Turkish Folk Music Instruments

The Musical Instrument: The word instrument is produced from the verb "to play". The other international names for instruments are Saz (Persian), instrument (French, English and German), strumento (Italian), instrumento (Spanish).

The Turkish Folk Music Instruments:

1)Stringed musical instruments:

a)Plectrum instruments: (Baglama group) divan, baglama, cura, tar, etc.

b)Bow instruments: Iklig, kabak kemane, Karadeniz kemençesi, etc.

2)Wind musical instruments: Zurna mey, tulum, kaval, sipsi, düdük, çigirtma etc.

3)Repercussion musical instruments:

a)Skin covered musical instruments played beating: Drums, darbuka, tambourine, nagara etc.

b)Musical instruments played striking: Kasik, zil, zilli masa, çalpara, etc.

Stringed Musical Instruments:

a)Plectrum instruments:

Baglama Group: (Musical instruments like divan, baglama, cura etc, are known as "Baglama Group" in the Turkish Folk music).

Firstly, we must know about kopuz, the fore father of instruments, in order to find out what Baglama Group musical instruments are. At the outset of the history of music, human beings were attached by the sounds that the reed pipes have produced, subsequently, bows and arrows which they have used for hunting animals were created as musical instruments as well.

Those people have rubbed the arrows onto the bows and thus, produced a certain kind of sound which they have called "oklug" later, they attached a white gourd to the Oklug which took the name of "Iklig". They have played these instruments with bows made of horse tail hair.

They have, also, tightly stretched thin skins onto the white gourds and added a handle to it. Thus, they have obtained more distinct sounds by stretching strings on the bound skin.

It is understood from the historical documents that those instruments which were played by bows were called "Iklig" and the others which were played by plectrums were called "Kopuz".

Iklig is known to be the fore father of the bow musical instruments and Kopuz of the plectrum instruments.

Kopuz has been played in the later years as musical instrument which was made out of an hollowed oval tree-trunk, covered tightly with sheep's skin and catgut strings stretched over it.

In the later periods, that skin was replaced by a thin plate of fine wood and the catguts by metal strings.

Kopuz has gradually been forgotten towards the end of the 17th century and the term "Baglama" replaced it.

It is an accepted fact that "Baglama" was first created by the Central Asian Turks. Although we do not exactly know where the word "Baglama" originates from, it is most likely that the frets on the handle of it might have given the people the inspiration to call it with that name.

This assertion is further confirmed by the fact that Kopuz actually did not bear any frets in its earlier stages.

Various size baglamas with various names given to them in various regions prove that Baglama Group is not just a small one.

Baglama Group is consists of the following musical instruments:

Divan Sazi:

It has nine strings three in one group. Some performers use it with seven strings, three in the lower part, two in the upper part. "Divan sazi" is one of the basic instruments of the Turkish Folk Music. It carries 30-32 frets on its handle. Its thinnest strings are 0.40 mm thick. Its lower strings are tuned to the key "Re". The tunes of the lower strings in the Baglama Group musical instruments generally do not change.

Only the middle and the upper string tunes change. Middle strings are tuned to the key "Sol" and upper ones to "do".


It is the basic musical instrument of the Baglama Group. It is tuned four times thinner than the Divan Sazi. It has nine strings, three is in one group. Lower strings are tuned to the key "Sol" middle strings to "Do" and lower strings to "Re".

Baglama is the most decent and widely played instrument in the folk music. It is often considered very identical with a human-being. Namely, the top of the handle is called as "the head" tuning keys as " the ears ", surface of the body as "the chast" and the bulky box as "the body".

The body of Baglama is either made out of a mono block of an oval tree-trunk or of wood slices which is then called a "yaprak saz".

The body of a baglama can be made of any type of tree. But the chest of a baglama is made of pine and fir trees. There are 13 to 30 frets fitted on its fairly long handle.

Catgut strings were used on Baglama in the early stages. Today thin copper wire threads are wound around steel or brass strings. A plectrum made out of a cherry-tree bark is used while playing, it is also called "Bozuk" in some areas. "Bozuk" contains 15 to 18 frets. This musical instrument is also fitted by sittings, 3 in one group. "Bozuk" is practiced generally in the southern parts and the Aegean Region of Turkey.

