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
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
Dozens of rhythms
Just tell it what you want, and it plays
Music and rhythm
a belly dancer's view, by Roxann (Ann Sabin)