Arab music: melody and rhythm

Melody in Arab music

Melody in Arab music is usually based on scales or modes known as maqamat. Although many modes have been identified, about a dozen are regularly used.

Tone includes micro-intervals which do not conform with traditional Western systems. Although there are various systems of notation, maqamat are generally treated as scales consisting of 24 equal quarter-tones. Western notation has been adapted, using the "flat" symbol with a horizontal line through it to lower a note by a quarter-tone, and the "sharp" symbol with a single vertical line, to raise it.

A quick introduction to the maqamat by Adib Chebli.

List of maqamat 

Chromatic scale 

Arabic maqamaat

Maqam transpositions 

Music structures 

Melodic modes 
Examples from Lebanon and surrounding countries.

Rhythm in Arab music

Rhythms (iqa'at) can be highly complex, with patterns sometimes consisting of as many as 48 beats. The basic components of a rhythm are two kinds of beat and silences (rests). 

The downbeat (dumm) is a deep sound made by hitting the drum or tambourine near the centre. The upbeat (takk) is a crisper, high-pitched sound made by tapping the rim of the instrument. Players usually ornament the basic pattern with improvisations.

Examples of some common rhythms

Quick reference
Dozens of rhythms

Rhythm generator
Just tell it what you want, and it plays

Playing a percussion instrument
Some simple lessons by Jeff Senn, with special pages on dance rhythms and drums

Music and rhythm
a belly dancer's view, by Roxann (Ann Sabin)

A "quick and dirty" guide to doumbek rhythms 

Part 1: beladi, ayoub, masmoudi (with sound)
Part 2: chifftatelli, kashlimeh, guwazi, chaka
Part 3: falahi, sufi, serto, zar