About Tar

Tar is one of the most important Iranian/Persian musical instruments. The formation, compilation, edition, and inheritance of the most authentic and most comprehensive versions of radif are all worked on tar. The general trends of Persian classical music have been deeply influenced by tar players. It is a plucked stringed instrument (a long-necked lute) that is also played in Caucasian countries (like Azerbaijan, Armenia and so on) and central Asia (like Tajikistan).     It exists in two forms now, the Persian (that is named Tar-e-Shiraaz or Irani) and Caucasian (that is named Tar-e-Ghafghaaz). The Persian tar is carved from a block of mulberry wood and has a deep, curved body with two bulges shaped. The upper surface is shaped like two hearts of different sizes, joined at the points. The sound box consists of two parts. The small part is called Naghaareh and the large part is called Kaasseh (that means bowl (sound box)). The sound box is covered with a baby lambskin. On the lower skin, a horn bridge supports six metal strings in three courses. The long fingerboard has twenty-two to twenty-eight movable gut frets. The strings are plucked with a brass plectrum coated on one side in wax. Its range is about two and a half octaves.

We can use the words Tar, Tar player (or Tarist), Tar maker, Tar tunings..., while it is clear for you which kind of Tar you mean. Persian Tar is the Tar that is mainly played in Iran for Persian Classical Music. Persian Tar belongs to the Chordophones category of instruments, and in more details to Plucked-Stringed Instruments or it can be said Persian Tar is a Persian Long Necked Lute and also a fretted instrument.

Iranians consider the tar the "sultan of instruments .The tar appeared in its present form in the middle of the eighteenth century in Persia. The body is a double-bowl shape carved from mulberry wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lamb-skin covering the top

The fingerboard has twenty-five to twenty-eight adjustable gut frets, and there are three double courses of strings. Its range is about two and one-half octaves, and it is played with a small brass plectrum.
The long and narrow neck has a flat fingerboard running level to the membrane and ends in an elaborate peg box with six wooden tuning pegs of different dimensions, adding to the decorative effect. It has three courses of double "singing" strings (each pair tuned in unison: the first two courses in plain steel, the third in wound copper), that are tuned in fourths (C, G, C) plus one "flying" bass string (wound in copper and tuned in G, an octave lower than the singing middle course) that runs outside the fingerboard and passes over an extension of the nut. There are also two pairs of shorter sympathetic strings that run under the bass and over two small copper bridges about midway on the upper side of the fingerboard: their tuning is variable according to the piece to be played and with the performer's tastes: Every String has its own tuning peg and are tuned independently The Persian tar used to have five strings. The sixth string was added to the tar by Darvish Khan. This string is today's fifth string of the Iranian tar. The Azerbaijani tar, designed by Sadigjan, has a slightly different build and has more strings. It is an essential component of the traditional Azeri mugham trio (see Sazanda). The surface of the fingerboard is made from the Camel leg bone and the middle part of this surface is from walnut or ebony.

Frets of Persian Tar are mostly made of gut embedded around the neck and located at the points that are determined according to the ears of the musicians. The frets are moveable, because we need sometimes to move the frets to get a new arrange of frets. There is no exact 1/4 or half tone in Persian Classical Music. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings' vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Frets worn down from heavy use can be replaced. Frets are sometimes made of Nylon or metal. The frets of Persian Tar are between 22 and 30.

The tar features prominently in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, in the section "Horsell Common and the Heat Ray". George Fenton played it on the original album, and Gaetan Schurrer can be seen playing one on the DVD of the 2006 production.
A tar is depicted on the reverse of the Azerbaijani 1 qəpik coin minted since 2006[3] and on the obverse of the Azerbaijani 1 manat banknote issued since 2006.
The first point to make a very good and reference class Tar is choosing the best tone wood so that the instrument can create a very warm and soft sounding. The second step is to value the beauty ness of Tar and to pattern great old masters of Iranian Tar like Yahya and Jafar-e Sanat. The third point is not more only the aspect of nice looking, but also to own the mastership of making instruments with excellent sounding. Not all of the Tar makers deserve the notice

of the late great master of Tar Yahya or Jafar Sanat.
Yahya Khan (above picture, the most famous Tar maker in Iran, The Priceless Tar)
Hovanes Abkarian (1876-1932) or famous as Yahya Khan is an Armenian, Tar maker from Iran, who can be named as the father of the modern Persian Tar. He has reformed the sound box shape of Persian Tar that has resulted the most beautiful form of the sound box and the most pleasant sound.
Among the contemporary Iranian alive Tar makers are the followings notable: 

Ostad Farahmand, Ostad Pourya and Ramin Jazayeri. 

