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Nonuplets in Indian Classical Music Rhythms (NINE Subdivisions per Beat!)


Yes, we can play nonuplets in Indian classical music - nine subdivisions in a beat! Believe it or not, it's actually relatively commonplace, especially when compared to western music. Indian classical music or carnatic music is a wealth of intricate and beautiful rhythms and melodies, and I'm excited to share how you can also start playing duplets, triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, sextuplets, septuplets, octuplets, and nonuplets with ease! I'm not lying, you'll actually be able to do all those by the end of the lesson. Let's get started!

Welcome to 'Ethnomusicology For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help the world better understand and appreciate its diverse musical cultures. Let's delve right into our musical concept for today: Gati / Subdivisions.


Before You Begin:

Download my free resources to guide you along!


Musical Concept: Gati / Tuplets

Indian classical music or carnatic music shares many similar concepts to western music. One of these is the idea of subdivisions within a beat.

In western music, the number of subdivisions we divide a beat into is called tuplets. From this word you derive the common term 'triplet', which denotes subdividing a beat into three equal parts.

In carnatic music, the number of subdivisions is denoted by the term gati. Now there are lots of beautiful and complex sanskrit terms for each gati, but I'm not going to confuse you with them. Instead, we'll refer to them by the number of subdivisions (1, 2, 3 etc).

The trick to getting these subdivisions precisely is the use of solkattu, or vocal percussive syllables to recite each subdivision. Below is a chart of the syllable we'll be using for each number of subdivisions.

1: Tha

2: Thaka

3: Thakita

4: Thakadimi

5: Thaka Thakita

6: Thaka Thakadimi

7: Thakita Thakadimi

8: Thakadimi Thakajonu

9: Thakadimi Thaka Thakita

Now you may be wondering, why these confusing syllables, why not just count? Well at blazing fast speeds, you simply can't count 'one two three four five six seven...' . Those numbers weren't designed for music performance. However, solkattu are designed to roll off your tongue with ease and precision, allowing you to clearly stamp out the rhythm at incredible speeds.

Before we get to an exercise to study these gatis, let's look at a musical example to see how it is put into practice.

Musical Example: Adi Tala Korvai (84+60)

For today's musical we're looking at a korvai, a rhythmic composition that can be performed with percussion instruments or orally using solkattu.

I want to draw your attention to the very last 3 beats of the korvai, where I subdivide each beat into 9 subdivisions. In carnatic music terminology, I am performing in sankeerna (9) gati.

Notice that the word or sol I am reciting in each beat is 'thathikithathom'. If this word comprises five syllables, how can it be a nonuplet (9)? The answer lies in the spaces between each syllable.

For this five syllable word, the first four syllables take up two subdivisions each, while the last 'thom' word takes up just one subdivision. Hence the rhythm looks something like this:

Tha__thi__ki__tha__thom Tha__thi__ki__tha__thom Tha__thi__ki__tha__thom

Each blank takes up the same duration as each syllable. Add them up and you get 9 subdivisions per beat!

Musical Exercise: Subdividing 1-9

Now we're going to get our tongues wagging to try out dividing each beat up to 9 subdivisions!

Start slowly, and always keep to a metronome. Follow along with the video to get started, and eventually try it on your own!


If you can master these subdivisions, your sense of rhythm will improve tremendously! Learning and applying rhythms through carnatic rhythms has enabled me to process complex and intricate rhythms with much ease, and I look forward to the revelations you can have as well. Of course, it takes dedication and hard work, but enjoy the practice sessions and follow along with this video as much as you need.

Do leave a comment with any questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer them. Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website as I share new music videos and lessons on those very music videos, each and every week, to help you along your own musical journey.

Until next time, I'll see you again!

By Neil Chan

1 Comment

Matt Thackray
Matt Thackray
May 21, 2023

Fantastic. Your humility, directness and clarity make you a delight to learn from and listen to. I’m compelled to dig deeper into Carnatic rhythms. Keep bringing the world together through shared understanding.

Thank you and keep up the great work!

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