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The World of Saz Music

A saz, often called baglama, is a long-necked lute played by either picking the strings with your fingers or a pick. They are traditionally used in Turkish folk music, but they are also used in folk arrangements from Azerbaijan, Assyria, Armenia, and many other Middle Eastern countries. While these traditional lutes can be found on eBay, there are also electric options that can be connected to other musical instruments.

When was the saz invented?

The saz is an ancient creation and its history of where it originated from shrouded in time. Many believe that it is an adaptation of the Tanbur-e-Khorasan used in eastern Iran where it is played in Ahl-e-Haqq ritual music. Others claim it is an adaptation of the Hittite lute played in ancient Anatolia. Others say that these ethnic groups adapted instruments that were used by the Semites in Mesopotamia during the second century B.C. while some maintain this objects history goes back even further.

The different types of sazes

There are many different types around the world, and some of the most well-known ones are described here:

  • Cura - This ancient Turkish option has the highest pitch. Most are 35.5 inches long with a 19-inch neck and a 5.5-inch bowl radius with most having two strings. It is almost always plucked when playing.
  • Tambura - Rock paintings date this instrument back to the first century B.C. This Turkish saz is usually 90 inches long with a 20.5-inch neck and a 9-inch bowl radius.
  • Baglama - The most traditional choice in Turkey, these are usually made from mulberry trees with necks made from spruce trees. They have three sets of two strings each that are usually tuned differently.
  • Bouzouki - Unlike options from Turkey, this option is a staple in Greece where it is used in Rembetika music and can have three or four strings. It is normally pitched an octave higher than similar options found in Turkey, and it is the first type to offer amplification and a Western-tuned chromatic scale.
  • Bozuk saz - Sometimes spelled buzuk or Buzq, this saz is often used in Syrian music.
  • Meydan saz - This traditional Turkish instrument has a neck that is 44 inches long and a bowl that has a 12-inch radius.
  • Asik saz - Used by Asik storytellers along the Caspian Sea, these instruments are sometimes called kopuz. These instruments generally have no frets.
  • Divan saz - These options have a large bowl, and their necks can measure up to 25 inches long. It is often played by outdoor entertainers in Turkey.
  • Bas saz - The deepest of all sazes, it is often played as a solo instrument. It normally has 12 strings.
Tuning the baglama saz

While there are a few variations, the baglama normally has three sets of strings. The thickest of the upper strings are normally tuned to A with the thinner string tuned to A an octave and two octaves higher. The middle strings on the bouzouki are normally tuned to D. The bottom two strings are usually tuned to G with the other one being an octave higher.