Maqam Class Series: Class 5 – December 28, 2013

Dear Class,

As I wrote in my recent email, this last class was a true milestone in our progress towards conquering the Maqamat. Congrats to all the participants in this class who performed solos – your hard work really showed in your creative singing.

Below the media files is a recap and highlights of the material we covered during the technical portion of our class with my PowerPoint presentation, specifically the hidden backroads of Bayat and the various ways to transition to other Maqamat. Once again, this information is more advanced for those who want to delve deeper.

We re-introduced the concept of Pizmon Improv this past Saturday night. Again, this is using the Pizmon as a springboard to jump into vocal improvisation (Mawal), while using the structure of the song as a basis for the Mawal. I posted an example of that below on both Bayat note 5(A) and note 7(C). This is a great way to practice and develop your own signature style.

Remember, it is going to be quite some time until the next class. This musical sense you are developing is a muscle that needs to be exercised or it gets lost. Allot specific times during the week to listen, read, and sing. If you are traveling in January, download the music and media files and use the time to your advantage. It will not only keep you growing, but give you the ability to lose yourself in the amazing world of music, now heard through your well-trained ears.




Bayat Taqsim on Qanun by: Abraham Salman


Class 5 Recording (Part 1)

Class 5 Recording (Part 2)


Class 5 Recording (Part 3)


Bayat Individual Notes: Sung on “D” as 1-4, 1-5 (Husseini), 1-6 (Ajam B-flat), 1-7, and 1-8 (Mhayyar note) as we did together in class. Pay attention to the Vibrato we discussed.


Pizmon: Mauzi (Arabic Version)


Mauzi Text


Mauzi Solo Note 5 (“A”/Husseini Pitch) by: Michael Harari

note: remember the concept of circling around one note (in this case note 5 “A”) before returning to the base


Mauzi Solo Note 7 (“C”/Mahur Pitch) by: Michael Harari


Habaitak by Fairuz


Detailed Technical Review:

For a list of terms and definitions see the previous classes’ technical reviews. This technical review will be the most advanced and intricate one yet, so it may take a few sittings to fully digest it. I encourage a lot of posting on these points to help you better understand them.

In this class we introduced the concept of vibrato when singing the notes. This helps us incorporate the adjacent surrounding notes to give the sound more depth and help us find the note more easily.

Vibrato [definition] – a rapid, slight variation in pitch in singing or playing some musical instruments, producing a stronger or richer tone.


The name of Arabic Notes, Jins, and Scales

In this class we spoke about how not to get confused by the names being thrown around in the Arabic Maqamat world. There are 3 applications for the names as described below. But first it is important to highlight that Rast is the mother of all Maqamat. Most of the other Maqamat flow out of Rast in some way, usually with the individual notes of Rast becoming the Tonic (first note) of that respective Maqam. Rast can be played on almost any Key, but Rast on C is the most common.

Pitches – Every pitch (shown as a single note) in the Rast scale has been given a name. These names are used for musicians and singers to reference a specific point along the scale for a variety of reasons. For example, when an experienced musician plays Maqam Bayat, he knows that the lower Jins Bayat (tetrachord) is played on the Bayati pitch, also called the Duqah pitch (in our case “D” or the second pitch of Rast), and the upper Jins Nahawand is played on Nawa (in this case “G”). The diagram below shows all of the pitches in the Rast scale. note: click on the images to zoom in.

Pitch Names

Jins – As we learned early on a full Maqam is made up of several (usually 2) parts called Jins. These Jins are usually 4 notes in length, also called tetrachords (though they can sometimes be trichords [3] or pentachords [5]). These Jins have names similar to the Maqamat, such as Rast, Bayat, and Sigah. However, they should not be confused with the Maqam itself. For example, in our case, Maqam Bayat has an upper Jins Nahawand, but yet the scale is not called Nahawand. But not coincidentally, Maqam Bayat (full scale) has the lower Jins Bayat (tetrachord) and is also traditionally played on Bayati (pitch). Confused yet? Good.

Maqam – These are the full Arabic scales, usually consisting of 8 notes and two Jins. The first note is called the Tonic and usually carries with it a name (See above). When dealing with 8 notes, the first and 8th note are usually the same (as in Bayat where 1 and 8 are both “D”) making them an Octave (Oct = 8) apart.


The “Subsumed” Maqamat of Maqam Bayat

When carefully taken apart and analyzed beneath the surface, Maqam Bayat is actually comprised of several other Jins (aside from its two Jins of Bayat and Nahawand as discussed). This is factually because of their respective tones. Learning about these other hidden Maqamat will help you understand their relationship with one another and how to smoothly weave in and out of them and seamlessly end up right back in Bayat.

If you recall, tones are the spatial intervals that exist between pitches, which make up the “DNA” of the Jins or Maqam. And so, no matter which key you start with, playing with the same tonal intervals will yield the same Maqam. Therefore, by searching for unique tonal sequences in Maqam Bayat, we come up with some interesting revelations.

Sigah – Starting with D (Bayati/Duqah pitch) as our first note in the full Bayat scale (note 1/8) the next note up is the E half flat (Sigah pitch). From E half flat to F to G makes the tones of ¾, 1, giving you the Sigah Jins (trichord). See the graph below for a visual representation of this. So to get to Sigah from Bayat, simply start at the second note of the Bayat scale and vice versa.

Jins Sigah

Ajam – Starting with F (3rd note of Bayat) and going to G then A gives you the tones of 1, 1. This is the signature for Ajam (equivalent of a Western Major scale). We see this pattern re-emerge again from the 6th note on B flat going to C then D gives us again, 1,1. See below.

Jins Ajam

The “Trilogy”

Rast, Bayat, Sigah. The staple of Arabic music and what I like to call the Maqam trilogy. These Maqamat and the relationship between them are so important that it is not surprising that their tonic pitches have the same names as their Jins and their full scales.

When starting on C (Rast Pitch) Rast is on that C, followed by Bayat on D, and Sigah on E half flat. This relationship would probably less significant had it not been for the fact that the 3 Maqamat share the same 5 notes (C, D, E half flat, F, G). This reinforces my point that the starting and ending point (placement) of the Maqam is as important as the notes within it. In fact, Maqam is Arabic for “place” (Hebrew Maqom). Below is a diagram showing the relationship between Rast and Bayat. I anticipate moving onto Rast when we are finished learning Bayat, so pay close attention to this one.

Maqam Rast

2 thoughts on “Maqam Class Series: Class 5 – December 28, 2013

  1. Hi Michael,

    On Jins Sigah the notes are D – E half flat – F – G and the scale 3/4 – 3/4 – 1; please explain why the scale is not 3/4 – 1 1/4 – 1.

    E to F is 1 note and I would have expected E half flat to F to be more than a full note away.


  2. Hi Robert,

    E-F is only 1/2 tone. Its confusing, I know. When you go from A-G, any letter to the next letter is a whole tone (1) with two exceptions: e-f and b-c which are 1/2 tones. Does this clarify things?

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