The Turkish makam (Turkish: makam pl. makamlar; from the Arabic word مقام) is a system of melody types used in Turkish classical music and Turkish folk music. It provides a complex set of rules for composing and performance. Each makam specifies a unique intervalic structure (cinsler meaning genera) and melodic development (seyir).[1] Whether a fixed composition (beste, şarkı, peşrev, âyin, etc.) or a spontaneous composition (gazel, taksim, recitation of Kuran-ı Kerim, Mevlid, etc.), all attempt to follow the melody type. The rhythmic counterpart of makam in Turkish music is usul.

Comparison in use in Turkish classical to folk music

Turkish classical music and Turkish folk music are both based on modal systems. Makam is the name of the scale in classical music, while Ayak is the name of the scale in folk music. Makam and Ayak are similar; following are some examples:

There are some similarities between the rhythms used in Turkish folk music and Turkish classical music, with respect to their forms, classification, and rhythmic patterns.[2]

Geographic and cultural relations

The Turkish makam system has some corresponding relationships to maqams in Arabic music and echos in Byzantine music. Some theories suggest the origin of the makam to be the city of Mosul in Iraq. "Mula Othman Al-Musili," in reference to his city of origin, is said to have served in the Ottoman Palace in Istanbul and influenced Turkish Ottoman music. More distant modal relatives include those of Central Asian Turkic musics such as Uyghurmuqam” and Uzbek shashmakom. North and South Indian classical raga-based music employs similar modal principles. Some scholars find echoes of Turkish makam in former Ottoman provinces of the Balkans.[3] All of these concepts roughly correspond to mode in Western music, although their compositional rules vary.

Makam building blocks

Commas and accidentals

The accidentals (sharps and flats) used by the Arel-Ezgi-Uzdilek notation (a 53ET-based notation), as they are illustrated on a major tone ("Do" - "Re" in the solfege system) which is represented by 9 Holdrian commas.

In Turkish music theory, the octave is divided into 53 equal intervals known as commas (koma), specifically the Holdrian comma. Each whole tone is an interval equivalent to nine commas. The following figure gives the comma values of Turkish accidentals. In the context of the Arab maqam, this system is not of equal temperament. In fact, in the Western system of temperament, C-sharp and D-flat—which are functionally the same tone—are equivalent to 4.5 commas in the Turkish system; thus, they fall directly in the center of the line depicted above.


Unlike in Western music, where the note C, for example, is called C regardless of what octave it might be in, in the Turkish system the notes are—for the most part—individually named (although many are variations on a basic name); this can be seen in the following table, which covers the notes from middle C ("Kaba Çârgâh") to the same note two octaves above ("Tîz Çârgâh"):

The following table gives the tones over two octaves (ordered from highest to lowest), the pitch in commas and cents relative to the lowest note (which is equivalent to Western Middle C), along with the nearest equivalent equal-temperament tone. The tones of the çârgâh scale are shown in upper case.