The Tars of the above masters costs about between $6000 - $8000
About Persian Tar Tuning; If we put Sharp (#) or Diese in Farsi next to a note, the note will become half note higher, Flat (b) or Bemol, half tone lower, Sori (it just used in Persian music), 1/4 tone higher and Koron (It just used in Persian Music also) 1/4 tone lower. The signs and definitions that we use here are only to find the exact frets or to show the exact notes that we play in the mentioned musical culture. For example when we use Mi Diese wich is E sharp, we do not mean the note, that is half tone higher than Mi, but we mean the note or fret between Re and Mi Koron. It means the usage and function of the signs are not exactly like the definitions of the signs. We count the strings from down to up. The most traditional tunings come always first. We assume that the strings No 1 and 2 have always the Do (C) tuning.
Persian Tar Classical Tunings
Dastgah Mahur
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Do
Dastgah Rast Panjgah
Base Note:
Fa, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Fa, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Do
Dastgah Homayun
Base Note:
La Koron, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re

Dastgah Nava
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re


Dastgah Shur
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Bayat Kord
Base Note:
Re, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa


Avaz Dashti
Base Note:
Re, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa


Avaz Bayat Tork
Base Note:
Si Bemol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Si Bemol, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Abuata
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Afshari
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa


Dastgah Segah
Base Note:
La Koron, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: La Koron, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Bayat Esfahan
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re

Dastgah Chahargah
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa


Dastgah Segah
Base Note:
La Koron, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: La Koron, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Bayat Esfahan
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re

Dastgah Chahargah
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Do.

About the music treatment and role of Tar as an instrument,


If music can affect the well being of plants, should it come as a surprise that human health can be affected as well. Here's what medieval scientists and physicians from Azerbaijan and the region had to say about the curative powers of music.
Many centuries ago, physicians were well aware of the potency of music. Seven hundred years go, Azerbaijani scientist Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi (13th century) wrote treatises, explaining his ideas about the antidotal powers of music in "Message to Sharafaddin" and "The Book On Musical Tones". 

His works name some of the modal scales of that early epoch, such as Metabil, Erani, Tanjiga and Segah. To alleviate tiredness and provide relief from neurosis, to lift one's spirits or to induce sleep, our ancestors used to listen to music performed on the ancient Eastern musical instruments such as the rubab, ud, dutar, tambur, ney, mizmar, surnaya, chang, shahrud and kanun. In Iran and some of the Arabian countries, Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi is considered to be the "Father of Mugham" (the genre of traditional modal music). He was the first person to develop a scientific theory for this genre, create musical terminology and identify and teach modal scales. He wrote about the positive influence of music on human health. During the century that followed, another Azerbaijani musician Abdul-Kadir Maraghayi (1353-1433) continued his work. 

Below: Medieval physicians recognized the power of music and nature to relax and cure their patients. Miniature from Baku Institute of Manuscripts.
Between the 9th and 14th centuries, the medical properties of music were elaborated by well-known scientists such as Abu Nasr al-Farabi, al-Khorezmi, Abu Reyhan Biruni, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi and others. 

What did they define as the curative nature of melodies? The Great Turkic scholar Abu Nasr al-Farabi (873-950) in his "Great Book About Music" observed: "Music promotes good mood, moral education, emotional steadiness and spiritual development. It is useful for physical health. When the soul is not healthy, the body is also ill. Good music, which cures the soul, restores the body to good health. "Do you have a headache? Relax beside a flower bed or a trickling fountain, or invite a musician to come and perform so you can fall asleep to the gentle sounds of dutar (Eastern stringed instrument)!" advised the great physycian Ibn Sina (980-1037). Seven centuries later Mahammad Yusif Shirvani (18th century) prescribed melodies of stringed instruments for those who were suffering from melancholy and insomnia. 

The well-known doctor Sultan Giyasaddin in his work "Kitab as-Sinaat" (18th century) challenged his colleagues to study music, noting that "scholars of India recommend that physicians study melodies and the theory of music. This science is necessary for the doctor, just like his search to understand the subtleties of diagnosing the pulse. In addition, some illnesses may be cured when the patient listens to certain melodies."

Some Indian melodies are still performed in Azerbaijan, such as the mughams known as Humayun and Maur-Hindi. Numerous Indian traders and colonists who came in Azerbaijan and stayed here permanently brought Indian melodies to Azerbaijani. For example, Turkic tribes who came here from northern India and Pakistan in the 17th-18th centuries settled many villages in the Mughan lowlands of Azerbaijan. Some of the men had fought in the armies of the Safavid shahs who, in turn, granted them land in Azerbaijan for their loyal services. 

Following the advice of Sultan Giyasaddin, the physicians of the Middle Ages tried to understand what was known about the curative powers of music (elm al-musigi), but it was not so easy. Music was such a subtle and exacting science that the Central Asian scientist al-Khorezmi (783-850) included it in a section of mathematics, specifically in the discussion of his famous work on algebra!
"The Musical Treatise" by Abdul-Kadir Maraghayi and "Large Book On Medicine" by Abu Reyhan Biruni (973-1048) are both filled with mathematic, geometrical figures, sketches and drawings of musical instruments. But it seems that physicians did not mind spending time to study the powerful effects of music, as they considered it invaluable for the health of their patients.
At that time, 12 basic kinds of mugham and 12 musical modes were known. Maraghayi wrote: "Turks prefer to compose in the "usshag", "nova" and "busalik" mugham styles, though other mughams also are included in their compositions". 

