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 at roughly the same time as 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) are constructed.

Some issues relevant to Turkish classical music are covered elsewhere. Special note names and accidentals are explained in Common notation for non-Western music.


Turkish note names

Pitches in Turkish classical music traditionally have unique names and the basis of pitch on 1/9-tone divisions means that makamlar employ a completely different set of intervals compared to Western scales and modes:

From a modern, notational point of view it is convenient to use standard, Western staff notes (c, d, e, etc.) but with custom accidentals that raise or lower notes by intervals of 1/9, 4/9, 5/9 or 8/9 of a tone.

These custom accidentals are defined in the file ‘turkish-makam.ly’.

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.


Turkish key signatures

Lilypond supports over 200 makam key signature definitions – well beyond what is used in Turkish classical music – with each makam having its own specific tonic / finalis pitch (known as ‘karar’ in Turkish).

It is important to be aware of the finalis of each makam. Here is an example where g is the default tonic and rast is the name of the makam.

\key g \rast

The correct accidentals, koma flat (b1) and koma sharp (f4), (both in relation to the tonic g), will be displayed automatically.

Selected Snippets

Turkish Makam example

This template uses the start of a well-known Turkish Saz Semai that is familiar in the repertoire in order to illustrate some of the elements of Turkish music notation.

% Initialize makam settings
\include "turkish-makam.ly"

\header {
    title = "Hüseyni Saz Semaisi"
    composer = "Lavtacı Andon"
}

\relative {
  \set Staff.extraNatural = ##f
  \set Staff.autoBeaming = ##f

  \key a \huseyni
  \time 10/8

  a'4 g'16 [fb] e8. [d16] d [c d e] c [d c8] bfc |
  a16 [bfc a8] bfc c16 [d c8] d16 [e d8] e4 fb8 |
  d4 a'8 a16 [g fb e] fb8 [g] a8. [b16] a16 [g] |
  g4 g16 [fb] fb8. [e16] e [g fb e] e4 r8 |
}

[image of music]


Further reading for Turkish music


LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.21.82 (development-branch).