Persian Instruments

Sample image

The International Music School is a cultural institution whose main mission is to promote and preserve Persian classical music through musical education and performance. This musical education includes the study of various Persian instruments, such as Tar, Setar, Ud, Tombak, Daf, Nay, Kamancheh and Santoor. It also includes vocal instruction, Persian music theory and history, as well as special classes for children and adults.

Our professional instructors will teach you the Radif (raw or rank, model or a suit of sequences) which is an evolving collection of old melodies that have been categorized into seven Dastgah. The main element of the Radif consists of the modes of each Dastgah and the sequence of the Goushehs and Avazes. Since the Radif was compiled and narrated by different masters, various versions of the Radif have emerged over time.

Learn how to play a Persian instrument in no time with our advanced techniques for people who would like to play just a few songs with hearing related styles or learn extensively and master the seven "Dastgah" from "Shur" to "Nava".

Why Choose International Music School

  •  Certified, Friendly Teachers.
  •  Children to Adults, All Levels.
  •  First Lesson is Free.
  •  Classes Taylored to Your Abilities.

Our Santur and Ghanoon Instructor

Sample image

Soheila E. Nariman (Soheila Shoaii) was born in 1958. She started her music studies tutored by her father Master Mansur Nariman, one of the best Oud players and teachers. She studied music as her major at the conservatory of music and the university of Tehran where she majored Santoor. She studied traditional music with some of the masters including her father mansour Nariman Dr. Darush Safvat, Dr. Masoudieh, Dr. Shahin Farhat, and Mr. Mehdi Meftah. She made a career for herself at age of 17 in Tehran radio and Television Orchestra as a khanoon player and teaching while she was student at university of Tehran. Soheila Nariman (Shoaii) has been teaching at the International Music School for the last 15 years.

Our Violin Instructor

Sample image

Loghman Adhami was born in 1949. He began playing the violin at the age of seven and started composing at the age of 15. With a love of music in his heart he continued his music education. He received his B.A. in music from School of Arts in Tehran, and his M.S. from Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. Logman has composed and arranged many hit songs as well as published a violin solo album and violin and piano albums. Logman founded International Music School in Orange County in 1993 and has been teaching various international instruments for nearly 20 years. He has experience with beginners, advanced, the young and adult. He has implemented unique and various techniques for teaching violin. He is able to teach his students with first hand experience that is timeless in the music industry.

Our Tar Instructor

Sample image

Farhad Moossavizadeh was born in 1959 in Tehran. By the age of 18,when he was starting his university education, he began training with master Tolooie on the Tar for one year. During that time he also completed the “Primary Techniques of Iranian music” or the Tar. He continued his educational career by Master Hosssain Alizadeh for an additional three and a half years, learning Radif and Advanced Techniques” of playing Tar. Also, he was trained by Master Mohammad Reza Lotfi to complete Radif and different styles of Iranian traditional music. Some years later , He also learned different styles and Techniques of playing Setar from Master Mohammad Mehdi Kamalian “the great musicologist”. Since several years ago, he has been mostly under influence of Master Jalil Shahnaz’s style of playing Tar. He has been active in his field of music as writing some articles and research in different styles of Iranian traditional music and different styles of playing Tar and Setar. Also he has been teaching for the last 25 years. Farhad Moossavizadeh is graduated in Industrial Engineering from Elmo Sanat university of Iran. Presently he is living in California and teaches Iranian music, Tar and Setar at the International Music School.

Iranian Traditional Music Instruments

  • Daf
  • Dota
  • Kamancheh 
  • Nay
  • Santur
  • Setar
  • Tar
  • Tonbak
  • Barbat
  • Ghanoon



Daf is one of the most ancient frame drums in Asia and North Africa. As a Persian instrument, in 20th century, it is considered as a Sufi instrument to be played in Khanghah-s for Zikr music but now this percussion instrument has recently become very popular and it has been integrated into Persian art music successfully.

Active Image


The dotar (literally in Persian meaning "two strings"), and it comes from a family of long-necked lutes and can be found throughout Central Asia, the Middle East and as far as the North East of China in Xinjiang too.

