Turkish musical forms

There are many different instrumental and vocal forms in Turkish music, and the structure and performance rules of these as we know them today were laid down during the Ottoman period. The forms most likely to be encountered when listening to performances or recordings of Turkish oud are listed below.



A hymn sung during a zikr or Turkish Mevlevi Sufi ritual. It is generally based on a specific makam and usul, and the words are taken from a Sufi poem in praise of God, the Prophet Muhammad or the Sufi saints.



An instrumental dance form in a 2/4 rhythm that originated from Eastern Europe. It consists of several movements (hane), each followed by a refrain (teslim), with the last hane normally in a 3/4 rhythm.



A piece of music that accompanies the Balkan dance of the same name in a 2+2+3 rhythm.


Oyun havası

A piece of instrumental music used to accompany dancing.



An instrumental genre that consists of four movements (hane), each followed by a refrain (teslim). However, all four sections will normally be in the same rhythm, and the choice of usûl to accompany the peşrev is not restricted as in the case of the saz semaisi.



A light classical song that forms part of a fasıl suite.


Saz semaisi

An instrumental genre that traditionally consists of four movements, and each movement (hane) is followed by a refrain (teslim). The usûl, or rhythmic pattern, that accompanies the saz semaisi must always be a semai rhythm: the first three movements and all four refrains are normally in a 10/8 rhythm (such as aksak semai), whereas the fourth hane is in a 6/8 or 6/4 rhythm (such as yürük semai).



A traditional Greek folk dance that was imported into Turkey, with several well-known Turkish composers including Tanburi Cemil Bey and Refik Fersan writing pieces in this form.



A semi-improvised form that aims to demonstrate the structure of a particular makam. Each taksim must follow the general seyir of the makam, and can illustrate the relationship with similar makamlar via suitable modulations. The taksim was originally used as a prelude to a composition such as a peşrev, and its purpose was twofold: to introduce the audience to the makam of the following piece and to demonstrate the skill and virtuosity of the performer.


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