Tone Name Commas
above middle C
above middle C
notation of 53-ΤΕΤ Tone
Nearest Equiv
12-ΤΕΤ Tone
TÎZ ÇÂRGÂH 106 2400 C6 C6
Tîz Dik Bûselik 105 2377 Chalf flat6 C6
TÎZ BÛSELIK 102 2309 B5 B5
Tîz Segâh 101 2287 AEight-comma sharp5 / Bhalf flat5 B5
Dik Sünbüle 98 2219 AFive-comma sharp5 / Bflat stroke5 A#5 / Bb5
Sünbüle 97 2196 A5 / B5 A#5 / Bb5
MUHAYYER 93 2106 A5 A5
Dik Şehnâz 92 2083 GEight-comma sharp5 / Ahalf flat5 A5
Şehnâz 89 2015 GFive-comma sharp5 / Aflat stroke5 G#5 / Ab5
Nim Şehnâz 88 1992 G5 / A5 G#5 / Ab5
GERDÂNIYE 84 1902 G5 G5
Dik Mâhûr 83 1879 FEight-comma sharp5 / Ghalf flat5 G5
Mâhûr 80 1811 FFive-comma sharp5 / Gflat stroke5 F5 / G5
Eviç 79 1789 F5 / G5 F5 / G5
Dik Acem 76 1721 Fhalf sharp5 / GEight-comma flat5 F5
ACEM 75 1698 F5 F5
HÜSEYNÎ 71 1608 E5 E5
Dik Hisâr 70 1585 DEight-comma sharp5 / Ehalf flat5 E5
Hisâr 67 1517 DFive-comma sharp5 / Eflat stroke5 D#5 / Eb5
Nim Hisâr 66 1494 D5 / E5 D#5 / Eb5
NEVÂ 62 1404 D5 D5
Dik Hicâz 61 1381 CEight-comma sharp5 / Dhalf flat5 D5
Hicâz 58 1313 CFive-comma sharp5 / Dflat stroke5 C#5 / Db5
Nim Hicâz 57 1291 C5 / D5 C#5 / Db5
ÇÂRGÂH 53 1200 C5 C5
Dik Bûselik 52 1177 Chalf flat5 C5
BÛSELIK 49 1109 B4 B4
Segâh 48 1087 AEight-comma sharp4 /Bhalf flat4 B4
Dik Kürdi 45 1019 AFive-comma sharp4 / Bflat stroke4 A#4 / Bb4
Kürdi 44 996 A4 / B4 A#4 / Bb4
DÜGÂH 40 906 A4 A4
Dik Zirgüle 39 883 GEight-comma sharp4 / Ahalf flat4 A4
Zirgüle 36 815 GFive-comma sharp4 / Aflat stroke4 G#4 / Ab4
Nim Zirgüle 35 792 G4 / A4 G#4 / Ab4
RAST 31 702 G4 G4
Dik Gevest 30 679 FEight-comma sharp4 / Ghalf flat4 G4
Gevest 27 611 FFive-comma sharp4 / Gflat stroke4 F#4 / Gb4
Irak 26 589 F4 / G4 F#4 / Gb4
Dik Acem Aşîrân 23 521 Fhalf sharp4 / GEight-comma flat4 F4
ACEM AŞÎRÂN 22 498 F4 F4
Kaba Dik Hisâr 17 385 DEight-comma sharp4 / Ehalf flat4 E4
Kaba Hisâr 14 317 DFive-comma sharp4 / Eflat stroke4 D#4 / Eb4
Kaba Nim Hisâr 13 294 D4 / E4 D#4 / Eb4
YEGÂH 9 204 D4 D4
Kaba Dik Hicâz 8 181 CEight-comma sharp4 / Dhalf flat4 D4
Kaba Hicâz 5 113 CFive-comma sharp4 / Dflat stroke4 C#4 / Db4
Kaba Nim Hicâz 4 91 C4 / D4 C#4 / Db4


The names and symbols of the different intervals are shown in the following table:

Interval Name
(Aralığın adı)
Value in terms of commas
(Koma olarak değeri)
koma or fazla 1 F
eksik bakiye 3 E
bakiye 4 B
kücük mücenneb 5 S
büyük mücenneb 8 K
tanîni 9 T
artık ikili 12 - 13 A

Tetrachords (dörtlüler) and pentachords (beşliler)

Tetrachords (dörtlü) are on the left, pentachords (beşli) on the right. The symbols (simge) from the table above are here used to signal the intervals used in these patterns

Similar to the construction of maqamat noted above, a makam in Turkish music is built of a tetrachord built atop a pentachord, or vice versa (trichords exist but are rarely used). Additionally, most makams have what is known as a "development" (genişleme in Turkish), which can occur either above or below (or both) the tonic and/or the highest note.

There are 6 basic tetrachords, named sometimes according to their tonic note and sometimes according to the tetrachord's most distinctive note:

There are also 6 basic pentachords with the same names with a tone (T) appended.