Active ImageIn Iran, the dotar is played mainly in the north and the east of Khorasan as well as among the Turkmen of Gorgan and Gonbad. The instrument remains the same but its dimensions and the number of its ligatures vary slightly from region to region. Two types of wood are used in the fabrication of the dotar. The pear-shaped body is carved out of a single block of mulberry wood. Its neck is made of either the wood of the apricot or the walnut tree. It has two steel strings, which in the past were made of silk or animal entrails. The dotar is tuned in fourth or fifth intervals.


The kamanche is a bowed spike fiddle. The instrument has four metal strings, and the body consists of a wooden hemisphere coverred with thin sheepskin membrane. Oddly, the instrument's bridge runs diagonally across this membrane. The instrument is highly ornate and is about the size of a Active Imageviola. The tuning varies depending upon the region of the country where it is being played. In Tehran, the kamanche is tuned in the same manner as a violin: G, D, A, E. It is suspected that the fourth string was added in the early twentieth century as the result of the introduction of western violin to Iran. The kamancheh has been painted in Persian antique paintings.


The ney that is the Persian knotgrass reed, has five finger holes in front and one thumbhole in the back. The ney has a range of two and a half octaves. The upper end is covered by a short brass cylinder, which is anchored in the tiny space between the upper incisive of the player. Sound is produced when a stream of air is directed by the tongue toward the opening of the instrument. In this way, sound is produced behind the upper teeth, inside the mouth, which gives the ney a distinct timbre Active Imagethan that of the sound produced by the lips on the outside of the mouth.


The santur is a struck zither in the form of a shallow, regular trapezoidal box. There are several sound posts inside the box, and two small rosettes on the top panel which help to amplify the sound. The santur has 72 strings, arranged in groups of four, i.e. each of four closely spaced strings are tuned to the same pitch. Each group of four strings is supported by a small,movable, wooden bridge; the bridges are positioned to give the instrument a range of three octaves.

The santur can be made from various kinds of wood (walnut, rosewood, betel palm, etc.) depending on the desired sound quality. The front and the back of the instrument are connected by sound posts Active Imagewhose positions play an important role in the sound quality of the instrument. Although the santur is very old, it was neither depicted in miniatures, nor presented in any other medium until the nineteenth century. The secret of making the trapezoid-shape sound box lies in the quality and age of the wood, as well as in the arrangement of the sound posts which connect the table of the instrument to its back. Santoor is played in India, Iraq, Egypt and some other countries.


The ancestry of the setar can be traced to the ancient tanbur of pre-Islamic Persia. It is made from Active Imagethin mulberry wood and its fingerboard has twenty-five or twenty-six adjustable gut frets. Setar is literally translated as ``three strings''; however, in its present form, it has four strings and it is suspected that setar initially had only three strings. Because of its delicacy and intimate sonority, the setar is the preferred instrument of Sufi mystics.

Two of the strings are made of steel, two are of brass, and they are tuned to c, c semi-sharp, g, and c semi-sharp, respectively. The average setar is 85 cm long, 20 cm wide, and has a 15 cm deep gourd, and is made entirely of wood. (Unlike the tar which has a membrane streched across the body.) Also, unlike the tar, the player plucks the strings with the nail of the index finger, instead of using a plectrum. It is believed that setar is the ancestor of the Indian sitar.


Tar is a plucked stringed instrument (a long-necked lute) that is played in Iran (Persia), Caucasian Active Imagecountries (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 like a figure 8. 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 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. The tunings of the strings are changed according to the dastgah that is being played, and the twenty six frets are movable. Finally, the strings are plucked with a plectrum.


Active ImageThe most popular percussion instrument in Persian music today is a goblet drum known as the Tonbak. The Tonbak is a large wooden instrument with a goatskin head. Unlike other goblet drums, this drum has a much more squared-off shape and produces lower-pitched and softer tones due to its size and skin being put on with less tension. Other names for this drum are Donbak, Tombak, Dombak, Tompak and Zarb. Maybe the name Zarb has its origins in the Arabic word darb, meaning to strike, as mentioned above. The other names have a more interesting origin. The two main strokes played on this drum are known as Ton, for a bass tone played in the center of the drum head, and Bak, for a treble tone played on or near the rim. Combining the terms results in the name Ton-Bak. It is highly likely that the American name Dumbek is derived from one of the Persian names.