Lower strings one tuned to the key "La" the middle ones to "Re" and the upper strings one tuned to the key "Sol".

A smaller type of baglama is called "Tambura" which is one octave thinner than the "Divan sazi". It is not much different from Baglama. It produces 5 sounds thinner than a Baglama does. Six strings are fitted on it, 2 in each group.

Lower strings are tuned to the key of "Re" the middle ones to "Sol" and the upper strings are tuned to the key of "Do". The strings are made of steel.


It is the smallest of the Baglama Group. It contains 7 to 16 frets. They are generally with 6 strings and sometimes with 3 too.

"Cura" is tuned in the same order like "Baglama" and "Bozuk".

Two-String Curas are tuned to the key of "Re" on the string and to the key of "Sol" on the upper strings.

Three-String Curas are tuned from the lower to the upper strings.

"Cura" is played by fingertips instead of a plectrum in the Burdur, Denizli and Mugla Regions.


It means strings. It is the developed form of "Kopuz". Azerbaijani tunes are generally performed with this musical instruments. This instrument which is played by placing it on the man's chest, is widely practiced in Iran and Soviet Azerbaijan.

It produces a beautiful sound peculiar to its own. The body of a Tar is made out of hollow tree. Its chest is tightly bound with a fine sheep's skin.

Frets are fitted on its rather long handle. It carries nine strings on it. The steel strings of a Tar are tuned by intervals of 4 and 5. The lower strings are tuned to the key of "Do" the middle one to "Sol" and the upper strings are tuned to the key of "Do". Its plectrum is made out of an animal's horn.

Bow Musical Instruments:


It is the oldest bow musical instruments of the Turks. It is a three-string musical instrument which is, in some areas, made out of a white gourd, the chest being covered with a fine animal skin.

Although these bow musical instruments the strings of which are made of horse tail hair and the strings made of horse tail hair and the strings made of catgut are called Iklig, another similar instrument with 3 strigns.

Practiced in the Aegean Region is also called "Tirnak Kemanesi".

Ikligs whose bodies are made out of coconut tree bark are called "Rebabs are performed in the Southern Turkey under the very same name.

It is ascertained that a five-string bow musical instrument, Ravza, has been performed in Istanbul in the middle of the 17th century.

Ravza which is played with a plectrum, is called "Irizva" in the Southern Anatolian Region.

Kabak Kemane

It is also called "Iklig" since it is believed that Kabak Kemane is the developed form of "Iklig". Its strings are made of steel. The body is usually made out of a white gourd. This musical instrument which is basically with 3 strings, was also made in such a form that 4 strings may also be fitted on it.

Diameter of body : 14-15 cm.

Depth : 10-12 cm.

Height of handle : 30 cm.

Length of strings : 33 cm.

Range of sound : 4-5 octaves

According to the Turkish music According to the western music

1.Strings RE ……………………….. ……………………FA

2.Strings LA …………………………………………….. DO

3.Strings RE ……………………….. ……………………FA

4.Strings SOL ………………………. …………………..SI(flat)

"Kabak Kemane" is played while sitting and it is placed on the left knee. It has its special bow. The bow is made of horse tail hair. A slightly large size of this instrument is called "Kemençe" in the Eastern Anatolian Region. Kemençe is performed together with a "Tar".

Karadeniz Kemençesi

Two separate kinds of Kemençes are used in the performance of the Turkish music. The popular folk instrument used in the Black Sea Region is called the "Karadeniz Kemençesi" and the one used in the Classical Turkish Music is called the "Klasik Kemençe". The Black Sea kemençe is played by applying the finger-tips on the steel strings. Three-string kemençe is tuned in the order of RE, LA and SOL. Kemençe which was spreader over to Asia and Europe has, also, been very popular among the Seljukees and the Iranians.

The Black Sea Kemençe is performed in solo. Its body is made out of walnut and mulberry trees.

1,5-2 mm chest is made of pine and fir trees. The bow is applied on the three strings at the same time. The Black Sea kemençe can be characterised as to jollify and motivate the audience.

Length of instrument : 55,5 cm.

Length of form : 40 cm.

Length of string : 33 cm.

Length of handle : 9.5 cm.