Sharaf-khan Bidlisi (16th century) described a feast of the Azerbaijani ruler Shah Ismayil Safavi: "Sweet-voiced singers and sweet-sounding musicians started singing a usshag melody with both high and low pitched voices, and then the tears of the harps and lyres kidnapped reason and logic from the listeners, both great and the small." Music promoted the development of a number of mystical sciences. In the 13th century, the Turnini Dervishes (Mavlavi) considered that knowledge of God was possible only when they fell into a trance brought on by listening to special music and which slowly turned into a mystical dance. The Azerbaijani philosopher Sukhravardi (died in 1191) who was close to the Sufi mystics wrote: "Know that those engaged in the exercise of the spirit sometimes use a gentle melody and pleasant incense. Therefore, they are able to obtain a spiritual light that is habitual and sustained for a long time". 

At the end of the 10th century, a group of the Shiite philosophers (Brothers of Purity) had developed a science about the relationship between music and various elements of a nature: animals, herbs, minerals and color. According to this theory, each musical sound corresponds to a specific color and is associated with a certain mineral, herb and animal. Some sounds were equated with bright colors, bright metals, beautiful flowers and active animals.
Our ancestors believed that musical instruments were similar to medicinal plants and aromatic spices. The tar (stringed instrument) was compared with health-promoting and fragrant saffron. The naghara (small drum) was identified with the curative powers of cloves or ginseng. The ud (stringed instrument) was associated with the soothing effect of valerian or lemon balm. The zurna (a nasal-sounding wind instrument) was associated with strong coffee. The medical properties of these and other instruments are provided below. Abdul-Kadir Maraghayi, Farabi and Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi document information about the healing properties of instruments in such books as “Gabusname” by Keykavus Ziyari, and from books. Primarily, however, this information comes from Azerbaijani verbal folklore of the 19th-20th ashugs (minstrels), a large heritage of which has been collected and kept at the Baku's Institute of Manuscripts.
NEY, The gentle sound of the ney (wind instrument that produces a sound resembling the flute) calms the nervous system, reduces high blood pressure and tiredness, and promotes good sleep. The ney is believed to awaken a reflective mood, causing a person to appreciate and enjoy nature. It is linked to deep philosophical ideas.
UD, Our ancestors considered that listening to the sound of ud (pronounced as "ood") was an excellent remedy against headache and melancholy, reducing muscle spasms and creating a strong calming action. The ud was one of the most widespread and favorite instruments in medieval Azerbaijan. It is related to the ancient Greek harp. Instruments, similar to the ud are depicted in ancient Egyptian frescos.
SAZ, 
Music performed on the saz (national stringed instrument) calms the nervous system and enhances and lifts one's mood. It is useful in treating melancholy and for eliminating feelings of pessimism.
ZURNA,This wind instrument is said to stimulate the spirit of battle and sometimes even to instigate aggression and war-like characteristics. The sound of zurna helps to reduce apathy, indifference, and increase the blood pressure.
NAGHARA, 
This instrument helped the doctors to deal with bad mood, melancholy, intellectual and physical exhaustion, as well as low blood pressure. It was considered that the Naghara could substitute for some medicinal plants and tones like spicy cloves. The rhythmic beating of the naghara is believed to lead to the strengthening of the heart. The naghara is described in the Early Middle Age Azerbaijani literary epic, "Kitabi Dada Gorgud" (The Book of my Grandfather). Instruments resembling the Naghara were also well known in ancient Egypt. Thus, according to the rich scientific and musical heritage of our ancestors, it seems that not only did they listen to music for enjoyment and entertainment, but also they perceived music a potent force in the prevention and treatment of various diseases.
Dr. Farid Alakbarov heads both the Department of Translation and the Department of International Relations at the Institute of Manuscripts in Baku. His articles about medieval manuscripts can be found by searching at AZER.com. Some of Dr. Alakbarov's articles published in Azerbaijan International have been translated into Azeri (Latin script).
Now about the Tar, the melodies performed on tar were considered useful for headache, insomnia and melancholy, as well as for eliminating nervous and muscle spasms. Listening to this instrument was believed to induce a quiet and philosophical mood, compelling the listener to reflect upon life. Its solemn melodies were thought to cause a person to relax and fall asleep.
The author of "Gabusname" (11th century) recommends that when selecting musical tones (perde) to take into account the temperament of the listener. He suggested that lower pitched tones (bem) were effective for sanguine and phlegmatic persons, while higher pitched tones (zil) were helpful for those who were identified with a choleric temperament or melancholic temperament.

Here is the list of a few famous Tar Player in Iran since Qajar era until now,
1- Darvish Khan
2- Alinagi Vaziri
3- Hossien Gholi
4- Mirza Abdollah
5- Aliakbar shanazi
6- Mahamd reza lotfi
7- Hossien allizadeh
8- Daryosh talai
9- Farhang sharif
10- Hoshang zarif
11- Jalil shahnaz, …


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