The two basic elements of Indian Classical Music are Raga (Melody) and the Thala (Rhythm). Each raga consists of a series of notes, which bear a definite relationship to the tonic note and occur in a particular sequence. The ragas form the basis of all melody in Indian Music. Ragas are divided into two major groups; Janaka Ragas (Parent Melodies) and Janya Ragas (Derived Melodies). While the number of Janaka ragas is fixed at 72, there is no limit to the number of Janya ragas. In a concert, ragas can be sung by themselves without any words(Raga Alapana) and then be followed by a composition in that particular raga.
Thala or the time measure is the other principal element in Indian Classical music. Thala is the regulating factor in music compositions and provides a basis for rhythmic coordination between the main artistes and the accomanists. All musical compositions other than those sung as pure ragas (Alapana) are set to thala. There are innumerabele varieties of thalas, out of which 7 are common. Adi thala is the one most commonly used. In a concert, the thala is shown with standardized combination of clap and finger counts by the musician.
There are two major systems of classical music in India, Carnatic music and Hindustani music. Both systems have the same origin. Due to Islamic and Persian influences, the music of northern India evolved into a system known as Hindustani music. The Southern part of India retained the old tradition and it is known as Carnatic music.
Indian music is built along the lines of melody as against the harmonic nature of western music. The solfa syllables that correspond "do re me fa so la ti" of western music are "sa ri ga ma pa da ni" of Indian music. The scale of equal temperament of western music(harmony) does not suit the melodic structure of Indian music. It is the intelligent use of these very short intervals that makes the Indian music highly individualistic. The calliber of a musician is determined mainly by how he/she uses these micro tones to enrich the compositions that are sung.
The two primary instruments used as accompaniments in a vocal concert of Carnatic music are the VIolin and MRidangam. Additionally, there will be a drone instrument calle tambura to provide the pitch. Additionally, there may be Ghatam, Kanjeera and Moorching, Veena, Viollin and Flute are generally used to give solo concerts.