions? How to understand that m7 M7 and longer chord names all follow a logic in their naming, which direclty tells us the notes we can play? The Chord Code will help you. (Included in the raga chord resource.)

Phrase 1: N’ r G, G r N’ D’ N’, N’ m’ D’ S

N’ r G, G r N’ D’ N’

The swaras: D’ r G (notes: A C# E) form the A major chord, which will sound fine.

N’ (note B) is the major 2nd note (same as the major 9th note) with respect to the root A. Therefore adding the note B to the A major chord gives us the A add 9th chord, which has all the swaras (D’ N’ r G) from the phrase, with emphasis on the Ni’ swara.

More phrases and examples?  Explanation from the basics, for different ragas, in the Raga Chords Resource.


Phrase: G m D N S”, S”r” S”r” N S” N D, N D-G m G

G m D N S”

Notes: E F# A B C

G m D N: The notes (E F# A B) form the B7sus4 chord.

S”: Shift the Ni (note:B) to a Sa (note:C), and we have the notes: (E F# A C), which is the F#m7flat5 chord as seen in Phrase 3 of Raga Pooriya.

The notes (A E C F#) form the Am6th chord, which may suit the sound of the phrase.

More phrases and examples?  Explanation from the basics, for different ragas, in the Raga Chords Resource.

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