2.10.3 Turkish classical music

This section highlights issues that are relevant to notating Turkish classical music.

References for Turkish classical music

Turkish classical music developed in the Ottoman Empire in a period roughly contemporaneous with classical music in Europe, and has continued on into the 20th and 21st centuries as a vibrant and distinct tradition with its own compositional forms, theory and performance styles. Among its striking features is the use of microtonal intervals based on ‘commas’ of 1/9 of a tone, from which are constructed the melodic forms known as makam (plural makamlar).

Some issues relevant to Turkish classical music are covered elsewhere:

Turkish note names

Pitches in Turkish classical music traditionally have unique names, and the basis of pitch on 1/9-tone divisions means makamlar employ a completely different set of intervals from Western scales and modes: koma (1/9 of a tone), eksik bakiye (3/9), bakiye (4/9), kücük mücenneb (5/9), büyük mücenneb (8/9), tanîni (a whole tone) and artık ikili (12/9 or 13/9 of a tone).

From a modern notational point of view it is convenient to use the standard Western staff notes (c, d, e, …) with special accidentals that raise or lower notes by intervals of 1/9, 4/9, 5/9 and 8/9 of a tone. These accidentals are defined in the file ‘makam.ly’.

The following table lists:

Accidental name


pitch alteration

büyük mücenneb (sharp)



kücük mücenneb (sharp)



bakiye (sharp)



koma (sharp)



koma (flat)



bakiye (flat)



kücük mücenneb (flat)



büyük mücenneb (flat)



For a more general explanation of non-Western music notation, see Common notation for non-Western music.

See also

Music Glossary: makam, makamlar.

Notation Reference: Common notation for non-Western music.

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