On the musical instruments


The musical instruments of Azerbaijan, which is considered as national wealth, are distinguished with richness and variety of types. Most of them were emerged in ancient times, get improved and reached our time. “Tambourine playing rock” of 6 thousand years old, located near the Gobustan rock pictures were used by our ancestors as a percussion instrument. In all areas, where Azerbaijanis live, including Azerbaijan’s historical land Garabagh, the engravings of various musical instruments on items found during archaeological excavations proves their ancient history.

According to the classification of researchers from the musical instruments spread in Azerbaijan 32 were stringed instruments (of them 26 played with mizrab, 4 with bow, 2 with stick), 23 of wind, 16 of percussion, 17 were self sounded instruments. The majority of these instruments are also widely spread in Garabagh region. We bring them to your attention.

Wind instruments



One of the wind instruments widely used in the orchestra and ensembles, in minstrel music, folklore groups is balaban. Sometimes it is called “balaman” has the the meaning of “small” and “ban” (resembling of sound timbre to cockcrow) and means “small (early) cockcrow”.

With a soft and plaintive sound balaban is used to accompany the ensemble, orchestra and as well as solo instrument among wind instruments, to accompany minstrel group.

Balaban is made of apricot, walnut, mulberry, and pear trees by carving its inside on special machine tools, oiled with certain vegetable oils and ried at a certain temperature for a long time. There are  eight hollows on upper part of the body, and one in the lower part. During performance using the fingers of both hands the hollows are opened and closed.

One part of balaban is placed with flatten mouthpiece of certain size made of reed by pressing it.  Therefore, in some cases, this tool is called “flat balaban”. By means of clamp fixed on mouthpiece the sound volume and tone of instrument is adjusted accordingly.

Player taking deep breath of air to play an instrument and gathers air in the oral cavity and skillfully blows it between his lips into mouthpiece and by moving fingers on hollows gets desired sound volume.

Its length is 280-300 mm, diameter is 20-22 mm.

The main diapason of balaban is from small octave’s “sol” to the second octave’s “do” sound. Depending of skill of player a few sounds can be added as well.



It is considered as ancient musical instruments. Its history of creation dates back to many years of BC. Its various types wide-spread among the peoples of the Middle and Far East, as well as in many countries around the world.

The well-known musician-scientists Abdulqadir Maragi lived and created in XIV-XV centuries, in his “Maqasid al-alhan” (Aim of songs) works informs about existence of two types of ney that time: the white and black ney. Though ney, which inspired the world with magical sound till the beginning of the twentieth century was completely forgotten, but in recent years it became adornments of musical parties.

White ney is made of reed. Its total length is 550-600 mm, a diameter is 20 mm. The upper part has five, and the lower part one hollow. While playing on white ney artist puts copper tube on the head of instrument between front teeth and blows air there and using tongue and lips can get sounds. Artist by partly or entirely opening hollows gets chromatic sounds.

Modern ney is played from head side, with blowing by lip approximately 50 mm below hole. The most modern of this type is used in the composition of the orchestra with name of flute. At present, many peoples of East call flute with its own names. It is possible to sound mugham, samples of songs and other music in ney.

The diapason of ney is from first octave “do” to the second octave “sol # “sound.

Pipe –tutak


Once  it was a musical instrument mainly used by shepherds. In many countries, various forms of pipe are widespread. In Azerbaijan its large and small types are used in ensembles and the orchestras, mainly as a solo instrument. Its timbre is mild and pleasant.

Tubular body is made of apricot, walnut, mulberry trees, or reed. Its length is 280-300 mm, and diameter is 20 mm.

There are seven hollows in the top part of the body, and six in the lower part. On the head of instrument one wooden cork cut inclined, is entered in the pipe. Special size space is kept between cork and body to blow air accumulated in oral cavity, from that part to body of pipe. By opening and closing hollows with right and left hand’s fingers the sound timbers can be obtained.

