What are Swaras (or Sur) ?

Last updated on May 1, 2020.

The word swara (meaning notes) is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Svar’, which means sound. There are different forms of sound.But the sound which is soothing to ear and which is musical is known as swaras or sur.

Hindustani classical music has 7 major notes also known as Shudha Swaras.

SurLong name
SaShadaj
ReRishabh
GaGandhar
MaMadhyam
PaPancham
DhaDhaivat
NiNishad

Shudha Swaras

Sa and Pa swaras are called pure swaras (shudha swaras) and have a fixed position.They are also known as Achal Swaras.

Vikrit Swaras – Komal and Teevra

Swaras other than Achal swaras can be sung half note above or below their original position.They are known as Vikrit Swaras.

Re ,Ga,Dh,Ni can sung half note below and are known as Komal Swaras. Ma is sung half note above it’s original note and is known as Teevra Ma.


Thus in total there are 12 swaras –  7 shudh and 5 Vikrit. Out of 5 Vikrit swaras, 4 are Komal and 1 is Teevra.

Image: Types of Swaras (Follow the color codes)

As a beginner singer, the first step is to have clear understanding of swara hierarchy . Check out the video below which I have made to explain the same even further and talk about the riyaz (practice) of vikrit and shudh swaras in a very easy to understand manner.

Video: Understanding Swaras of Hindustani Classical Music by Aditi Jha

Subscribe to my youtube channel MusicWithAditi in order to see more of such videos on hindustani classical music . Also follow me on my Facebook page to check out regular updates on classical music fundamentals.

If you have any questions / comments do post in the comments below or email at musicwithaditi[at]gmail[dot]com and i will surely respond.

Notations used in this blog

Notations or sur representations used in this blog are very easy to understand.

The 12 swaras are represented as Sa re Re ga Ga Ma Ma# Pa dh Dh ni Ni Sa.

Lower Case letters represent Komal swara (e.g. ni represents Komal Ni) and Upper Case letters represent Shudh swara (e.g. Pa represents Shudh Pa). # symbol signifies Teevra sur. As Ma is the only teevra sur, # is used only with Ma.

Superscript U after a swara/sur represents that swara in upper Octave (e.g. SU represents Sa in the next higher octave).

Subscript L after a sur represents the swara in lower octave e.g. NL represents Ni of the lower octave).

Notations used in the videos on the Youtube channel MusicWithAditi

In order to make the videos look cleaner, we have resorted to a form of notation that is neat and compact. Below is what we are using.

12 swaras are S r R g G M M# P d D n N.

Lower Case letters represent Komal swara (e.g. n represents Komal Ni) and Upper Case letters represent Shudh swara (e.g. P represents Shudh Pa). # symbol signifies Teevra sur. As Ma is the only teevra sur, # is used only with M.

Superscript U after a swara/sur represents that swara in upper Octave (e.g. SU represents Sa in the next higher octave).

Subscript L after a sur represents the swara in lower octave e.g. NL represents Ni of the lower octave).

Get in touch for skype coaching

I also give skype sessions to help aspiring singers and students improve the classical/ semiclassical / bollywood singing. To know about the teaching methodology and other details please email at musicwithaditi[at]gmail[dot]com

Continue Learning on this site : What are Aaroh and Avroh in indian classical music?

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