Iranian Musical Instruments

     would like to introduce some of the most important musical instrument of Iran. The general term Iranian in the context of musical instruments refers to all instruments, which are originated by any Iranian folk like the term Iranian Daf.

The specific term of Persian in the context of musical instruments refers to all musical instruments, which used to be played in the Persian classical music like Persian tar, Persian santoor, Persian ney etc... All other instruments, which are not used to be played in Persian classical music and refers to an Iranian ethnicity, will be called by the name of the folk
like Kurdish daf or Baluchi Rabab.   



Iranian tar | Persian tar


Iranian tar | Persian tar [Persian long necked plucked lute]

Tar is the double-chested plucked lute with a membrane as a sound-box, found in Iran and the Caucasus. It exists in two forms, the Persian and the Azerbaijani or Caucasian. [In Persian language tār-e Shiraz and/or tār-e Qafqāz].

Persian tar is more associated with Persian art music, especially after its popularity thru such 19th-century performers as Ali-Akbar Farahani, Mirza Hosseynqoli etc….

The Persian tar is carved from a block of mulberry wood and has a deep, curved Body with two bulges shaped like a figure 8. The upper surface is shaped like two hearts of different sizes, joined at the points (see Illustration). The timber nasality of Persian tar is because of the lamb's fetus skin used for the soundtable. On the lower skin a horn bridge supports six metal strings in three courses, tuned c'/c' - g/g - c/c'. The strings are plucked with a brass plectrum coated in wax, making possible both subtlety and virtuosity in the playing technique. The long neck has a fingerboard covered with camel leg bone. Based on performer style, there are movable gut frets from 22 to 27 on the fingerboard; accordingly the octave will be divided from 15 to 17 microtonal intervals.
The Caucasian tar (tār-e qafqāzi) is differentiated from the Persian by its shallower, less curved body. The Caucasian instrument has a wider neck and bridge than the Persian, and usually has 22 gut frets. These can be adjusted to produce microtonal intervals for traditional mugam performance or to the 12-note tempered scale. The membrane, usually made of the pericardium of a bullock, is thicker than the Persian type. The strings are plucked with a plectrum usually made of Bakelite or similar hard, synthetic material, or in rare cases of bone. The timbre is harder and drier. It is held almost horizontally against the upper chest, and the performer shakes the tar slightly to produce a vibrating sound. The Caucasian tar is highly esteemed in Azerbaijan and Armenia. It is sometimes found among the Turks of Khorasan and in Uzbek and Tajikistan, where it is played in ensemble and, in the Shirvani style of epic performance, by bakhshis, and has also been introduced in Turkey.




Iranian Ney | Persian Ney


Ney with different transcription and transliteration forms like nai and nay refers to various oblique rim-blown flute of Iran, Turkey and some central Asian countries. The term derives from the old Persian for 'reed' or `bamboo' and by extension 'reed flute'.

The instrument has been known in the Near East since antiquity; iconographic and written documents attest its use by the ancient Egyptians in the 3rd millennium BCE. A Sumerian silver flute dating from 2450 BC has been found in the royal cemetery of Ur in Southern Mesopotamia.


Persian ney or the ney of Iran is primarily a classical instrument; it is made of a seven-segment section of reed with six nodes, 40 to 80 cm long, and has five finger-holes and one thumb-hole producing the basic pitches c', d', e', f , f#', g', a' (the e and a are a quarter-tone flat). Musicians often use different sizes of ney during a concert. The missing notes can be obtained by varying the breath pressure, and the range can thus be extended to two and a half octaves.

A virtuoso can play the three-octave range an one instrument by altering the position of his fingers on the holes, by movements of the lips and head, and by breath control.


As the bevelled edge of the mouth-hole is sharp on the inside, it is often covered by a metal band to prevent damage to the instrument. The Joints are sometimes made at the nodes of the reed, the tube of which can be decorated with engraving.

The reed pipe from which the instrument is made should be not less than three years old and the tube must be hard, smooth and Compact; the distance between the nodes is taken into consideration.

