Cornell University Middle Eastern Music Ensemble
Some Traditional Middle Eastern Instruments

The Oud is a fretless short neck lute played with a long plectrum called "risha". The Oud has 5 pairs of strings tuned in unison, and one bass string. The tuning of the Oud is in 4th's (low to high: CFADGC). The Oud is the instrument of choice for singers and composers.
The Nay is an end-blown cane flute with six finger holes and one thumb hole. The technique of playing the nay requires partially covering the top end with the lips and directing a very soft stream of air against the inside wall of the tube. The sound of the Nay has been likened to weeping, but it can also be very exciting. A Nay player uses a set of 7 or more Nays, each in a different key.
The Qanun is a lap-zither with 26 courses of triple strings that rest on a bridge of fish skin. The Qanun player wears a plectrum on the 1st finger of each hand which is heald in place by a wide metal ring. Along the left side of the Qanun a complex system of levers called "'Uraab" allow the player to introduce accidentals during performance by adjusting the tuning in micro-intervals.
The Riq is a fish skin tamborine with 5 pairs of heavy brass cymbals. It is the main percussion instrument in Arabic Classical music, and uses a wide variety of sounds and techniques to create intricate rhythmic patterns. The riq has 2 styles of playing: the delicate classical technique and the louder folk / pop technique.
The Daf is a goat or calf skin frame drum which is used in folk, pop music and sacred music such as Zikr or Sufi ceremonies. The sound of the daf is very warm and resonant, and it's light weight and small size allow it to be played while dancing or walking.
(a.k.a. Tabla, Derbaki, Doumbek) The Darbuka is a ceramic goblet shaped drum with a fish skin on one side. The darbuka is the essential instrument for dance music throughout the Middle East, loved for it's powerful sound and energetic playing style. The darbuka is held sideways over one leg while playing.
Maqam Rast

For more information on Arabic music Theory,
including audio examples and song references,
visit maqamworld.com

Modes and Intervals in
Arabic Music Theory:

2 = two quartertones (half tone)
3 = three quartertone
4 = four quartertones (whole tone)
6 = six quartertones (one & 1/2 step)

This example of Maqam Rast illustrates the Arabic theory system of quartertones used to measure the intervals between notes in a scale. A maqam is made up of two or more ajinas (plural of jins), each of which is like a miniature scale containing three, four, or five notes. The note E half-flat is between E natural and E flat, and is notated as a backwards-flat sign or alternatively as a flat sign with a slash across the stem.
Iqa' Maqsum

Rhythmic Vocalizations
in Arabic Music Theory:

D = "Doum" (bass tone)
T = "Tak" (high tone)
K = "Ka" (alternate high tone)

This is an example of Iqa' Maqsum, a four beat rhythmic cycle whose eighth notes are subdivided as 3+3+2. In the example above, the main accents of the rhythm are indicated with bold capital letters. D indicates the bass sound "doum", which is played just off center of the drum. T and K indicate "tak" and "ka", which are played on the rim of the drum. In this manner, a percussionist is able to vocalize the rhythm as part of the learning process.