Its sound structure is from small octave “si” sound to third-octave “do” sound. Skilled performers can add a few sounds, too.



Zourna musical instrument with a strong and clarion sound is widespread in Azerbaijan and has its own place in our cultural life.  Zourna is from word “surnay” and sur – “great party”, “nay” –  “reed”.

Its different types are wide-spread among the peoples of the Middle East and the Caucasus. During archeological excavations carried out  in one of the most ancient human settlements in the territory of  Mingachevir the four pieces of pipe have been found  made of deer horn. According to scientists, these tools made of high taste, are three thousand years old.

In particular, it is made from apricot, walnut and mulberry trees by carving. The total length is 302-317 mm. Main parts of the body is  20 mm, and extended downwards, reaches 60-65 mm. Diapason of zourna is from small octave “si bemol” to the third-octave “do” sound. Depending on skill of artist it is possible to add few sounds, too. The sounds called by performers as “envoy sounds”.

Zourna, mainly, is widely used in the open air folk celebrations. This instrument had “black zourna”, “Arabi zourna”, “Jura zourna”, “Ajami zourna”, “qaba zourna”, “shahabi zourna” historically existed types. In particular, it is played in wind instruments ensemble. In the folk instruments’ ensemble and as a solo instrument, as well as in the composition of orchestras it is used in some dances and other musical pieces. U.Hajibayov has been added  zourna in composition of orchestra in  “Koroglu” opera.


Stringed instruments



Kamancha is bow played stringed musical instrument. Its types with other names were spread among the peoples of East and Central Asia. High development of kamancha playing is linked with starting of the development of high performance of singing art from the second half of the nineteenth century.

Its first samples were made of pumpkin, Indian nut, and decorated with ivory. It is assumed that one-and two-stringed kamancha once was formed from stringed gopuz. Kamancha has been widely described in the works of classics of the Middle Ages. Representative of XVI century painting school of Tabriz Mir Seyed Ali had described in his “Music  party”  work instruments like barbet, daf and kamancha.

Abdulqadir Maraghi in his works besides other musical instruments referred to kamancha as well and provided information about it. E. Kempfer, German traveler who traveled in XVII century in Azerbaijan noted that kamancha is the three-stringed instrument, and sometimes as four-stringed and having very beautiful sound timbre.

In the past century, it is known that three-stringed, four-stringed, and even five-stringed kamancha was existed.

Kamancha consists of body, arm, and  bar crossed inside the body and connecting its both parts. Body, arm and tuning pegs are made of walnut wood by special way of hewing in machine tools. The surface of body is covered with sturgeon skin. The right identification of distance between the strings of the instrument and arm is important factor in good performance of sound. The total length is 700 mm, the height of body is 175 mm, a width is 195 mm.

Its diapason is from small octave’s “lya” to the third-octave’s “lya” sound. Notes for kamancha are written in “sol” key and is sounded one tune upper than written. It is tuned with net fourth, fifth intervals.



Saz is the stringed musical instrument played with tazana (mizrab). It is the successor of an integral part of the great minstrel music and saz-word art. At the same time is saz one of the symbols of the Turkic morality, Turkic world. Being sincretic , that is, combining ins elf music, singing, poetry, performance of speech and drama, actor and dance (plastic) arts, it is besides being connected with mugham art, at the same time old layers of the national culture of Azerbaijan. In ancient Turkic-speaking peoples the artists know as shaman, qam, oyun, bakhshi, yanshaq, varsaq, and finally, ozan are ancestors of today’s minstrel.

Through a great evolution through the centuries and millenniums 0zan art becomes the art of minstrel music the qopuz gopuz also received a similar evolutionary path and formed as an instrument of saz.

Saz had received its present day shape in the period of Shah Ismail Khatai (XVI century).

Azerbaijani saz differs from saz and similar instruments spread among the Turkic-speaking peoples in terms of its musical technique, sound acoustics with the undeniable advantages.

