Musical instruments of the Arab world

The Arabic music describes a set of music from the Middle East to the Atlantic. Not only does this music find its source in a branch of musical family originating from the cultural centers of the Near East and the Middle-East but also from different contexts. This Arab music drew also its source from Byzantine and Persian. With this music, Arabs use different kinds of musicl instruments. Here are some examples of musical instruments the most common in Arab world.


  1. String instruments

They are musical instruments in which the sound is produced by the vibration of one or many strings. Those strings are fixed on its body that plays at the same time the role of amplifier. Among those string instruments, we can see the Oud, also called the Aoud and the Qanbüs or Gambus.

The Oud

The Oud is a string instrument widely used in the Arab countries. It is formed by a large hardwood resonance box such us walnut, mahogany,maple or beech. This box is pear shaped with a bottom composed of about fifteen (or more) glued ribs. The handle is made of wood, it is short and ends with a tailpiece wich forms an angle of about 50° to support the strings held by pegs. The saddle is made of bone or ebony. For the harmony table, it is made of resinous wood or cedar wood. This musical instrument is held in the same way as a guitar. Sometimes, it used as melodic or rhythmic bass in instrumental ensembles.

The Qanbüs

This is a string instrument used in ancient time. It is a native musical instrument of Yemen but also spread in Oman and in Saudi Arabia. It consists of a single bolck hollow wood covered with a very thin goat skin and well stretched with four strings made of goat intestines. It measures 80 cm to 1m.


  1. Wind instruments

They are in which the sound is produced by the vibrations of a column of air caused by the breath of an intrumentalist or a mecanocal blower or an air pocket. They can be manufactured with al sorts of materials : wood, metal, plastic…Among the Arab wind instruments, the most current are the Zurna and the Nay.

The Zurna

The Zurna is an ancient outdoor instrument emitting srident sounds. It is used during festivities like wedding. It was also used during periods of war. The Zurna is manufactured with wood of mulberry tree, apricot tree or peach wood. It varies from 20 to 60 cm depending on the models. It consists of a pipe with 8 holes and a removable hip double reed. An other small wood pipe is inserted in the principal duct in order to guide the air and plug some holes occasionnally. The Zurna is played standing. Most of the time, it is accompanied with a kind of a double membrane drum.

The Ney

The Ney is an arabic flute manufactured with cane or a simple reed. The length of the can or the reed depends on the kind of the Nay that we want to conceive. It is composed of 9 or 8 opened knots at both ends. The oldest model varies between 40 and 60 cm and composes of 6 holes. The bigest is between 70 to 90 cm as the case of Turkish Nay and it strengthen the emission of the most low-pitched sound of the flute.


  1. Percussion instruments

Those musical instruments correspond to the category of membranophones. We can say that the fisrt musical instruments are percussions which derives from the movement of the hands by clapping. The most used in Arab world are the Darbuka and the Bendir.

The Darbuka

The Darbuka is one of the main percussion instruments of the Arab-Muslim world. Traditionnaly, it is made of pottery like a plastic cup with open base and covered with a goatskin or fish. But later, aluminium and wood version appeared because of its fragility and the cover is made of plastic. The average measure is around 30 to 60 cm oh height for 15 to 40 cm of diameter.

The Bendir

The Bendir is a one-sided drum on wood circular frameof 40 to 60 cmof diameter and a depth of 15 cm. It is equiped with a stretched goat skin that covers the entire frame. The strings disposed between the skin and the frame vibrate when we hit the surface of the skin and emit a specific sound. It is very popular in Maghreb, the Near-East and the Middle-East.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.