Many instruments originate in the Middle East region. Most popular of the stringed instruments is the oud, a pear-shaped lute that traditionally had four strings, although current instruments have up to six courses consisting of one or two strings each. Legend has it that the oud was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. This is stated by Farabi, and it is part of the Iraqi folklore relating to the instrument. Legend goes on to suggest that the first oud was inspired by the shape of his son's bleached skeleton.
Historically, the oldest pictorial record of the oud dates back to the Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago. It is on a cylinder seal currently housed at the British Museum and acquired by Dr. Dominique Collon, Editor of Iraq at the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.
Used mostly in court music for royals and the rich, the harp also comes from Sumer c. 3500 BC.
The widespread use of the oud led to many variations on the instrument, including the saz, a Turkish long-necked lute that remains very popular in Turkey. Last of the popular string instruments is the qanoun, developed by Farabi during the Abbasids era. Legend has it that Farabi played qanoun in court,and he made people laugh, cry, and fall asleep.
The qanoun developed out of string instruments described in inscriptions that date to the Assyrian period.. It has about 26 tripleing courses, plucked with a piece of horn. The musician has the freedom to alter the pitch of individual courses from a quarter to a whole step by adjusting metal levers.
Percussion instruments play a very important role in Middle Eastern music. The complex rhythms of this music are often played on many simple percussion instruments. The riq الرق (a type of tambourine) and finger cymbals add a higher rhythmic line to rhythm laid down with sticks, clappers, and other drums. An instrument native to Egypt, Palestine, and Lebanon, the tabla, colloquially known as doumbek (or tombak), is a drum made of ceramic clay, with a goatskin head glued to the body.
The last section of instruments is the woodwinds. The Moroccan oboe, also called the rhaita, has a double-reed mouthpiece that echoes sound down its long and narrow body. Similar instruments are called zurnas (the Persian oboe) were used more for festivals and loud celebrations. A Turkish influence comes from the mey, which has a large double reed. Bamboo reed pipes are the most common background to belly dancing and music from Egypt. Flutes are also a common woodwind instrument in ensembles. A kaval is a three-part flute that is blown in one end, whereas the ney is a long cane flute, played by blowing across the sharp edge while pursing the lips.
Instruments in Persian Traditional Music
Instruments used in Persian classical music include the bowed spike-fiddle kamancheh, the goblet drum tombak, the end-blown flute ney, the frame drum daf, the long-necked lutes tar, setar, tanbur, dotar, and the dulcimer santur. The European violin is also used, with an alternative tuning preferred by Persian musicians. Harps, "chang[s]," were a very important part of music up until the middle of the Safavid Empire. They were probably replaced because of tuning problems or replaced by the Qanun (zither)and later the piano which was introduced by the West during the Safavid Dynasty of Iran. Many, if not most, of these instruments originated in Iran.
Perhaps the most loved string instrument is the tar. Tar players are regurlarly chosen to function as the primary string instrument in a performance. The setar is also loved for its delicacy and is the favorite among Mystic musicians. Some instruments like the sorna, neyanban, dohol, naghareh, and others, are not used in the classical repertoire but are used in Iranian Folk music. The ghazhak (ghaychak), a type of fiddle, is being re-introduced to the Classical field after many years of exclusion. The instruments used in the Classical field are also used in Iranian Folk Music.
The ney (Persian: نی/نای; Arabic: ناي; Turkish: ney; also nai, nye, nay, gagri tuiduk, or karghy tuiduk ) is an end-blown flute that figures prominently in Middle Eastern music. In some of these musical traditions, it is the only wind instrument used. It is a very ancient instrument, with depictions of ney players appearing in wall paintings in the Egyptian pyramids and actual neys being found in the excavations at Ur. This indicates that the ney has been played continuously for 4,500–5,000 years, making it one of the oldest musical instruments still in use. It is a forerunner of the modern flute.
The ney consists of a piece of hollow cane or reed with five or six finger holes and one thumb hole. Modern neys may be made of metal or plastic tubing instead. The pitch of the ney varies depending on the region and the finger arrangement. A highly skilled ney player can reach more than three octaves, though it is more common to have several "helper" neys to cover different pitch ranges or to facilitate playing technical passages in other maqamat.
The oud ( /ˈuːd/; Arabic: عود ʿūd, plural:أعواد, a'wād; Assyrian:ܥܘܕ ūd, Greek: ούτι; Persian: بربط barbat; Turkish: ud or ut; Armenian: ուդ, Azeri: ud; Hebrew: עוד ud; Somali: cuud or kaban) is a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in North African (Chaabi, Egyptian music, Andalusian...) and Middle Eastern music. The modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor via diverging paths. The oud is readily distinguished by its lack of frets and smaller neck.
According to Farabi, the oud was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. The legend tells that the grieving Lamech hung the body of his dead son from a tree. The first oud was inspired by the shape of his son's bleached skeleton.[not in citation given]
The oldest pictorial record of a lute dates back to the Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia (modern Nasiriyah city), over 5000 years ago on a cylinder seal acquired by Dr. Dominique Collon and currently housed at the British Museum. The image depicts a female crouching with her instruments upon a boat, playing right-handed. This instrument appears many times throughout Mesopotamian history and again in ancient Egypt from the 18th dynasty onwards in long and short-neck varieties. One may see such examples at the Metropolitan Museums of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and the British Museum on clay tablets and papyrus paper. This instrument and its close relatives have been a part of the music of each of the ancient civilizations that have existed in the Mediterranean and the Middle East regions, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Persians, Kurds, Babylonians, Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.
Today's oud is totally different from the old prototypes and the Turkish oud is different from the Arabic oud in playing style and shape. The Turkish oud is derived from modifying the Arabic oud: its development has been attributed to Manolis Venios, a well known Greek luthier who lived in Istanbul in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Greece and Armenia musicians use the Turkish ouds and tunings.
The oud has a particularly long tradition in Iraq, where a saying goes that in its music lies the country's soul. A ninth-century Baghdad jurist praised the healing powers of the instrument, and the 19th century writer Muhammad Shihab al-Din related that it "places the temperament in equilibrium" and "calms and revives hearts." Following the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the secular Ba'athist regime in 2003, however, the increasing fervor of Islamic militants who consider secular music to be haraam (forbidden) forced many oud players and teachers into hiding or exile.