Body of saz is made of selected kinds of mulberry tree, and arm is made of walnut wood. The body is assembled from wooden “ribs”h attached to each other in the odd number (usually 9). The “ribs” are assembled on small parts called “kup” connecting arm and body and then an arm is added. The surface of body is covered with thin wooden cover and 16-17 curtains are attached to its arm. In Azerbaijan tavar saz distinguished by the size, or mother saz has 9, sometimes 8 strings, and a compact saz or so called armpit saz has 6, sometimes 7 strings,  and small jura saz has 4- 6 strings. Once strings were made of high-quality steel, and dipped in silver water. They never become stained and in very few cases get broken.



It is the best and perfect modern musical instrument among stringed musical instruments of Azerbaijan in respect of technical and dynamic abilities.

The great composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov referring to technical performance capabilities, the nature of acoustic of tar writes: “Tar is most valuable and most important among musical instruments which enhance the musical education of the east.”

“Tar” in Persian means wire, thread. Like wise other musical instruments, of course, the modern tar was formed based on an ancient stringed musical instruments and formed for centuries.

The name of tar is met in works of our c classics like Gatran Tabrizi, Nizami, Mohammed Fizuli and others.

Stringed musical instruments like du tar, se tar, chahar tar, panj tar and shesh tar are considered various types of tar. Abdulqadir Maragi’s “Maqasid al-alhan” provides information about shesh tar (6 stringed) and describes it widely.

The description of tar can be found in the works of medieval art. The oil painting of Abu Qasim Tabrizi in 1816 «Tar player girl’ is interesting in this respect. Mirza Sadiq Assad oglu (Sadıqjan; 1846-1902) had made modifications in the second half of the nineteenth century in structure and form of tar and increased the number of strings from 5 to 11. However, he made changes in rule of keeping of the tar and raised tar from knee to breast level.

The modern tar performance began the stage of strong development in the twentieth century. Thus, in 1931, in the Orchestra of Folklore Musical Instruments with first note created at the initiative of M. Magomayev and U. Hajibayov tar occupied a position of leading instrument. The school note performance founded by U. Hajibeyov had increased the technical and artistic possibilities of tar.

Tar was used mainly in the structure of the Mugham trio (tar, kamancha, tambourine) as a lead instrument and plays a significant role in the development of mugam art today. In mugam operas solo singing is performed by the accompaniment of tar. Azerbaijani composers wrote many large concerts with the tar and the orchestra.

Differing from other stringed instruments in respect of structure and form, tar consists of three parts – body, arm and head. Body of tar is made of mulberry, arm and head are made of walnut wood. The total length is 850 mm, body’s height is 165 mm, a width is 185 mm.

22  curtains are fixed on arm. The layer of cow’s heart is covered on body. There are 11 metal strings of different diameter. It is sounded with small mizrab made of bone or ebonite made sma ll mizrab . Strings are divided into three groups:

  1. White, yellow, and the tune strings (there is a pair of each).
  2. The tune string (a single thick string is only performed with mugham).
  3. Call strings (jingana-  is of two pairs).

Tar is kept in breast horizontally, with the right-hand wrest the body par is pressed in breast, strings are sounded with mizrab kept between the thumb and the forefinger. The arm of tar is pressed between thumb and forefinger, strings sounded by the right hand are played with pressing of various curtains of forefinger, middle and ring finger.

To provide technical and artistic possibilities of during playing, trel and various mizrab beating methods, codes are used. In addition to upper mizrab, lower-mizrab, upper-lower-mizrab, lower-upper-mizrab, rukh (right-left) mizrab, santur-mizrab (top-down-top) and other codes, the dumb finger  (vibration) , scrolling, slipping  finger (qlissando) and methods are also used.

Artist beats with mizrab in string and by pressing tar in breast makes sound waved for a long time. The effect occurred during a break is called “khum”.

