Instruments













Tar

Belonging to the lute family, the tar appeared in its present form in the middle of the eighteenth century. Tar is a plucked stringed instrument that is played in Iran (Persia), Caucasian countries such as Azerbaijan and Armenia; and central Asia such as Tajikistan. It exists in two forms now, the Persian that is named Tar-e-Shiraaz or Irani, and the Caucasian that is named Tar-e-Ghafghaaz.

The Persian tar is carved from a block of mulberry wood and has a deep, curved body with two bulges shaped like a figure 8. The upper surface is shaped like two hearts of different sizes, joined at the points. The sound box consists of two parts. The small part is called Naghaareh and the large part is called Kaasseh, meaning the bowl (sound box). The sound box is covered with lambskin. On the lower skin, a horn bridge supports six metal strings in three courses. The long fingerboard has twenty-two to twenty-eight movable gut frets. The strings are plucked with a brass plectrum coated on one side in wax. Its range is about two and a half octaves.













Kamanche

The kamanche is the traditional classical bowed lute of Persian classical music and dates back to antiquity. It has a small, hollowed hardwood body with a thin stretched fish-skin membrane. Its neck is cylindrical, and it has four strings. Often known as the "spiked fiddle", because of the spike protruding from its lower end, it is played vertically in the manner of the European viol.

The bowstrings are pulled by the player which accommodates subtle tone variations. It is suspected that the fourth string was added in the early twentieth century as the result of the introduction of western violin to Iran.

The tarhu is a new form of spike fiddle, created by instrument maker and musician Peter Biffin. Tarhu design uses a unique acoustic system, where the string's vibrations are transferred to a featherweight wooden cone suspended within the body. This design creates extremely sensitive instruments with an unprecedented range of tone colour variations. The efficiency of the cone system has also given these instruments a very large dynamic range. The basic principle that defines tarhu is the wooden cone suspended in a spherical body, and this concept has now been applied in many ways. The kamanche tarhu played by Greta has 7 sympathetic strings passing along a channel in the middle of the neck, up to a second pegbox where the sympathetic strings are tuned.













Ney

Ney is a wind instrument from Iran. It consists of a hollow cylinder with finger-holes. It has a very compelling sound, unlike any other wind instrument.

The ney that is the Persian knotgrass reed, has five finger holes in front and one thumbhole in the back and has a range of two and a half octaves. The upper end is covered by a short brass cylinder, which is anchored in the tiny space between the upper incisive of the player.

Sound is produced when a stream of air is directed by the tongue toward the opening of the instrument. In this way, sound is produced behind the upper teeth, inside the mouth, which gives the ney a distinct timbre than that of the sound produced by the lips on the outside of the mouth.













Daf

The Daf is a type of frame drum that is depicted in many Persian miniatures and has reliefs from centuries ago. Although it appears at first sight to be a relatively simple instrument, the daf has the potential of producing intricate rhythmic patterns and sounds. The daf is equipped with metal rings on the inside which add a jingle effect to the sound. The frame is covered with goat-skin.

Daf is one of the most ancient frame drums in Asia and North Africa. As a Persian instrument, in 20th century, it is considered as a Sufi instrument to be played in Khanghah-s during Zikr ceremony. Daf has recently become very popular and it has been integrated into Persian music successfully.













Tonbak

The most popular percussion instrument in Persian music today is a goblet drum known as the Tonbak. The Tonbak is a large wooden instrument with a goatskin head. Unlike other goblet drums, this drum has a much more squared-off shape and produces lower-pitched and softer tones due to its size and skin being put on with less tension.

Other names for this drum include Tombak and Zarb. The two main strokes played on this drum are known as Ton, for a bass tone played in the center of the drum head, and Bak, for a treble tone played on or near the rim. Combining the terms results in the name Ton-Bak.




Tanboor

The Tanboor is the ancestor to most long-necked, plucked stringed instruments. Its pear shaped belly is normally carved out of one piece of mullberry wood with a long neck and fourteen gut frets. Some modern Tanboors are made of bent ribs of mulberry wood. The sound board, 3-4 millimeters thick, is also made of mulberry wood which has numerous small holes for better resonance.

The Tanboor has a unique playing technique by which the strings are strummed with the fingers of the right hand to produce a very full and even tremolo called shorr (literally meaning the pouring of water). This technique along with various kinds of plucking, usually with the index and pinky fingers, enables the musicians to produce different effects and various rhythmic accentuations.

The ancient Tanboor used to have two silk or in some instances gut strings tuned in 4th or 5th, similar to the Dotar (meaning two stringed), its close relative widely used in Eastern Iran. It has also been regarded as the Tanboor of Khorasan in literary texts. Although these two instruments share a similar history and are basically the same, they have developed their own repertoires, playing techniques and functions.

The present Tanboor has three strings and covers the range of one octave and two notes. The lower pair of strings, made of steel, are tuned in unison normally anywhere from A flat to B and are fingered together functioning as the melody strings. The top string made of copper or brass, slightly thicker, tuned in lower fourth or fifth, functions as a sympathetic string with occasional fingering by the thumb.

The Tanboor has always been considered a sacred instrument associated with the Kurdish Sufi music of Western Iran and it is believed that its repertoire is based on ancient Persian music. Up until recently this instrument was used only during djamm gatherings (devotional or liturgic ceremonies) of the Ahle-Haqq (the people of truth), followers of a particular Sufi order.












Setar

The setar is a long-necked, four stringed instrument which has a soundbox covered with thin mulberry wood and its fingerboard has twenty-five or twenty-six movable gut frets. It is a descendent of the ancient Iranian tanboor of Khorasan, which is credited with being the ancestral form of nearly all lutes now known in the East. The setar originally had only three strings. The fourth was added by the great mystic Moshtaq Ali Shah. The setar itself is more adaptable to spiritual music.

The left-hand technique for playing the setar is nearly identical to the tar techinque, but instead of a plectrum, the fingernail of the right-hand index finger is used.