Maqam Class Series: Class 3 – November 23, 2013

Dear Class,

I am totally blown away and deeply inspired. You all nailed the lower Jins Bayat when we sang the notes individually. You were right on key when we sang Sur Ya El. And I was stunned by how accurate and moving the 3 Mawals were – congratulations to Abe Manopla, Joey Franco, and Ovadia Sutton, great work – It takes guts to get up there and be in the spotlight. A special thanks to Maury for selflessly sharing his musical talent with us and adding new flavor to our class.

I’d like to continue focusing on and perfecting the lower Jins of Bayat, with the addition of what we’ve added to our repertoire, note 5, which also happens to be the tonic or starting & ending point for Husseini. This is the same note as El in Sur Ya El, so you can always sing that first verse to reach that note (and the rest of Bayat). Also pay attention to the following notes: Melech Ha’olam (4) and Le-cha Ra’ (3-2-1) –yonay (1), ezram-oram-hay-ram (1-2-3-2-1).

Below the media files is a recap and highlights of the material we covered during the technical portion of our class on the whiteboard, specifically quartertones and how they relate to note 2 of the Bayat scale. Again, consider this information gravy – you don’t need to understand it to succeed in this class. If it is confusing to you, I suggest leaving it alone and focusing instead on the music.

The exceptional growth some of you have experienced was a result of what you did between classes, not during the class. The real work takes place in your living room, listening, reading, and practicing. Keep up the great work.




Bayat Notes 1 – 5

Note: remember that note 5 is also the accent note for Husseini and “El” of “Sur Ya El”


Bayat Mawal Notes 1 – 5

Note: at 0:26 I move a quartertone up on note 2, touching on Nahawand. At 0:37 I incorporate Hijaz on top giving Bayat Shuri.


Sur Ya El (page 313 in red book) – If anyone can copy the vocals in the last few seconds of this recording, I will give them a chance to sing it solo next class.

Sur Ya El Text 1

Sur Ya El Text 2



Samai Bayati played by: Orchestra of Aleppo



Detailed Technical Review:




Pitch = A sound

Note = musical notation representing a pitch

Tone = the interval or space between pitches, creating the DNA of a Maqam or Scale

Key/Tonic = the first note in a scale

Jins/Ajnas (pl.) = A group of tones or intervals (usually resulting in a tetrachord of 4 notes) used a “pant” or “shirt” of a Maqam. For example, the Bayat scale has a lower Jins of Bayat and an upper Jins of Nahawand, while Bayat Shuri has a lower Jins Bayat and an upper Jins Hijaz (watch first section of the class for examples of those two).

Maqam/Scale = a combination of 2 or more Ajnas (plural of Jins), usually consisting of 8 notes as with Maqam Bayat) Octave = a spatial interval of 6 whole tones between two notes (ex: from C to the next C)



An Octave is an interval 6 whole tones, 12 half tones, and 24 quartertones (and usually a distance of 8 notes as in note 1 and 8 in Maqam Bayat) where the highest note is the same as the lowest note but with double the frequency (higher pitch). For example, Mahur is the same note as Rast only one Octave higher (2:1 ratio of frequency). Think of it as the same color but a different depth of shade. This is critical as we progress with Maqam Bayat and other maqamat because note 8 will be the same as note 1 just an octave higher. Review the video of the class for examples of octaves.



While a Pitch/Key/Note are the actual sounds of the Maqam scale, the tones are the spaces or intervals between them (the silent part). Thus in a scale of 8 notes there are 7 tones. In our Maqam system, those tones can be as large as a 1& ½ tone (as in between notes 2 & 3 in Maqam Hijaz) and as small as a ½ tone in between notes (as in between notes 2 & 3 in Nahawand). A quartertone is a tiny interval by which we expand or contract an existing tone. So in the example of Nahawand below, there is 1 whole tone between notes 1 and 2, and a half tone between notes 2 and 3. Shifting note 2 down ¼ tone, now shortens the first tone to a ¾ tone and expands the second tone to a 3/4 tone, making a Bayat scale (shown below as well).

