Persian Music Instruments

Barbat Is a very important instrument in the course of the history of Persian music. The Oud seems to be of Iranian origin and is the barbat of the pre-Islamic era. It was taken by the Arabs and with its Arabic name,Oud, was introduced into Europe to become the famous Lute, so popular during the renaissance. Is a short necked with pear-shaped body and is played with plectrum. It normally has five courses of two strings tuned mainly in fourths, without frets.


A Frame drum with a row of small circular metal hoops fastened to the inside of its rim, the hoops will rattle when the membrane of the drum is struck. Daf is main sacred percussion instrument in Iran

Gheichak Is a bowed spike fiddle. The instrument has four metal strings and a range of about two and half octaves. Shaped like the Indian sarinda.

Kamanche Is a bowed instrument, which has a round and deep sound box. The body consists of a wooden hemisphere covered with thin sheepskin membrane. It has four strings and a range of about three octaves. The Kamanche is held in a vertical position, when played.

Narmeh-Nay is mostly used in the west or southwest part of Caspian Sea in a large area which did not possess political borders some 150 years ago. These were tribes such as Turks, Azeris, Armenians or Kurds, which were in love with Narmeh-Nay. The Kurds called it narmeh-nay, the Turks named it mey, it is also referred to as balaban in Azerbaijan, and doodook in Armenia. There is an instrument much similar to Narmeh-nay yet much shorter in size exists in China called guan. Narmeh-nay has limited capacity and is used to play native melodies, which range into one octave and several notes, and never reaches a second octave.

Nay Is the soul instrument in Persian music. It is more than five thousand years old. The oldest forms of the ney dates back to the age of the pyramids. Ney is a vertical reed pipe with six finger holes in front and one in the back. It is made of a seven-segment section of reed. Ney is common throughout the Near east, although the Iranian technique is probably the most versatile, using both the low breathy register and the sharp higher register (held between the teeth). Ney has a rang of about two and half octaves.

Santur Is trapezoid shape dulcimer with eighteen courses of four strings and bridges to provide three octaves, from which the Hungarian cimbalom and the Chinese yang-chin are thought to be derived. It is played by two delicate wooden hammers.

Setar Is a long necked lute type instrument related to the ancient tanbur. It has four strings and a small half-pear shaped sound box. It is played with the strumming action of the right index finger nail. The Setar has moveable frets and a range of two octaves and a 5th.

Sorna is a musical instrument of the wind family, with a reed for generating the voice and a tubular body with fingerholes like in a flute. The body is of a progressively opening type. It is the same instrument more or less as sunay in china, shenay in India, zorna in Greece, zurla in Yugoslavia, bombarde in France, zokra in Tunis, ghaytah or raita in Morocco mizmar in Egypt, and zamr in Lebanon and Iraq. Bagpipes are related to Sorna, except that Sorna has no bag and the players use their cheeks instead of the bag. Clarinet and Saxophone are related to Sorna, except that these use flat reeds. Obo/Hautbois is also related but has a slightly different reed. Obo has two reeds leaned against each other.

Tanbur The traditional instrument for zekr is the tanbur, an ancient, three stringed lute that was already present in the 3rd century at the court of the Sasanids in Iran. Eventually, the tanbur was destined to be used by the Ahl-e Haqq solely as a sacred instrument. Its pear-shaped body is normally carved out of one piece of mulberry wood. It has fourteen frets. The sitar is believed to have developed under medieval Muslim influence from the tanbur. It is the oldest and most genuine Persian musical instrument.

Tar The plucked stringed instrument has a double-bellied body. Made of mulberry wood carved in two sections. Tar has six strings, but four of the strings are tuned in pairs. It has eighteen frets per octave unequally spaced to make possible performance of all modes and is played with a small metallic plectrum.

Tonbak The chief percussion instrument, it is carved of single block of wood. Its body is hollow, open at the lower end and covered with goat skin in the wide upper end. It is held horizontally and played with both hands. The elaborated finger technique consists of various rolling and snapping styles, which allow for great variety of sounds.

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