Performer · Educator · Researcher

Carnatic Music Fundamental Theory – Pitch and Rhythm

In this post, I will explain the underlying concepts of Carnatic Music and music in general and how to apply these fundamentals in playing violin.

The Components of Music

There are two main components of music, namely Shruthi (Pitch) and Laya (Rythm).  These are the backbone of any musical composition and as such it has been said:

“Shruthi Maata, Laya Pitha”

That is, for music, Shruthi and Laya are like father and mother.


In music in general you might have observed that there are seven basic swaras, i.e. Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da and Ni. Each of these represents a different frequency or ‘shruthi’. These again repeat in higher and lower octaves called as Upper Sthayi and Lower Sthayi. These seven notes when arranged in various ways produce the different melodies in  all the musical compositions we hear.


While the seven notes compose the melody of the piece, they must each be played for the correct amount of time and pertain to a structure to sound good when played in sequence. The name given to this rhythm, which tells us which note should be played for how long, is ‘laya’. Laya goes along with ‘talam’ and it is important that we strictly follow this pattern when playing to give uniformity to the composition and make it sound nice.

Video Explanation

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