Thus Maqam Nahawand, Bayat, and Kurd, can be played with exactly the same notes with the exception of note 2, and consequently the two tones between 1 & 2, and 2 & 3. Starting from Nahawand and moving note 2 down by ¼ gives you Maqam Bayat, and moving it down yet another ¼ tone gives you Maqam Kurd. The difference is so slight that it might seem impossible to discern between these 3 scales. This is where all the other elements of a Maqam come into play, such as phrasing/cadence, melodic progression, rhythm, accented notes. This in Arabic Maqamat is know as Sayir. We will learn more about these in the coming classes.


Maqam Nahawand

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 11.49.40 AM


Maqam Bayat

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 11.48.29 AM


Maqam Kurd

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 11.50.27 AM

5 thoughts on “Maqam Class Series: Class 3 – November 23, 2013

  1. Mike,
    Thank you for the detailed blog post and the embedded audio – I thought that was particularly helpful (and enjoyable too). I wanted to mention that I found a slightly faster version os Sur Ya El as sung by Yehiel Nahari – it can be found on youtube here: (starts at the 2 minute mark after some improvisation, which, I think ends in a Bayat Shuri segment right before he starts the song, but please correct me if I’m wrong).

    As we’re on the topic of Bayat and slight diversions, and in the spirit of asking questions, I had a question about a song the kids learned in the Abe/Maury-led choir. They studied the Hanukah-appropriate song “Hechalo Hechalo” (youtube here:, Red Book page 244: There are two parts to the song – the chorus on the one hand, and then each stanza. Is the beginning of each stanza also Bayat or does that veer into another maqam (maybe Bayat Shuri?) – it’s very short so I can’t really tell, but it doesn’t seem like it’s in the upper jins of Bayat (or at least I couldn’t replicate it on the qanun app). On the youtube video, the relevant segment is exactly 1:32-1:50.


  2. Hi David – GREAT post, thank you. Regarding the Nahari song, excellent rendition, thank you. Great to listen to but might be hard to copy him on the octave he sings during a few parts of the song. In his Mawal during 1:45 “She-aluni” he actually goes into a full Hijaz Kar (Hijaz on top and Hijaz on the bottom). If he had closed in Bayat it would have been Bayat Shuri. After that he actually goes into Husseini by singing Bayat in the upper Jins and closing in Bayat in the lower Jins (Bayat + Bayat = Husseini). I hope this is not too confusing. Either way I am happy you picked up on the Hijaz transition on top (nomenclature is less important that hearing the individual Jins being sung/played).

    Regarding Hechalo, this is the first time i heard the Pizmon, but it sounds like the chorus is simply Bayat (“Hechalo” is note 5 that we learned, or the Husseini accent note). The stanza is actually Shuri so you were correct there. There is also a small transition into Rast when he goes up high.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Guys – please take a minute to update your profile on the blog so that it shows your posts under your full name instead of your username. That way I can know who is asking the questions and respond in context. I can’t tell you exactly how to do it because my screen looks different because I am admin. If you can find the profile settings and click “display name publicly as” to show your full name, it would be very helpful. Thanks.

  4. Ezra Barry (Rabbi Barry’s son) is hosting a rare Baqashot singing event next Friday December 7th. Details below – I think it would be great to attend if you can, many of the first bunch of songs hit Bayat, the Maqam we are studying.

    Sephardic Synagogue
    511 Avenue R Brooklyn, NY 11223
    Next Friday Night December 7, 2013
    7:45 – 9:30 PM
    In the synagogue
    Men & Women Welcome

  5. Hi All,

    Please note a change in schedule. The class for next Saturday night December 7th has been cancelled. I will be out of town this week and will not have enough time to prepare for this weekend. The next class will be on December 14th, Saturday night, 15 minutes after Havdallah. This will also give you some more time to watch the last class if you haven’t yet, and practice Bayat notes 1-5 and the Pizmon from last class. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Keep posting!


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