It is worth keeping in mind that these patterns can be transposed to any note in the scale, so that the tonic A (Dügâh) of the Hicaz tetrachord, for example, can be moved up a major second (9 commas) to B (Bûselik), or in fact to any other note. The other notes of the tetrachord, of course, are also transposed along with the tonic, allowing the pattern to preserve its character.

Basic makam theory

A makam, more than simply a selection of notes and intervals, is essentially a guide to compositional structure: any composition in a given makam will move through the notes of that makam in a more or less ordered way. This pattern is known in Turkish as seyir (meaning basically, "route"), and there are three types of seyir:

As stated above, makams are built of a tetrachord plus a pentachord (or vice versa), and in terms of this construction, there are three important notes in the makam:

Additionally, there are three types of makam as a whole:

Simple makams

Çârgâh makam

In this and all subsequent staves, the tonic is indicated by a whole note and the dominant by a half note. T stands for tanini (tone) which is equal to 9 commas and B stands for bakiye which is equal to 4 commas.

This makam is thought to be identical to the Western C-major scale, but actually it is misleading to conceptualize a makam through Western music scales. Çârgâh makam consists of a çârgâh pentachord and a çârgâh tetrachord starting on the note gerdâniye (G). Thus, the tonic is C (note çârgâh), the dominant is G (note gerdâniye), and the leading tone is B (note bûselik).

The çârgâh makam though is very little used in Turkish music, and in fact has at certain points of history been attacked for being a clumsy and unpleasant makam that can inspire those hearing it to engage in delinquency of various kinds.[citation needed]

Bûselik makam

This makam has two basic forms: in the first basic form (1), it consists of a Bûselik pentachord plus a Kürdî tetrachord on the note Hüseynî (E) and is essentially the same as the Western A-minor; in the second (2), it consists of a Bûselik pentachord plus a Hicaz tetrachord on Hüseynî and is identical to A-harmonic minor. The tonic is A (Dügâh), the dominant Hüseynî (E), and the leading tone G-sharp (Nim Zirgüle). Additionally, when descending from the octave towards the tonic, the sixth (F, Acem) is sometimes sharpened to become F-sharp (Dik Acem), and the dominant (E, Hüseynî) flattened four commas to the note Hisar (1A). All these alternatives are shown below:




Rast makam

For the related maqam in Arabo-Persian music, see Rast (maqam).

This much-used makam—which is said to bring happiness and tranquility to the hearer—consists of a Rast pentachord plus a Rast tetrachord on the note Neva (D); this is labeled (1) below. The tonic is G (Rast), the dominant D (Neva), and the leading tone F-sharp (Irak). However, when descending from the octave towards the tonic, the leading tone is always flattened 4 commas to the note Acem (F), and thus a Bûselik tetrachord replaces the Rast tetrachord; this is labeled (2) below. Additionally, there is a development (genişleme) in the makam's lower register, below the tonic, which consists of a Rast tetrachord on the note D (Yegâh); this is labeled (1A) below.




In Turkey, the particular Muslim call to prayer (or ezan in Turkish) which occurs generally in early afternoon and is called ikindi, as well as the day's final call to prayer called yatsı, is often recited using the Rast makam.

Uşşâk makam

See also: Bayati (maqam)

This makam consists of an Uşşâk tetrachord plus a Bûselik pentachord on the note Neva (D); this is labelled (1) below. The tonic is A (Dügâh), the dominant—here actually a subdominant—is D (Neva), and the leading tone—here actually a subtonic—is G (Rast). Additionally, there is a development in the makam's lower register, which consists of a Rast pentachord on the note D (Yegâh); this is labeled (1A) below.



In Turkey, the particular call to prayer which occurs around noon and is called öğle is most often recited using the Uşşak makam.

Acem makam

See also: Ajam (maqam)

See also


  1. ^ Beken and Signell 2006,[page needed].
  3. ^ Shupo, Sokol, ed., Urban Music in the Balkans. Tirana:ASMUS, 2006


Further reading