Musical Instruments


The kamanche instrument has four metal strings, and its body consists of a wooden hemisphere covered with a thin sheepskin membrane. The tuning varies depending on which region of the country it is being played. In Tehran, the kamanche is tuned in the same manner as a violin: G, D, A, E. It is suspected that the fourth string was added in the early twentieth century as the result of the introduction of western violin to Iran. The kamancheh can be seen included in Persian antique paintings.


Daf is one of the oldest frame drums found in Asia and North Africa. The earliest evidence of the Daf dates back to Sassanid Iran. The word Daf is therefore the Arabicized form of the word Dap. Some pictures of Dap have been found in paintings that date BC. this frame is usually made of hardwood with many metal ringlets attached, and the membrane is usually goatskin. This Persian instrument has recently become very popular and has successfully been integrated into Persian art music. 


The santur can be made from various kinds of woods such as walnut, depending on the desired sound quality.  Although the santur is very old, it was not depicted in any form of art until the nineteenth century. The secret of making the trapezoid-shape sound box lies in the quality and age of the wood. Santur is also played in India, Iraq and Egypt.


One of the most popular percussion instruments in Persian music today is a goblet drum known as the Tonbak. The Tonbak is a large wooden instrument with a goatskin head. Unlike other goblet drums, this drum has a much more squared-off shape and produces lower-pitched and softer tones due to its size and skin being put on with less tension.


The dotar which means “two strings” in Persian comes from a family of long-necked lutes which can be found all over Central Asia, the Middle East and even in the North East of China. The dotar is made out of two types of wood. The pear-shaped body is made from mulberry wood, while its neck is made of either the wood of the apricot or the walnut tree. It has two steel strings, which in the past were made of silk or animal entrails.


Tar is a plucked stringed instrument, a long-necked lute that is played in Iran (Persia), Caucasian countries (Azerbaijan and Armenia) and central Asia (Tajikistan). The Persian tar is carved from 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. The sound box consists of two parts and is covered with lambskin.


The Setar instrument can be traced back to the ancient Tanbur of pre-Islamic Persia. Setar is literally translated as “three strings”; however, in its present form, it has four strings and it is suspected that Setar initially had only three strings. Two of the strings are made of steel and two are of brass. It is believed that Setar is the ancestor of the Indian sitar.


The nay is the Persian knotgrass reed, and has five finger holes in front and one thumbhole in the back. The sound is produced when air is directed by the tongue toward the opening of the instrument. In this way, sound is produced behind the upper teeth, inside the mouth, which gives the nay a distinct timbre than that of the sound produced by the lips on the outside of the mouth.

The traditional music of Iran is deeply intertwined with Iran’s age-old history and culture; it is an expression of the joys, love, sorrows, efforts and struggles that the people experienced over the millennia.  Now you can listen to Santur that playing by Mr. Tanha