I noticed that the Phrygian dominant (aka hijaz maqam) is used a lot in Middle-Eastern music. I also noticed that the oud, which is capable of playing microtonal intervals, is used a lot too.

Although the oud can play microtonal intervals, does Middle-Eastern music still usually use scales that are made up of 7 diatonic notes (such as the Phrygian), that can be played on "non-microtonal" instruments such as the piano? In other words, are the scales that are used in the Middle East usually just a "mode" of Western scales?


No. Often, they are not modes of Western scales. On my algerian mandole, I really do need the 1/4 tone frets to play some of the mini scales that (when combined) produce a maqam.

It really gives a distinctive (uncomparable to western scales) colour to the sound. Although some of these mini scales perfectly fit the western Major or Minor tri/tetra chords... others (which are my prefered) just do not fit at all.

On my instrument there are only two 1/4 tone frets, and I think it the case for all algerian mandole. So it is nowhere as versatile as an Aoud you are refering to, but it is far sufficient to give access to a bunch of those micro tonal mini scales, which are NOT AVAILABLE for a standard western guitar fretted neck.

I don't remember the names of those musical forms. I have to search through my notes/links. I will update this answer accordingly with relevant names and information.

  • thanks for your reply, how many notes are these scales usually?
    – user34288
    Feb 12 '19 at 20:43
  • We combine mini-scales of 3, 4 or 5 notes. They are called Jins/Ajnas. One Jins is one form of 3 - 4 or 5 notes. Ajnas is the arabic plural of Jins. Several Jins contains notes which are not accessible for a piano keyboard. I will post some examples when I'll edit my answer. Feb 12 '19 at 20:57
  • Do you also play Maqams, such as hijaz maqam?
    – user34288
    Feb 12 '19 at 20:59
  • @foreyez The one that I used to play most on western guitars, is the addition of two consecutive jins hijaz. (E F G# A) + (B C D# E). Which is what attracted me to learn Flamenco music at first, the use of this scale, which is the descent of Hijaz Maqam are you refering to. I think the traditional up movement is (E F G# A) + (B C D E). The combinations are really complex, good for improvisation, I'm still learning. And for learning, I have to decompose them in Jins. There exists MORE than 80 maqams in Middle Eastern music (IIRC). Feb 13 '19 at 11:15

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