Carnatic music tends to be significantly more structured than Hindustani music; examples of this are the logical classification of ragas into melakarthas, and the use of fixed compositions similar to Western classical music. Carnatic raga elaborations are generally much faster in tempo and shorter than their equivalents in Hindustani music. The opening piece is called a varnam, and is a warm-up for the musicians. A devotion and a request for a blessing follows, then a series of interchanges between ragams (unmetered melody) and thaalams (the ornamentation, equivalent to the jor). This is intermixed with hymns called krithis. This is followed by the pallavi or theme from the raga. Carnatic pieces also have notated, lyrical poems that are reproduced as such, possibly with embellishments and treatments as per the performer's ideology; these basic pieces are called compositions. Compositions usually have flexibility in them so as to foster creativity: it is commonplace to have same composition sung in different ways by different performers.
Carnatic music is similar to Hindustani music in that it is improvised (see musical improvisation). Primary themes include worship, descriptions of temples, philosophy, nayaka-nayaki themes and patriotic songs. Tyagaraja (1759-1847), Muthuswami Dikshitar (1776-1827) and Syama Sastri (1762-1827) are known as the Trinity of Carnatic music, while Purandara Dasa (1480-1564) is often called the father of Carnatic music.