Active ImageBarbat (UD, OUD)

The barbat, in Arabic courtiers and Iran known as the ud, is a short-necked fretless lute with five double-courses of strings and traditionally played with an eagle's quill. The barbat is the ancestor of the European lute, and functions as a bass instrument. The barbat is the ancestor of the Chinese pipa too. The pipa brought to Japan and was named biwa.


The ghanoon is the Persian zither. It is a flat trapezoidal wooden box, with twenty-four strings in Active Imagetriple fastened at its rectangular side on one end and to pegs on the oblique side on the other. The player to make slight changes in pitch manipulates small levels lying below each course of strings. The strings are plucked with two horn plectra, one on each index finger.




Shahid Note
Stop Note

The Radif (raw or rank, model or a suit of sequences) is an evolving collection of old melodies that have been categorized into seven Dastgah. The main element of the Radif consists of the modes of each Dastgah and the sequence of the Goushehs and Avazes. Since the Radif was compiled and narrated by different masters, various versions of the Radif have emerged over time. However, in a broader sense, the Radif can be divided into two main categories: the vocal Radif and the instrumental Radif. The instrumental Radif is based on vocal modes or non-rhythmic music, which is designed in accordance with the special capabilities of each instrument for which the Radif is written. The vocal Radif is a kind of Radif in which Avaz or non-rhythmic music is based on poetic meters and syllabus. The rhythm is greatly influenced by the rhythm and meter of Persian poetry. This kind of Radif is performed by a vocalist. Since there is a close relation between instrumental and vocal parts of most Persian classical music, the player usually follows the vocalist in performance.


Iranian classical music is based on the Radif which consists of seven Dastgahs. Apparently, the first classification of the Radif was derived from the Bohur Al-Alhan, a book written by Fursat Al dullah-i Shirazi. In addition to the characteristics of Maqam, each Dastgah has some rhythmic forms, such as intermezzo (Chaharmiezrab), Reng, and Kerishmeh as well as some non-rhythmic forms, which make the most part of each Dastgah. Modal changes appear in performing each Dastgah and return to the initial modes is other characteristics of each Dastgah. The names of the different Dastgahs and their sub-divisions in the Radif are

  • Dastgah Shur, includes Avaz Abuata, Bayat Tork (Zand), Avaz Afshari, and Avaz Dashti
  • Dastgah Segah
  • Dastgah Chargah
  • Dastgah Mahur
  • Dastgah Humayoun and Avaz Esfahan
  • Dastgah Rastpanjgah
  • Dastgah Nava

Mayeh is kind of tonal and it is similar to scale, but unlike scale, tonal not necessarily requires the sequence of the notes between the beginning and the ending notes of the scale. In Persian music, tonal is sometimes used for defining the Avaz like Mayeh-i Isfahán and Mayeh-i Afshary.


Mayeh is kind of Mode: is the distances between the notes of any specify scale. In analyzing the theory of Persian traditional music, each scale is divided into two Dongs. The Dongs could be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Sometimes, both Dastgah and Maqam are used for the same purpose in Persian music like Dastgah-I Shur or Maqam-I Shur. In this case, Maqam-i Shur signifies the notes which correspond to the Daramad-i Shure.

Each of the existing melody in the Radif is called Gusheh. Gushes can appear in the form of Charmeszrab and Kershemeh. From the modal perspective, Gushes can be divided into two categories: the Gushes which are based on the change of the tonic or stop notes. In this case, the change of the mode has not occurred in accordance with Daramad. The other Gushes have changed in respect to the tonic and endnotes. For instance, Gusheh Dad in Mahur is among those Gushes that only its tonic note has change, while the mode and the tonic note have changed in Gusheh Delkash in the same Dastgah. Foroud is the descent or return to the beginning of the melody which is in accordance with the mode of the Daraumad.

Browse Lessons Persian Instruments

International Music School

We offer classes which explore music allowing opportunities for a more complete education in the world of music.