There’s a reason that the Saz is the most commonly played musical instrument in Turkey. Its distinctive sound has captured the imagination of all who have heard it over the years, and it’s a sound that’s ingrained in Turkish culture.
Fun Fact: Saz is the word for “Instrument” in Turkish (which proves how important this musical instrument is in Turkey). The official name for this instrument is Baglama, or Baglama Saz.
The Guitar of The East
When you pick up a Saz and start plucking on its strings you’re joining a long line of people throughout history who have been captivated by its unique sound. It was the preferred instrument of minstrels over the centuries who have told countless tales of sorrow and joy through its sounds.
Despite the Saz instrument being one of the oldest instruments in the region, the Saz retains a huge fanbase today, and while the traditional Saz is still popular, modern variations on this classic instrument making the Baglama world more exciting than ever before.
The Saz is a stringed instrument that’s a variation of a lute and is where Turkish Saz music gets its name. It has been used in Turkish, Ottoman, Iranian, Kurdish, Azerbaijani cultures (among others) as a primary instrument for countless years. It has seven strings divided up into 3 “courses” of 2 strings, 2 strings, and 3 strings.
The tuning of the Saz is done by course (instead of by string) and the specific tuning depends on the region and culture of the person playing the instrument, as opposed to something like the guitar for example, for which standard tuning is almost always tuned EADGBE. A common tuning for a long saz is Bb F C – low to high.
What Makes the Saz So Desirable?
It’s easy to understand why people love the sound these instruments make, but they’re also amazingly beautiful pieces of art that are captivating to look at and hold – especially when they are handmade by artisanal craftsmen (and craftswomen) who have spent their entire lives perfecting the art of Baglama construction.
The combination of natural materials and advanced traditional building techniques make the Balgama one of the most fascinating instruments in the world in terms of design and construction.
The sleek pear-shaped body of the Saz with its deep bowl-like bottom is a marvel of carpentry. The technical term for this section is the “tekne” and it’s usually made from a wood like juniper, spruce, walnut, mahogany, mulberry or maple. On top of the tekne sits the soundboard (called the göğüs) and this is almost always made from spruce.
The iconic long neck of the Saz (which is still quite long on the short necked Saz) is usually made from beech or juniper, and it’s called the “sap”. The sap contrasts wonderfully with the “fat” tekne bottom section creating an unmistakably exotic feel to the instrume
nt. The sap has frets added to it (often by wrapping fishing line around it so they are adjustable) and the strings are attached to the tuning pegs (bergu) at the top.
Last but not least, you’ll often play the Saz with a device that’s similar to a guitar pick called a mızrap or a tezene, traditionally this is made from cherrywood, but modern versions are also made from plastic.
Feel Free To Sniff it…
As you can imagine, all these natural materials smell wonderful when you’re close to them, the combination of the various woods is a true scent sensation for your nostrils. The instrument feels as good in your hands as it sounds to your ears, and the craftsmanship is a real joy to touch. When all this is combined with the undeniable beauty of the Saz and the iconic mesmerizing sounds the instrument creates…
It’s easy to see why people think that it’s an instrument that nourishes all of your senses at the same time.