Getting started with Indian classical ragas

For those of you who are new to the world of Indian classical music, here’s a couple of things to get you started on your journey into indian classical music.

Listen to some songs!

Duh! I know you wouldn’t be here without having done that, but for those of you who might’ve just stumbled upon this post and wondering what this is all about, pick something up from the widget below and hear some sample music, courtesy amazon

For those of you looking for more, here’s a nice post that I stumbled across sometime back which covers some popular hindustani ragas. There are no sound clips, but you do have quite a few youtube clips sprinkled around. And here’s a giant post that covers lots of carnatic ragas and lists quite a few songs and music clips.

Get to know some history

In a nutshell, there are two major styles of indian classical music which branched out sometime during the medieval period – carnatic which is commonly associated with south india and hindustani which is commonly associated with north india. The geographical distinctions don’t matter any more in this digital age, but its the feel and nuances of these styles that would make you fall head over heels for either of them. Here’s what wikipedia says about the two major styles in indian classical music – Hindustani and Carnatic, hopefully that gives you some context on what you are dealing with.

Learn to read the music

Learning to read the carnatic and hindustani notations will open up your world into the transcriptions available online and more importantly 😉 will let you use our app to explore ragas. The systems are based on the eight note swara structure (S, R, G, M, P, D, N, S’) and the variations for each one of them. Here’s a link from musicianself that explains the notation systems in a bit more detail. If you want a more practical way to figure out what the notations mean, just hit our app and try out a few ragas. In the app, you get to see the swara notation, the equivalent western notes and the corresponding intervals side by side. You might want to pick up ragas like Dheerashankarabharanam (which is equivalent to the major scale) or Kalyani (which is equivalent to the lydian mode) so that you start with scale structures that you are familiar with.

Popular ragas in Carnatic and Hindustani

These are a few common ragas that you can use to begin your exploration. I stumbled upon most of these when hunting for ragas to include in Raga App, so all of them are available in it. You can pick the ones you like and use our app to learn the notes and how to play them in guitar or keyboard.


  • Bageshri
  • Bhairavi
  • Bhimpalasi
  • Bhupali
  • Chandrakauns
  • Darbari
  • Durga
  • Kafi
  • Kirwani
  • Lalit
  • Malkauns
  • Pahadi
  • Piloo/Pilu
  • Todi
  • Yaman


  • Abhogi
  • Anandabhairavi
  • Chakravakam
  • Charukesi
  • Dheerasankarabharanam
  • Hamsadhvani
  • Hindolam
  • Kalyani
  • Kamboji
  • Kharaharapriya
  • Madhyamavati
  • Malahari
  • Mayamalavagowla
  • Mohanam
  • Nattai
  • Pantuvarali (Kamavardhini)
  • Reethigowla
  • Sahana
  • Todi
  • Vasantha

Hope that helps!