Music Handbook




Madhyama or Ma   The fourth note of the Indian scale. It is the fa of the solfa of the European scale. (See GRAMA).  
Madhyamadi   A raga mentioned in the Sangita Makaranda of Narada, which can be sung at noon. It is an Audava Raga. This seems to have been the earlier name for Madhyamavati.  
Madhyama Kala Sahitya   Sections in Carnatic Kritis that are composed at twice the basic tempo. The Madhyama Kala piece usually appears at the end of the Anupallavi or the Charanam or sometimes in both sections. Many Muthuswami Dikshitar compositions include such sections.  
Madhya sthayi   Middle octave  
Madhya laya Medium tempo. See Laya.  
Madhyama Grama   One of the three old scales of which there were three. The other two were the Shadja Grama and the Gandhara Grama. This is only of academic interest today, as the Grama system is no longer in use.  
Magudi   A musical instrument used by snake charmers. It is called Punji in North India. This instrument is polyphonous. A bottle gourd attached to a double cane pipe is cut in reeds. While one of the pipes gives the basic tonic, which it produces in a constant drone, the other pipe is able to play the tune. This pipe has finger holes that can be stopped just as in a flute. The wind that enters is blown out through the other end of the bottle gourd. Its sound is melancholy and is normally tuned to the scale of the South Indian Punnagavarali, a kind of Mishra Bilaskhani Todi of Hindustani music. This scale is said to attract serpents. The southern Magudi is unable to produce the Shadja of the higher octave. The North Indian Punji, being longer, is able to produce the upper Shadja.  

Nineteenth century musician, Samasthana Vidwan of the state of Travancore. His vocal range is said to have been three and a half octave.

Major scale   The principal scale in which Western music is composed. It corresponds to the Shankarabharanam scale of Carnatic music, or the Bilawal scale of Hindustani music.  
Makuta Swara   A crowning Swara pattern. It generally denotes the string of Swara passages at the end of each section of a Ragamalika, connecting the previous Raga with the next Raga.  
Mandram   The name of the lower octave. Also the name of the lowest pitch string of the Tambura tuned to the lowest tonic of its scale.  
Mandra sthayi   Lower octave.  
Mandra Sadhana   The vocal training that involves a series of exercises in the Mandra region of the scale. This exercise gives body and resonance to the voice.  
Mangalam   An auspicious song of salutation. It is the concluding piece in Carnatic concerts. It is mostly in the Kirtana form and consists of a Pallavi and several Charanams, which are all sung in the same tune.  
Mangala Raga   Those ragas that are associated with auspiciousness. Dhanyasi, Asaveri, Vasanta, Saurashtram, Madhyamavati, Sri and Yadukulakambhoji are some of the Mangala Ragas in the Carnatic tradition
Mani   Little beads threaded upon the strings of the tanpura which are used to fine-tune the swara.  
Manipravala Kriti   A composition in which the lyrics use two or more languages but despite this remain grammatically accurate. Linguists usually compose Manipravala krithis. The Bhairavi composition, ‘Ni sari samaana’ and ‘Tyagara Swami’ in Vacaspati are Manipravala compositions.  
Manodharma Sangeeta   Music that is sung extempore - a product of the moment. Manodharma is improvisational music and is produced instantaneously, without much planning or forethought. It has particular significance in Carnatic music, where the improvisational music is overlaid on the firm structure provided by Kritis and other such compositions of the great composers. In Hindustani music, since the compositions are normally short pieces, almost all the performed music is Manodharma. The Alapa, the Taanas, Pallavi exposition, Swara Kalpanas and the Niraval are aspects of Manodharma in Carnatic music.  
Mantra   A short phrase or group of letters of the Sanskrit language, meant for constant mental repetition, thereby gaining a curious power and impulse. Mantra is derived from the word ‘manana’ meaning memory or thinking. Magical properties are assigned to a Mantra such as those of purifying the mind, entering it and stilling it.  

Ancient, or classical, as against Desiya which is provincial and local, belonging to the region. A strict sense of rules is the characteristic of Marga, while Desiya makes local adaptations of the rules. Thus there are Marga and Desiya varieties of both Ragas and Talas.

