About fifteen years ago I was playing flute and sax in a trio consisting of a singer/harmoniumist, a tabla/dole player and myself. We did a mixture of ghazals and the singer's own compositions and threw in the odd Bollywood number as a crowd pleaser. As well as the gigs I remember a couple of very enjoyable outings. One was to Southall for food, culture (OK, I mean window shopping) and a trip to the famous Indian musical instrument shop, Bina, where I bought a bansri (pictured). Another was to meet the singer's teacher, a blind sitar player.
We each had an hour's lesson with the man and, although he seemed to spend the greater part of mine on the phone or talking to family members out in the hall, he obviously knew his stuff. He taught me The Ten Thats, the ten scales that are the basis of Norht Indian music, and I was to go away and learn them.
"In all twelve keys?" I asked.
I typed them up on an old computer, printed them out and stuck them to my door. That PC is long gone along with the software and the file. I thought I had lost the piece of paper, too, and a quick search on the internet has not revealed the scales in a form easily accessible to the western musician. So before I lose the scales again, here are The Ten Thats, the North Indian scales, translated for musos brought up in the European tradition, as they were told to me.
Assume all notes are those of the major scale unless indicated. b = lower the note by a semitone, # = raise the note by a semitone. The numbers represent scale degrees. I have put the equivalent mode in brackets where one exists.
At the very least they represent a vehicle for getting to know your chosen instrument a little better. I have found them inspiring and still refreshingly exotic. And do I know all 120 scales by heart? No, but every so often I move a little closer.