Bridge : 16 cm.

Length of clavier : 14 cm.

Width of upper form : 6 cm.

Width of lower form : 9,5 cm.

Depth of form : 3, 5-4 cm.

Wind Musical Instruments


It is a wind musical instrument which produces the thinnest and the strongest sounds. This particular instrument was played, in accompany of drums, at the wedding-parties and festivities, battlefields as well as at the old Ottoman Military Bands.

It is also performed at the Seljukçe and Ilhanli courts, the Ottoman Military Band Concerts and the Ceremean Nakkare Han (place in a palace where the drums are beaten at Stated intervals.)

It was a tradition for the Asian Turkish Khans to gift drums and zurna to friendly clams.

The word Zurna comes from a Persion word "Surnay". "Sur" means the wedding and "Nay" means the reed.

It is also used with various other names in the other in international languages.

Zurnas became bigger in size as one move from the East to the west in Turkey. They care groupedin to three catagories:

1.Kaba Zurna

2.Orta Zurna

3.Cura Zurna (Zil Zurna)

As a Evliya Çelebi, an internationally renowned Turkish Traveller, zurnas may be grouped as follows: Kaba Zurna, cura zurna, asafi zurna, sihabi zurna, Arabi zurna, Acemi zurna and Sebati zurna.

It is called the Turkish "Obua" in Europe. But, Obua is the developed form of zurna.

Zurnas are composed of the following parts:


2.Top and nezik (nazik)

3.Avurtlak or Tablu


On the body which is made of a plum-tree are 7 sound holes in the front and I sound hole at the back. The body gradually gets larger uptilt the mouth piece of the instrument which is also called "Kabak".

The top part which is made of boxwood is fitted in normal tightness.

The reed which is as thin as on the obua, is tightly fixed onto the mouth piece of the instrument after it is softened and dually tempered.

The reed of the zurna is guide different that of the obua as far as its position in the performers mouth is concerned.

It does not have a wide range of diapason like Ney and Kaval.


It is an old Turkish musical wind instrument. It is mainly practiced in the Eastern part of the country. Evliya Çelebi mentions the Asian name of Mey as follows:

"Belbam or Balaban was first discovered in Shiraz.

It does not have a "Kalak" like in Zurna. It is widely used by the Turks "100 people played it".

That is to say that these instruments were practiced in Istanbul in the 17th century.

Türkmens beyond the Casbean Sea use "Mey" even today with the same original name. (V. Belaier 1937: Fitret page:48)

Lower point of the "Mey" body is not as large as in Zurna. It comes down straight as in Kaval (pipe). "Mey" is composed of three parts:



3.Reed claws which help sounds to be produced accurately.

The best meys are those which are made of plum-trees. They also vary in size; the body lengths are 40 cm in Ana Mey, 35 cm. in Orta Mey and 30 cm. in Cura Mey.

It has one octavo sound range. These exist 8 sound holes, 7 on the top of the body and 1 at the bottom. 9-10 hole mey is still practiced in Azerbaijan and Türkistan under the name of "Balaban"

Tulum (Bagpipe)

It is generally played in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey even today. "Tulum" was also called "Tuluk" by the old Turks. After the hairs are cleaned out on the sheep's skin, the leg parts are cut. The holes other than those on the front right and rean left legs, are toed up firmly so that no air is let out. A small wooden pipe is fitted on the front foot and two other pipes on the rear foot with some holes on them. Thus "Tulum" takes its fundamental shape. The bagpipe in blown through that wooden pipe which also acts as a mouthpiece 7. When the bag is filled up with air then the music sounds are produced automatically.

It is composed of three parts: Skin nav and mouthpiece. Skin (Bag): Air reservoir. Nar: Keyboard with holes.

Mouthpiece: The part from whore the air is blow in to the bag for storage purpose. There are 5 pairs of parallel holes on the Keyboard. As finger joints are skilfully used, not only two parallel tunes can be performed but also on accompaniment to a time may also be obtained.

New Air should be blown into the bag with short intervals as to keep the consistency of the music produced.


