By Maral Maljian
& other sources
Blul (Syrink) (Image)
It is a single flute whose aperture
is round, not closed or shaped in any way, except that its diameter is
slightly less at the mouthpiece than at the bell. It is made of ebony.
. . an instrument of the Kurdish shepherds. From Turkish Armenia."
precussion instrument is the dap. A medium to large sized frame
drum (Frame Drums are the musicologist's term for a class of percussion
instruments constructed of a shallow cylindrical frame over which a skin
is stretched and may or may not have jingles). The dap has no jingles
similar to the Duff. It is used mainly in classical music and folk music
and can also be spelled Daf or Def.
The Dhol is the national percussion
instrument of Armenia, used nowadays in almost every genre of traditional
Armenian music. It is a versatile drum, very similar to the tom-tom of
a standard drum set in shape. The shell is usually made of pear or apricot
wood and is approximately 12 to 14 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep.
Both ends of the cylinder are covered in sheep or goatskin and are adjustable
for tension using rope lacing and small pulleys. A dhol is capable of producing
a very wide range timbres and volume suitable for use in almost any setting.
drum of Armenian Music and the middle eastern world is called the
or sometimes called the Tumpook. Armenians from Anatolia (Eastern
Turkey) used a copper or brass Dumbek Traditionally they are made
of clay with a fish-skin head that is glued and/or laced on. The Doumbek
resembles an hourglass in shape and can produce many sounds depending on
how it is hit. There are no sticks involved when playing this instrument.
The bare hands are used. Hitting a doumbek towards the edge as opposed
to the middle can make it sound hollow or rubbery. You can even hit a few
notes depending on how you play it. There are so many noises you can make
with a doumbek
I can't even begin to explain them. Because of this
property of the
doumbek, authentic Armenian Rythm cannot be notated.
It is too sophistocated to fit the pattern of Western notation. In fact
most of authentic Armenian music cannot be notated because of the presence
of semi-tones and quarter tones. This is why most of our Music is passed
on by oral tradition. This leaves room for lots of melodic embellishment.
You can definitly see this when an Armenian band plays.
consider the duduk to be their national instrument. The Duduk is
a flute like instrument which is identical in both Armenia and Turkey.
It looks like a straight tree branch and is estimated to be about 3,000
years old. It has a thumbhole, 8 fingerholes, and a very large double reed.
This oboe's shaft is made from the wood of Apricot tree, Armenia's emblem
tree. Its double, very wide (2,5 cm) tonghe is made from a piece of flattened
reed; a flexible wood binding allows its tunning. The instrument is played
with the technique of circular breathing - particulary for the drones (dam).
Its extreme expressiveness comes from the art of breathing, the subtle
fingering and the pursing of the lips. No other double reed instrument
has the unique timber of the duduk, with its velvety sound. It's sound
resembles an ethereal clarinet. Whenever I hear a duduk, the sound reminds
me of a bagpipe, because the timbres are so similar. This instrument is
much smaller though. This is the same instrument used by Djivan Gasparyan
and other master duduk players in numerous highly acclaimed recordings.
Like the zurna, they are handcrafted from solid apricot wood, with a large,
durable, and removable double reed. This instrument may also be referred
to as a Mey. The name mey musn't be confused with the Arabic
instrument Ney, which is also a blown instrument from the middle
In Persian the word means "small
bow". It is a four/three-string spike-fiddle. Goussan-troubadours, like
Sayat Nova in the XVIIIth Century, were particulary fond of it. It is made
of a catfish sound-board on an apricot or walnut tree wood sound-box. Contrary
to the violin, it is the string that goes towards the bow, when the musician
turn the instrument on the spikle. The
kamanche is held by the neck
with the left hand and bowed with the right. Traditionally used as a solo
instrument for both singing and dancing, as well as listening. A popular
instrument used by the Armenian ashoughs (troubadours).
instrument used in Armenian Music and also Arabic music is the
This instrument is also very very old. A plucked instrument not unlike
the zither, whose 30 strings may be varied in pitch by the use of small
bridges. Its sounding box is half-covered in wood, half in a heavy skin
like a drum. It has twenty-three strings all of gut. It is played on the
lap and plucked with thimble like pics which are placed on the fingers.
It resembles very much the inside of the early pianos of the west. It is
triangular in shape and produces a timbre very close to the harpsichord.
The tones though are much more sophistocated.
Both the Kanoon and the Oud
tones not present in the western world. In one chromatic scale, the West
contains about 12 tones including sharps and flats. The inventor of this
scale, so they say, based it on Christianity. The twelve tone chromatic
scale symbolizes the twelve apostles of Christ. A triad or chord (which
contains 3 notes played at the same time) symbolizes the Holy Trinity (the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).
In contrast, Armenian Chromatic Scale,
similar to the Arab scale, contains well over 20. If I am correct about
26. The Indian scale or Raga is fairly broad also. It contains 22
tones. Those who have been exposed to Western music all their lives may
reply after hearing a middle eastern or Indian piece by saying, "Hey that's
out of tune!" Their ears may be used to hearing half tones, instead of
the quarter or semi-tones. Derived from the middle eastern Chromatic Scale
are many, many different specific Middle Eastern Scales,or modes.
One very common instrument in Armenian
Music and also Arabic music is the Oud. This ancestor of the Lute
has 12 strings (2 for each note). The Oud is, in fact, the ancestor of
most of the guitars in the West. It's been dated to be around 2,000 years
old and has not changed much over time.
Another string instrument used in
the middle east, especially in Turkey, is the Saz. It resembles
very much the lute. The old Armenian guitar, with three strings, a small
oval sounding box and an unusually long neck. The Oud is the ancestor
of the lute and similarly the Saz is the ancestor of the Greek Bouzouki.
the mountainous highlands of Armenia comes the Shvee, the shepherd's
pipe. Popular with mountain people and folk musicians, the shvee is now
found in professional ensembles throughout Armenia. This versatile flute
can produce two octaves of the chromatic scale, and is capable of soft,
recorder-like tones as well as powerful birdlike shrillness. Speaking of
birds, this is the flute used by Djivan Gasparyan and others to perform
the famous bird call solo so popular in Armenia, in which many different
bird calls are reproduced with uncanny accuracy. Has 6 fingerholes and
one thumb hole and is made from defect free reed cane.
Tar is a double-bellied
guitar. It has six strings and is held and played like the guitar. The
material used to make this instrument is similar to all other guitars.