• Bağlama (‘Saz’) tuning •



The bağlama is a three-course lute of variable neck length, popular in Turkish folk music (n.b. nearby cultures call similar variants the saz, while other local names include kopuz, irisva, balta, and bulgari). Played with a hard cherrywood pick, the frets, often made of fishing line, are moveable – opening up infinite microtonal shades.


Bağlamas take many different tunings (known as düzen). This one mimics the ‘long neck A‘ layout of GG-DD-AAA. On guitar, the vast tension changes give a ‘chaotic 12-string‘ feel – see if you can use the wild slackness to find some messy makam-tinged magic! (n.b. for another Anatolian adaptation, see Turkish Oud tuning).

Pattern: 0>7>0>7>0
Harmony: Gsus2 | 1-1-5-5-2-2


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To sample a scattering of bağlamasters from across the ages – see innovators including Muharrem Ertaş and his son Neşet Ertaş (the ‘Plectrum of the Steppe’), Erdal Erzincan (the ‘Eddie van Halen of bağlama’), and Erkan Oğur – also known for pioneering the fretless classical guitar (“long notes make you freer…I looked around for Turkish music, because I was living then in a very authentic place and time. I started then with what they call bağlama…a little instrument, very handy”).


  • Tahran Konseri – Erdal Erzincan & Kayhan Kalhor (2012):

“The ozans wandered from campsite to campsite [in the 11th century], performing Oghuz epics [and] popular folk songs…They were present at national hunting rites (sgir), and at mourning ceremonies (yog), and travelled with the Seljuk army performing heroic poetry after military victories…The Anatolian Turks possessed a large body of love poems and folk songs…Unfortunately, almost nothing is left of these epics…” (from Hans de Zeeuw’s 2020 book The Turkish Long-Necked Lute: Saz or Bağlama, p.13)

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6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note G G D D A A
Alteration +3 -2 0 -5 -2 -7
Tension (%) +41 -21 0 -44 -21 -55
Freq. (Hz) 98 98 147 147 220 220
Pattern (>) 0 7 0 7 0
Semitones 0 0 7 7 14 14
Intervals 1 1 5 5 2 2
  • See my Tunings Megatable for further such nerdery: more numbers, intervallic relations, comparative methods, etc. And to any genuine vibratory scientists reading: please critique my DIY analysis!


—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…

  • Oud (Turkish): another folk lute from the Anatolian region
  • Open Dsus: the famous DADGAD takes the same three tones
  • Zen Drone: more paired strings for wide open explorations


—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…

  • Bağlama horizons: a short historical talk from Ulaş Özdemir on The Stringdom, and musicologist Hans de Zeeuw’s intriguing 2020 book The Turkish Long-Necked Lute Saz or Bağlama (“which played…an important role during the ceremonies of [the] âşıks: the Anatolian wandering poet-musicians…”) – also find out what happens when a Saz teacher “sweeps an entire village
  • Erkan Oğur’s inventions: fretless designs on Neu Guitars, plus a fascinating RootsWorld interview (“while waiting…at a red light, Erkan, sitting at the steering wheel, took out a small home-made guitar-like instrument and proceeded to play a fast piece under his friend’s astonished eyes. When the light turned green, as he drove on, he explained…’That’s my traffic-light music'”)

Header image: 20th-century baglamaster Aşık Daimi

George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Home & Writings, and hit me up for Online Lessons!

“An intrepid guitar researcher…”

(Guitar World interview)

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