Azerbaijani musical instruments

Azerbaijani traditional musical instruments are designed for emotional color, rhythm, tempo and artistic features of Azerbaijani traditional music. Furthermore, it got through a very long path of historic development and carried many characteristic features of Azerbaijani traditional music. Many of string, wind and percussion instruments were made long before our era and developed over the course of the history and provided a basis for Azerbaijani traditional musical treasury.[1]

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Types of Azerbaijani musical instruments

Instruments used in traditional Azerbaijani music include the stringed instruments tar (skin faced lute), the kamancha (skin faced spike fiddle), the oud, originally barbat, and the saz (long necked lute); the double-reed wind instrument balaban, the frame drum ghaval, the cylindrical double faced drum nagara (davul), and the goshe nagara (naqareh) (pair of small kettle drums). Other instruments include the garmon (small accordion), tutek (whistle flute), and daf (frame drum).

Due to the cultural crossbreeding prevalent during the Ottoman Empire, the tutek has influenced various cultures in the Caucasus region, e.g. the duduks. The zurna and naghara duo is also popular in rural areas, and played at weddings and other local celebrations.[2]

Instruments can be played individually, in an improvisational manner, in ensembles, during traditional ceremonies and folk dances.[3]

String instruments

The main stringed instruments are tar and kamancha, which are the part of the national music mugham. They together with ghaval create trio in mugham. Tar is a keyhole-shaped and kamancha is round shaped instrument. Their strings are made of silk or horsehair.[4][5] Tar traditionally crafted around the country and in 2012 craftsmanship of tar was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists of Humanity.[6] Walnut or mulberry trees are used in order to carve tar. It has long neck and deep body. Traditionally neck was tied 27-28 frets. In the twentieth century Azerbaijani musician Mirza Sadigh (also known as Sadighjan) made some changes by increasing number of strings to18. Then he reduces strings to 13. In order to strengthen the sound effects, he reduced the depth of the body part by flattening the sides.[7]

In 1932, Uzeyir Hajibeyov created an orchestra consisted of Azerbaijani folk instruments. The first tar and kamancha concerts with symphony orchestra were arranged by Haji Khanmammadov. Nowadays, Farkhad Khudyev and Imamyar Hasanov are well-known Azerbaijani kamancha players. In 2013, Farkhad Khudyev performed concert for kamancha with the Youth Music Monterrey County Symphony Orchestra from California dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Khamammadov’s Symphony Orchestra.[8]

Another stringed instrument is saz which is performed by ashiks. It is an ancient musical instrument that originally national poems were narrated by.[9] In 2009, Azerbaijani ashik music was included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO.[10]

Percussion instruments

Naghara is cylinder shaped instrument played with hands or sticks and made of membrane or leather of animals. The base of the naghara is wooden and made of walnut, mulberry or apricot trees. There are a number of types of naghara such as, goltug naghara, bala naghara and manual naghara. Gosha naghara are two joined nagharas with the same height but different sized, which is usual for Azerbaijani music.[8]

Classical mugham instrument ghaval (also called daf) is shallow round shaped drum. The frame surrounded by metal rings inside.[11]

Wind instruments

The wind instrument balaban (also sometimes called as balaman) is widely used in ceremonies. The origin of the word comes from “bala” – little, “ban” – sound of cockcrow. Balaban carved from the trees of walnut, mulberry, apricot or pear. The length of the instrument is up to 30 centimeters.[12] The main body of the instrument consisted of the eight holes and there is a hollow in the lower part of the balaban. During the performances, players use their fingers by blowing the instrument. Sound effects are created regarding to the air flows from the holes.[11][13]

Ney is considered as an ancient wind musical instrument and the main body of the instrument is made from one piece of reed. The ney is 55-60 centimeters long. There are five holes on the front side of the body and one in the back.[14]

There are known two types of tutak such as, small and large tutaks in Azerbaijan. The front side has seven and the back side has six holes. The body of the instrument is made from a piece of walnut, mulberry, apricot trees or reed. The length of the finished barrel is 28-30 centimeters and the diameter – 20mm. The main difference between the tutak and other Azerbaijani wind instruments its sound is mild.[15]

Zurna is an instrument that widely used in Azerbaijan. The word zurna consists of two parts: “sur” (great party) and “nay” (reed). The 302-317 mm long body is carved from the trees of walnut, mulberry or apricot trees and the width of the mouth pieces is 20 mm and extends in the end portion up to 65 mm. According to the archeological excavations there is found four pipes made from deer horn in Mingachevir.[16]


  1. "Atlas of traditional music of Azerbaijan". Retrieved 2017-05-23.
  2. "Archived copy" Азербайджанская свадьба. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2014-06-26. Retrieved 26 June 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. Music and Conflict. University of Illinois Press. September 2010. ISBN 9780252035456.
  5. Azerbaijan (Cultures of the World). Benchmark Books. March 2006. ISBN 9780761420118.
  6. "Craftsmanship and performance art of the Tar, a long-necked string musical instrument - intangible heritage - Culture Sector - UNESCO". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  7. "National Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan for UNESCO". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  8. Huseynova, Aida (March 2016). Music of Azerbaijan: From Mugham to Opera (Ethnomusicology Multimedia). Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253019455.
  9. Rustamkhanli, Sabir (April 2013). My Road of Life. AuthorHouseUK. ISBN 9781481791823.
  10. "Art of Azerbaijani Ashiq - intangible heritage - Culture Sector - UNESCO". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  11. The Music of Central Asia. Indiana University Press. December 2016. ISBN 9780253017512.
  12. "Balaban". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  13. "Azerbaijan :: Balaban". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  14. "Azerbaijan :: Ney". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  15. "Azerbaijan :: Pipe –tutak". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  16. "Azerbaijan :: Zourna". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 2018-06-24.
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