Turkish music is one of those styles that opens up an amazing new world for the guitarist.
Rhythms in this type of music are very unique and intriguing. So are their melodies and approach to what we would never call in Turkish music “scales”.
You see, they use a different way when playing music. To put it in few simple words they choose small groups of notes which give different flavors or “spices” as they would say. By combining all these flavors a Makam is built. This Makam has many peculiarities like melodic direction, important notes, many possible modulations and a long etc.
But what really sets this music apart is the use of what we call microtones.
Microtones are small divisions of a tone, that is to say even smaller than a half tone.
These really cool and at the beginning out of tune kind of sounds are the real stuff by what Turkish music is made. Of course to these we have to add their special ornaments, etc, but really, playing Turkish music on guitar and striping it off its microtones is something you don’t want to do.
So now comes the question of… hum… where are the microtones on my guitar?
Well, they are not available on it… or at least not yet.
Let’s go step by step. For instance, if you bend your string less than a half step; like in a blue note playing Blues; you are getting a microtone. Now these microtones obtained by bending strings are not good enough for playing Turkish music on guitar because of their lack of stability, difficulty to play in succession with other notes, etc.
So there are several ways to play Turkish microtones on a guitar.
HOW TO PLAY MICROTONES ON GUITAR
The first most complete and recommended is using a fretless guitar. But We are not going to get into that in this article, stay tune and soon enough I will publish something for that. In any case here is an example of it:
Another way to play Turkish music on guitar is using “fretlets”, that is small on-off frets that are added to your guitar. Some guitarists install fixed frets on a regular guitar. It works but it is quite limited. Other guitarists use these fretlets in their on-off version, that is only sticking them on and off the fretboard wherever are needed.
You can find these method of playing different microtonal music styles (Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Indian, etc) in my book “Microtonal Guitar” in volume I we focus on Turkish and also Persian music . And hey! The book comes with fretlets included!
But again I have to say that in this article we are not dealing with fretlets.
OUR METHOD FOR PLAYING MICROTONES ON GUITAR
The way we are going to do it is even easier and still quite effective. By using alternative microtonal tunings on the guitar.
So basically what we are going to do is retune one or two strings on the guitar so we get the microtones available.
The tuning we will be using for the following examples is very simple. It is only E, A, D, F# microtonally lowered, A and E. Basically all the strings except for the third can be tuned in the habitual way. The third string must be lowered about 35 cents. You can use an electronic tuner but developing your ear will help much with this type of music.
One way to guide yourself is when you play the natural harmonic on the fourth fret of the fourth string this should be higher in pitch than the natural harmonic of the third string on the fifth fret.
I have to mention here that different Turkish players vary the pitch of microtonal notes slightly. This is due to many reasons like melodic attraction, the Makam in use, etc.
Now that we are tuned let's play a few exercises to get used to this tuning.
Let's play a Turkish kind of scale on guitar. In exercise 1 we see how to go up the scale combining open strings.
In the next exercise we have the same notes as before but played in a different position.
Next we go up a little but without reaching the octave yet.
Now we are going for the octave. In this case or seventh note is going to change. In Makam music there is a phenomena called "melodic attraction". What happens is that a note's pitch can get higher or lower depending on the melodic direction.
In the next exercise the C# ascending is a little lower in pitch. When descending we will play a natural C. This two notes are responsible for the melodic attraction in this melodic sequence.
HOW TO PLAY A TURKISH SONG ON GUITAR
And now let's learn on guitar the beginning of a Turkish tune called Karcigar Sirto.