Persian ney Players place the rim between their teeth, which produces a warmer and more powerful tone; The ney is the only wind instrument in the classical Persian orchestra, but its melodic and rhythmic resources fit it equally for solo performance.

Various popular forms of the Iranian ney are known, made of wood, reed or metal and with various vernacular names, for example the Baluchi nel, Turkmen tüydük and Kurdish shimshal.



Kurdish Daf | Iranian Daf | Persian Daf


Seddigh Mohammadi Kurdish daf maker


  Daf with its different transcription and transliteration forms like Daff, dap, def, deff, defi, diaff, duff, refers to round single-headed frame drum connected with oriental cultures.

The drum had been widely used in Folk and entertainment music. In Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere it has historical and contemporary associations with Sufi rituals. In varying forms it is found in West Asia, the Caucasus, the Iranian plateau, Central Asia and south-eastern Europe. The drum is used in a wide variety of settings: folk music, art music, entertainment and dance music and Sufi religious rituals.

Kurdish type of frame drum is historically related to the pre-Islamic Iranian dap. Variant examples appear in Armenia and among the Uighurs of Central Asia (dap); in Azerbaijan (ghaval, gaval); in Turkey, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia (def); in Greece, particularly the north (defi).

The Kurdish Daf has a hole or notch for the thumb to act as a support. The size of the daf drum vary between 50 and 60 cm in diameter and 5-7 cm in depth. There are dafs of tenuous version 51 cm in diameter and 5 cm in depth, which are famous as female daf drums.

In Iran in Kurdish districts there are Khaneghahi version of daffs used in Sufi ceremonies may be up to 60 cm in diameter 7-8 cm in depth with metallic rings or chains are intrinsic to the performative effect.

Usually the player holds the drum with both of hands and beats the skin with the fingers, thumb and palm of the hands. Metallic percussive effects are obtained by tilting or shaking the drum, or hitting the frame. The player may kneel, sit, stand or move about while playing the drum.

Kurdish tanbour | Kurdish tanbur
Kermanshah, Gahvareh or Kerend

Kurdish tanbour | Kurdish tanbur | Kurdish tanboor

Tanbour with different transcription and transliteration forms like tambour, tanbur, tambur, tamboor or tanboor, refers to various long-necked, fretted lutes originating mainly in Iranian Kurdistan. Tanbour is one of the important instruments of ancient Iran and the ceremonial and religious instrument of Ahl-e-haq community. In the past two kinds of tanbour were common: Khorasani tanbour and Baghdadi tanbour.

Tanbour is one of the few Iranian musical instruments, which is sacred. In the zikr gatherings of Ahl-e-haq tanbour is the only instrument, which can be brought to these meetings. This instrument at present is used most often in the Kermanshah province, in the Kurdish regions of Goran, Sahne, Kerend, and Gahvare, and in the northern part of Lorestan. Generally wherever you can find a Yarsani community, a tanbour can be found there as well.


Most of tanbours from Goran have a solid bowl body, while the ones from Sahne mostly have a striped bowl body. The oldest known tanbour with a striped bowl was made by Ostad Khodaverdi 120-130years ago. His instruments are made from 7 strips.

The holes of the top:
There are some holes on the top of tanbour. The number and position of these holes can vary from one maker to the other.

Frets: Tanbours of the Goran region have usually 13 frets and the ones from the Sahne region mostly 14 frets. offers diverse professional and semi professional quality tanbours from different regions of Iranian Kurdistan. They all are made in and shipped from Kermanshah, Gahvare, Sahne, or Kerend.


Gahvare is a tanbour making town, where many people are great tanbour makers. It is a town, where the making of tanbour its roots and tradition has.

Many tanbour makers copied the famous tanbour maker from Gahvare, the late Ostad Assadollah Gahvare, for solid body tanbours. The tanbours from Ostad Khodaverdi are now someone of the most important patterns for striped body tanbours.