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  • Writer's pictureNaman's Music

What is 'Naad' or 'Nada'? What are its types, and what are its attributes?

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

The term "Nada" is used in two aspects – one in its broad sense, and the other in a specific sense. The ancient scholars have interpreted "Nada" in the context of a broader meaning. In modern times, the term "Nada" is generally used in a more concise manner.

Under the broader sense of "Nada," it encompasses all types of sounds, whether melodic or non-melodious, soothing or harsh, that are audible to our world.

There are two intriguing types of Nada. The first one is called "Anahata Nada," which is subtle and transcends the physical realm. It can only be heard by advanced yogis during deep meditation. The other type is "Ahata Nada," which gets its name from "ahata," meaning struck or collision. Ahata Nada encompasses all sounds that occur when something is struck, essentially including every sound we hear in the physical world.

Now, the question arises: Why is every sound not melodious? The key lies in understanding the regularity and consistency of the sound. A sound with a harmonious and consistent rhythm becomes melodious and suitable for music. Regularity is essential, but along with it, the element of variation or "Alankar" is also necessary, as sweetness emanates from this combination.

For instance, a humming bee exhibits regularity but lacks variation, hence not melodious. On the other hand, the sound of a musical instrument like the flute has both regularity and variation, making it pleasing to the ears. Consistency in sound leads to melodic quality, which is vital in music.

Thus, the understanding of "Nada" and its connection to melody is essential for creating harmonious music. By grasping the essence of "Nada," one can truly appreciate the depth and beauty of Indian classical music.

The Three Attributes of Nada

To distinguish and identify melodious sounds in music, three essential attributes of Nada are defined. They are as follows:

1. Pitch or High-Low Variation

2. Intensity or Loudness

3. Special Attributes

High - low variation or Pitch - The variation in the height of a note from one pitch to another is perceived and distinguished by the human ear. Students can easily grasp this concept as it is introduced from the beginning of music education. For example, when we sing "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa," we know that 'Sa' is higher than 'Re,' 'Re' is higher than 'Ga,' and so on. In this way, each note ascends in pitch from its preceding note. This concept of ascending and descending pitch is known as high and low variations.

Tivratā or Intensity - We are aware that some sounds are heard from a greater distance, while others are heard from a shorter distance. Intensity can be understood as how forcefully a sound is projected. For instance, when we softly sing a note, it will be heard from a shorter distance, but when we sing the same note with more power, it will be heard from a greater distance. Intensity plays a vital role in perceiving the distance from which a sound is heard.

Vishesh Gun or Special Attributes - This attribute perfectly complements the previous two qualities. Based solely on the sound, we can immediately identify whether it is a human voice, a bird's call, an instrument like the sitar, sarangi, bansuri, or any other sound. Without seeing, we can determine the difference between a human's voice, the notes of a sitar, the sound of a flute, and so on. This is due to the distinct quality of sound that each of these produces, and this unique attribute is called "Vishesh Gun" or a special attribute.

These three attributes of Nada help us distinguish and recognize musical sounds and are crucial aspects of music perception and learning.


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