Marga Kriya   The classical or Marga technique of reckoning musical time.  
Markata Taana   A kind of Taana that mimics the gait of a monkey. The movement of Taanas is often likened to the gait of animals like the elephant, peacock or snake. For instance, a Taana is often said to be lumbering like a bear or jerky and jumpy like a frog.  
Matanga   Author of the Brihaddesi of the fifth century. Matanga is believed to be the originator of the Raga system of Indian music. All the later Lakshanakaras quote him widely.  
Matra   A unit of time measure and is used as the basic unit of the 108 talas of Indian music.  
Mavu   The paste of rice and water applied to the left side of the Mridangam, left side to dampen the vibrations and add tone and timbre to the sound. The quantity and spread of the paste is adjusted so that the sound emitted is about an octave or the Panchama below the note played on the right side of the mridangam.
Meend   A smooth uninterrupted glide from one note to another. Its closest western equivalent is the pornamento of bowed instruments.  
Mela (Melakartha)   A parent scale of notes possessing a definite melodic character, with each note bearing a particular relationship to a tonic note and retaining that characteristic in ascent and descent.  Full complement of seven notes are used in both the ascending and descending scales. There are seventy-two melakarthas emerging from the twelve notes of a full scale. This then becomes the basis from which a raga is derived. The character of a mela is so clear that the shortest section of its ascending or descending notes reveals the identity of the mela to the listener. Its Hindustani equivalent is the Thaat. The melas are seventy-two in number and the thaats are ten in number. The ragas are formed out of these melas as melodic units from which ragas are born.  
Melakarta Ragas   Scales which can be made into a Raga. e.g. Hari Kamboji and Kharaharapriya.  


An instrument that uses a membrane to produce a musical sound. A drum would be a membraphone. It is also called Avanaddha Vadya.  
Meru   The fret nearest the peg area of the Veena.  
Minor tone   A Sruti with a frequency interval of about 10/9. The interval between the chatusruthi rishaba and the antara gandhara is a minor tonic.  
Misra Raga   Compound ragas, which are usually two Ragas joined together. There are several styles of mixing Ragas. The Poorvanga of one raga with the uttaranga of the other is one way of effecting this. The real test of a mishra raga is in the way the two ragas mesh into each other. This requires skill and intellect in the musician.  
Misra Tala   A compound of two Talas.  
Modal Shift   Shifting the reference note (Shadja), in order to produce another raga. Also see Graha Bheda.  
Mode   The Greek and ecclesiastical scales. See also Major Scale.  
Mohara   The concluding seal of a performance sometimes done three times. It is usually done in rhythmic display. The finish then feels conclusive and final. (This is so yucky. Can’t this be done better?)  
Moorchana   The scales that emerge when each successive note of the scale is made the tonic note and a new set of notes defined from that point. The word is deriving drorm the root moorcha, meaning unconsciousness. The change of the Shadja in emphasising a note gives the mind an oppurtunity to take another pathway, which changes the feel of the first Raga that was being performed. This new pathway ends in a new Raga, with redefined relationships among the notes. When Ragas are derived from Moorchanas, the technique is called Moorchana Paddhati.  
Moorchanakaraka Raga   A raga from which several Moorchanas emerge.  
Morsing   A thin flat iron slip called the tongue attached to the ring shaped circular metal passing across the centre of the ring and sticking out just a little. The instrument is held in the mouth and struch with the forefinger which makes the metal tongue vibrate, making the mouth act as a resonator. This instrument is used to play Laya and Jati sequences along with the Mridangam. The Morsing can be made to appropriate the scale of the singer by using a little wax at the tip of the tongue. See also Jew’s Harp.  
Mridangam   The classical two-faced drum, used as percussion in Carnatic music, and played horizontally with the two hands by laying it on the lap. Mridangam literally means ‘made of clay’. It is actually made out of a scooped out single block of wood, usually from the Neem tree or Jack or Coconut. A smooth paste of rice flour and water is used on the left side to dampen the two skin tympani (See Mavu). A mixture of rice paste and iron filings is permanently loaded on the right drumhead. The Mridangam can be made to sound like a human voice, with a rich tone and timbre. This makes its use as an accompanying percussion instrument very evocative.  
Mudra   The signature used by the composer as part of the lyrics of a Kriti. Usually, the Mudra identifies the name of the composer, but one other use of the signature is the imaginative incorporation of the Raga name into the composition.  
Mukhavina   A wind instrument, like a small Nagaswaram.


 A B C D E F G H I J K L N O P R S T U V  

Chakra Chart

Melakarta Chart

Raga Index

Varnam Index

Kriti Index

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