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Monday, November 09, 2009

Guitar Notation from Western to Carnatic (South Indian Classical) Music

For most of you who have visted our place, it is no secret that Daddy Narayanan plays electric guitar.

The rest of you know now.

Should say upfront that I am no expert and do this for the fun of it and have kept this one hobby to myself and very rarely play in front of anyone else other than Jr. and the little one.

Have been looking for a simple graphical cheat sheet to help people who are taught guitar on the western notation (or with Guitar tabs!) to translate Carnatic notation and have not found anything that you can print and hang on the wall as a quick start guide of sorts.

My teacher Paul is amazing because he reads my mind. He almost knows what I am thinking when I play, and figures out from my body language what makes me happy and what bothers me while playing.

After my long absence from the guitar studio with the accident, the physiotherapist suggested that the guitar lessons could start as it would be a good motivator for me to keep going back to physio. Their logic was "if you see your guitar playing improve and get easier over time, you will realize the work we do here" and they were right on!

Paul has been doing "guitar rehab" last couple of weeks. Was telling him that over the last two months, have been listening to more South Indian Classical music and less of 70's rock as the accident makes one moody and there is a lot of solace in listening to what you are used to as a child. He asked me to play something (anything) and I showed him "Raghuvamsa Sudha" and he said "okay, that was great, but why look frustrated?" and I told him that it would be nice to know what note is what on the fretboard instead of having to figure out note by note!

He smiled a big smile and gave me a cheat sheet for the entire fretboard and taught me each note. It was like giving my little one "high fructose corn syrup"! It was like the mystery of the fretboard revealed in one shot. Almost like God made himself visible to me on that green piece of paper!

Decided to make him proud by doing this sheet to convert to Carnatic notation and as an added bonus, included the octave information as a color code.

The Guitar is an amazing instrument. The fingerboard has multiple individual locations that give you the same note in the same octave! Isn't that a nice curve ball?

Hopefully this cheat sheet is reasonably accurate and will help beginner guitar players who are not new to Carnatic notation play classical (or Tamil film) songs!

ps. If you find this useful or you are going to post this somewhere, please do link back to this post.

pps. If there are any mistakes, do point them out and let me know. It will be much appreciated and will update this.


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 8:47 AM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

electric guitar !
Ballet Dancing !
Kummi adi !

Kallakal !!


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:35 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...


ballroom dancing only.. no Ballet


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:18 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

leaving this link on the post..

see that lot of folks are actually ending up in this page trying to find a cheat sheet!



I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Thanks for the cheat sheet!

Generally, its pretty hard to play karnataka classical on standard tuning. Most people tune it EBEBEB.


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:50 AM, Blogger bhushan wrote...

Hi Sundar, I am from bangalore and learning carnatic in guitar since past one year, also completed basic western guitar classes and I have few questions, its quite hard to type or explain, is it possible to contact me over the phone..? please call me or give your number 9916512868

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:09 PM, Blogger Shri Ram wrote...


I want to learn carnatic nuances on my guitar. I am a musician and i have learnt vocal carnatic music as well. Can you please let me know your contact info? My No is 9810825674

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:00 PM, Blogger Balaji wrote...


I know this is old, but in string 4, what you have labeled as G2 should be G1 and what you have as G3 should be G2, right?


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