Notes for tar are written in  “do” system mezzo-soprano key. Sound structure of tar is chromatic, and covers 2.5 octave. Its diapason is from small octave’s “do” to the second octave’s  “sol” sound.

Percussion instruments

Great kosh drum


In some regions, it is called as “wedding drum” . Its diameter is significantly greater than other drums.

Great drum never sounded alone. In most cases, it is played together with jura drum. Its technical possibilities are limited compared to other drums. Kos drums of big size though was forgotten but its minimized size form is used by zourna group at present. Two wooden sticks are stricken on both sides of the surface of the instrument and it is sounded. This type of drums only are used in the open air.

its frame is made of solid cylindrical form wood, while the surface are made of leather. Diameter is 400-450 mm, height is 500-550 mm.



Daf is one of the percussion musical instruments with own role in the historical development of our musical culture. To imagine medieval music parties without daf was impossible.

In miniature works of art described the palace music parties daf has its own place in combinations of jang-ney-daf, barbat-jang-ney-, ney-tanbur-daf.

A pair of copper is fixed in each of the four sides of the frame and it provides sound timbre of idiomembrane instrument. Its frame is made of nuts, and face from fish skin. The diameter of daf is 250-260 mm, and thickness of frame is 45-50 mm.

At present, it is rarely used.



Belongs to a group of one-sided percussion instruments. There is enough information about this instrument widespread in the  territory of Azerbaijan in workks on the classics, in  miniatures. Tambourine, perhaps, is the only instrument that could save its initial form up to our days. In the Middle Ages, it was used in the palace music parties. In many Eastern countries, for example, among the peoples of Central Asia different sizes of tambourine are widespread.

Tambourine though is a membrane instrument but there are signs of belonging to the idiophonic instruments. Metal rings hung in its frame in some cases, four small bells, and makes unique sound timbre by being shaken. Tambourine was included in the orchestra of folk instruments by U.Hajibeyov as the main instrument, the composer himself wrote the first note of the party.

Singer keeps tambourine by both hands and with slaps and fingers plays the instrument. It is possible to get trel, tremola, mordent and others on this instrument with a wide range of performance possibilities. During performance of rang, daramad, tasnif and zarb mugams by trio the participation of tambourine is required.

Around the inner part of the  frame made of walnut tree a number of small copper rings with height of 60-70 are fixed. Tanned sturgeon skin is covered on the face with a special way. As fish skin is thin and transparent, its voice timbre is very charming. Width is 60-75 mm, and diameter is 350-450 mm.

Armpit drum


It is one type of drum, generally used in group of zourna, balaban and other instruments. Previously, the wolf-skin was covered on surface.

At present, armpit drum as the leading instrument in the ensemble and orchestra has the big role. Nagara (drum) is the Arabic word and means “beating”, “bang”. The instrument is played both by hand and fingers. In some examples of folklore it is also played with two light sticks. During the play double slap, tremolo, trel and flicking methods are used, too. In drum with very strong voice dynamics it is possible to get various timbre patterns. Played freely in the open air. In folk traditions, folk-game performances, as well as in dances like “Jangi”, “Yalli” and others armpit drum is used. Its fame is made of walnut, apricot, and various types of wood materials with cylindrical-shaped form, and the height is 350-360 mm, diameter is 300-310 mm.

Double drum


One of the most used percussion musical instruments in folk music. As is clear from its name, double drum consists of two small glass-shaped drums attached to one another. Sometimes it sis called as “qosha dumbul” (“double drum”).

This instrument was previously made from clay, and later wood and metal. Its surface was made of  camel, calf or goat skin and then fixed in body with metal fittings. By means of those fittings the tuning of the instrument is provided. The instrument is played with two wooden hammers but putting on special table.

As double drum is prepared individually, so it sizes vary. In most cases, the height is 300-330 mm, body’s diameter is 240-280 mm, and the smaller one is 110-140 mm. It sis used in national samples of folk music, as well as in orchestras and ensembles. Double drum with specific sound timbre is used rarely as solo instrument.