"Sipsi" is made of bones and reeds, 20 cm. in length and 1 cm in diameter. There are 5 sound holes in the front partion and 1 in the lower partion. It is a primitive folk instrument. Wind instrument learners, generally, start by using this particular instrument. Today it is widely played in the western Mediterranean region of Turkey. Six sounds are obtained through six sound holes. The 7th and 8th sounds are obtained by giving strength to the air blown in.


Düdük (Düllüce, Kaval), the simplest in playing, is widely played in the country side. It is the same as black-flute. There are 7 sound holes on the top and l at the bottom its diapason is as high as nearly 2,5 octave.

Çigirtma (Dilsiz düdük)

It is made of wing-bones of an eagle, straight and hollow inside. It is know as "Örtkeçin" in the old Turks.

It is 20-30 cm. in length and has 5-7 sound holes on it. Recently, they came to be produced out of wood, reed and metal. Its diapason is a high as nearly 2.5 octave.

Kaval (Shephard's Pipe)

The word is produced from "Kav" which means a hollow thing. It is also called Guvval, Goval and Gaval. It is considered as a holy instrument among the Southern Anatolian inhabitants and the tribesmen. The German Curts Sachs has declared that "Kaval" is a Turkish originated instrument. Again, in a tomb unearthed during the archeological excavations in 1933's in the area of Jinoshid, Zulhak, Hungary, Öt "Ötkeçin" was traced which was believed to have belonged to a Turkish Avar Stepland.

They vary between 50 cm.-80 cm. in length. They are made of reed, bone wood and metal. The best ones are made of plum-trees. "Kavals" are classified into two; dilli and dilsiz. They carry sound holes, 7 on the upper portion and l in the lower. They have a diapason of 2,5 octave.

"Kaval" has the chromatic and diatonic octaves although other musical instruments such as düdük, zurna, çigirtma etc, have sound holes which produce only full notes.

Besides, there is another musical instrument, "Çifte" which is formed by the attachment of the bone or reed made of two blocks side by side and the sound is obtained through a special part called "cukcuk" fitted to the top part of the instrument.

Çiftes are grouped into two; demli and demsiz. On the demli "Çiftes" are 1-2 sound on one of the blocks and they produce bass sounds.

On the demsiz "Çiftes" are 5-7 sound holes on both of the blocks.

Repercussion Instruments


It is the oldest repercussion instrument that Turks have played for thousands of years. It may also be defined as one of the first repercussion instruments that was ever played by the human-beings. The origin of it, is the Central Asia.

The oldest inscriptions ever written about drums were in relation with Huns of Asia.

A bride, a Chinese who was also a poetess, to a Hun Chief described the attitudes of Huns in the following prose:

They beat drum unrepeatedly every night.

Uptill dawn they whirl. (200 B.C.)

It is understood that the old Turks have used the large drums, in the army and the emperor's accompaniment and the smaller ones in Saman.

Drum which is the symbol of sovereignty and the national instrument of the Turks, is known together with other elements like Tug, Sancak Bayrak (banner flag), hutbi, sikke. The large drums are called Kös. Drum which are amount the most important repercussion instruments in the Ottoman Military Band, have had great role in the victories that the Turks have achieved in the history.

Because, the sound that the drums produced went too far distances with roaring tone, the enemies were discouraged as they thought that this sound was cannon firings.

Drums were not only played in the Military Bands but also were played in the jazz and the symphonic orchestras.

Turks play drums generally in company of Zurna. Both of them are the musical instruments of the significant days. It is always thought there is something important going on where drums and zurnas are played together. For instance; a festival, a wedding ceremony, a horse-race, oil wrestling of Kirkpinar, a kind of sports competition. If drums are played in solo, then it means that something is to be made public.

Drums are in two kinds in Yörük. One is small and the other is large. The large ones are called "Kaba Davul" and the small ones are called "Cura Davul" or "Davulbaz".

Davulbaz is not practiced nowadays. It is rather used as an instrument for warning of something to the people and inviting them to collect.

It is traced among the folk songs; davulbaz was played in the early days under the names of "Dabinlaz" and "Dabinbaz". Although drums are generally played with a mallet and a stick in some regions, they are played with finger-tips, placing the drum under the arm and this kind is called "Nagars" or "Koltuk Davulu". Their diameters are rather short and not so deep inside as compared with other kinds of drums. Their diameter is about 40 cm. and depth is 40 cm. Where as the diameter is 50-60 cm and the depth is 30-40 cm. in the large drums.

