Persian Traditional Music Instruments

Persian traditional music is as rich as the history of Persia. Actually archaeological evidence shows that Iranians used musical instruments even during the Elamite era, i.e. 800 BCE. Traditional music of Iran is an expression of love, joy, sorrow, struggle and effort and all the victories and defeats that Persians have experienced over time. The interesting point is that although Iran has been invaded by foreigners during the history, this Persian traditional music still remains unchanged.

Persian music history is so long and it needs another specific article. Here in this article Iran Destination introduces you some of the famous Persian Music Instruments.

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But let’s see what the 7 top famous Persian Traditional Music Instruments are:

  1. Daf

One of the most ancient and famous drums in Asia and North Africa is Daf. In Iran, it is now considered as a Sufi instrument. But other people also use it too, because it is getting more and more popular. The frame of this instrument is usually made of hardwood and there are many metal ringlets attached to it. Although other skin types are used for the membrane; like the skin of cow, goat and horse; it is usually fish skin.

Daf - Persian traditional music instrument

Daf – Persian traditional music instrument

  1. Kamanche

Kamanche, which is a bowed spike fiddle, has 4 metal strings. The body of this instrument consists of a wooden hemisphere. It is as big as a viola. The odd point is that Kamanche’s bridge runs diagonally across its membrane. Depending on different regions in Iran, the tuning also varies. For example in Tehran, Kamancheh is tuned just like a Violin: G, D, A, E.

Many people believe that the fourth string of Kamanche is added to it in the early 20th century and it was due to introduction of violin to Iran. You can see Kamanche painted on many Persian antique paintings.

Kamanche - Persian traditional music instrument

Kamanche – Persian traditional music instrument

  1. Nay

Another popular Persian traditional music instrument is called Ney or Nay. It is in fact the knotgrass reed that has 5 holes in the front for fingers and one thumbhole in the back. This instrument has a range of two and a half octaves. The sound is made when a stream of air goes through the nay, directed by the tongue.

Ney - Persian traditional music instrument

Ney – Persian traditional music instrument

  1. Dotar

Dotar, which literally means “two strings”, is a member of long-necked lutes family. This is not just found in Iran. You can see Dotar in Central Asia, the Middle East and also north east of China.

But in Iran, mainly artists from northern parts and east of Khorasan province play Dotar. The major instrument is the same in all regions, but the dimensions and number of ligatures differs from part to part. There are two kinds of woods used in this Persian music instrument. A single block of mulberry wood is used the pear shaped body of Dotar. And for the neck, artists use either apricot or walnut tree. Dotar is tuned in 4th or 5th intervals.

Dotar- Persian traditional music instrument

Dotar- Persian traditional music instrument

  1. Santur

Santur is one of the famous and popular Persian music instruments, greatly used nowadays by Youngers too. The instrument is also spelled as Santour or Santoor. It is a zither in the form of shallow regular trapezoidal box. There are two small rosettes on the top of Santur panel; this helps to amplify the sound produced. this instrument has 72 strings which are arranged in groups of four. A small wooden bridge supports these strings. The bridges are used to give Santur a range of 3 octaves.

Depending on the sound quality you are interested in, you can use different kind of woods to make Santur, such as walnut, rosewood, betel palm, etc. aside from Iran, India, Egypt and Iraq also have Santur played in the countries.

santur - Persian traditional music instrument

santur – Persian traditional music instrument

  1. Tonbak

Maybe the most popular musical instrument in Iran is Tonbak, a large goblet drum. This wooden instrument has a goatskin head. The difference between Tonbak and other goblet drums is that this instrument produces lower-pitched and softer tines. Iranians also use other names to refer to this instrument, like Tombak, Dombak, Donbak and Zarb. Many believe that the American name “Dumbek” is derived from these Persian words.

Tonbak - Persian traditional music instrument

Tonbak – Persian traditional music instrument

  1. Setar

The ancient Tanbur of Per-Islamic Persia can be considered as the ancestry of the Setar. It literally means “three strings”, but nowadays it has 4 strings. Setar is made of thin mulberry wood and there are 25 or 26 adjustable gut frets on its fingerboard. Two strings are made steel, and the other two are made of brass. An average Setar is about 85 cm long and 20 cm wide. It also has a 15 cm deep ground. Setar is the preferred musical instrument for Sufis, because of its delicacy and sonority.

Setar - Persian traditional music instrument

Setar – Persian traditional music instrument

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