Comparing the notes of a given Carnatic or Hindustani (Indian classical) raga to a western scale, (something that you are most likely familiar with), is always a good way to understand their structures better. For eg, comparing Dheera sankarabharanam to the Major (Ionian) scale will show you that they are completely equivalent in terms of the notes involved! Keep in mind that, this does not imply the way they sound will be exactly the same. The various slides, gamakas, bends etc that go into the playing of a raga will definitely give it a whole different texture. Still, the usefulness of this approach arises due to the fact that, just making that relation lets you connect the raga to known interval structures, chord possibilities, familiar comping patterns, voicings and a lot more!
To help you make this comparison and connection easily, the raga-app comes with a built-in tool that lets you compare the notes of a selected raga with a given western scale. In addition to the ubiquitous Major, Minor and pentatonic scales, it also features the complete set of modes so that you can identify scales that are related to almost all of the ragas! In addition to exact matches, the tool also shows you which notes differ – ie, what notes are additional in the raga or what notes are additional in the scale. This aspect is also important since the addition or omission of particular intervals are a strong indicator of potential chord matches or the possibility altered notes while comping on a fusion theme.
Just to get you started, why don’t you try finding matching scales for the following ragas (hint: you can search the ragas by name from within the app) – Kalyani, Mohanam, Bilawal, Kafi and Or you could try to find the simple differences that some of the ragas like Kamboji and Khamaj have from the western scales. Once you get your hands dirty exploring the ragas using the app, then you can dive right in to the topic with more detailed analysis like this. Either ways, I am sure this will take you down an exciting path of building a better understanding of the Indian ragas.
And as always, feel free to drop me a note if you have any suggestions or feedback about the app or this site!