Among Turks, playing drum is literarily an art. The Virtuous of drums who is known as "Karayilan" is a Turk too. Drums are made of curved wooden hoops with animal hide stretched on both sides of them. Hides are tightly Stretched on durum by means of "kaytan or sirim" on the special ceremonial performances like Ramadan. In the Military and Kettle drums, hides are tightly stretched mechanically.

Drums are composed of the following parts: the Hoop, the Hide, the Rim, the Kaytan or Sirim, the Shoulder-Belt, the Mallet and Stick.


Darbuka is originated from a Persian word "Darb" that means "Strike". It is a repercussion instrument. The body of it is either made of wood or metal and the hide atop is stretched by means of sorrows. It is not much different from other instruments such as dümbelek, dümbek, cümbek, and küp which are played by women at the wedding ceremonies in Anatolia. They are rather played in folk dances and also practiced in the classical Turkish music.

It is, in dümbelek, placed on the knee and played by striking of the finger-tips. There are many professional darbuka players in the Turkish folk and classical music. The one who plays darbuka is called a "Darbuke".

Dümbelek is what the old Istanbul residents termed "Çifte nakkare". In the weddings of the Aegean region, the woman Dümbelek Players practice, for instance, "dümbül, dümbül, dümbül, dümbüldek" in order define the 9 rhythmic form. In some villages of the same region, people call it Dümbek. The body of darbuka is made of matured earth, mouth part is covered with a fine hide and tripe which are tightly stretched. Stretching process is done by way of Kaytan or Sirim as in Kudüms.

Dümbelek is also called debelek, debildek, deplek and devlek. Deblek is the mere instrument of the Türkmen women in all, living in the south. It is in the shape of a darbuka. An animal hide or a tripe is stretched on it. Being different from Darbuka two strings are stretched right under the hide crosswise. Sometimes small bells are also fitted to those strings and it is played by finger-tips as to conform with the rhythm of the music.

Def (Tambourine)

It is rumoured that tambourine was first played at the wedding ceremony of H. Süleyman and Belkis.

It has spreaded to Spain by the Arabs and to the Central Europe, Hungary, Romania and Poland by the Turks.

Tambourine is the most important instrument of the fasil music. Fasil without a tambourine can not be imagined. Tambourine player is called "Hanende" or "Defzen". Fasil is conducted by musicians who played this instrument.

It is played with finger-tips, the sound produced through the bells fitted in the hoop of its added colour and rhythm to the music.

Hoop of the tambourine, 25-30 cm. in diameter and 5-6 cm. in width, is stretched with a fine animal hide. Around the hoop there are 5 pairs of brass bells.


They look like exactly eating spoons and generally are made of boxwood and wild pear-tree. Handles are sometimes short. Sound is produced by holding two spans in one hand and striking them together simultaneously.

It is extensively used as an instrument of rhythm in the music of the cities like Konya, Balikesir, Eskisehir, Bilecik, Çankiri, Zonguldak, Içel and in Western Anatolian Region.

Zil (Bells)

They are made of brass or copper. They are round and 2 cm. in diameter. It is played by fingers, a pair fitted on each finger. It is called Halile in the religious music which is large and 30 cm. in diameter. These are not often played today. These instruments are almost what cymballs are in Europe.

Zilli Masa

It is in the shape of a two or three fork tongs. It carries a total number of 4 eyeballs, two attached on each fork of the tong. It is played by striking to the fingers of the other hand while one hand holds the tong. The other names for Zilli Masa are Masa and Saksak.

Çalpare (Çarpare)

It is composed of 4 pieces of wood in the shape of a spoon, generally, made of boxwood. They are attached to each other with a string or another substance. It is played like Zilli Masa. Two are held in the palm of one hand and the other two in the palm of the other hand and sound is produced by striking both of them.

This was popular in the Iranian music. It was later adapted by the Arabs and from them the Spaniards and eventually, "Kastanyet" were shaped up. Some of our proverbs are also assimilated with Çalpare. For instance; "Çalparasiz oynamak", "Etegi çalpara çalmak" means to be very joyful.

Source : Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture, Directorate General of Fine Arts