Middle Eastern Instrumental Music to Soothe the Soul

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Relax and enjoy some of the best Middle Eastern instrumental music around. You’ll feel your stress melt away in no time!


If you are looking for music to relax and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul, look no further than Middle Eastern instrumental music. This type of music has been used for centuries as a way to soothe the mind and emotions. The calming and therapeutic effects of this music have been well-documented by modern science.

There are many different styles of Middle Eastern instrumental music, but they all share certain common features. The melodies are often repetitive and mellow, with a slow or moderate tempo. This allows the listener to enter a state of deep relaxation. The instruments used in this type of music include the oud (a type of lute), the ney (a type of flute), and the kanun (a type of zither). These instruments create a rich and complex sound that is both beautiful and soothing.

If you are looking for music to help you relax, ease stress, and promote healing, give Middle Eastern instrumental music a try.

The Different Types of Middle Eastern Instruments

There are many different types of instruments used in Middle Eastern music. Some of these instruments are the oud, the ney, the darbuka, and the qanun. Each of these instruments has a unique sound that can be used to create beautiful music.

The Oud

The oud is a stringed instrument with an pear-shaped body. It has a short neck and a flat back, and typically has 11 or 12 strings. The oud is considered the grandfather of the Western lute, and is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia around 4,000 years ago. It is still widely used in Middle Eastern music, particularly in Arabic music.

The Ney

The ney is a flute-like instrument with an end-blown reed. It is used in various genres of music such as traditional Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Kurdish music. The ney has been around for over 3,000 years and is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt. The instrument is made from various materials such as wood, bone, metal, glass, or reeds.

The ney comes in different sizes and has anywhere from five to nine holes. The most common type of ney used in Arabic music is the six-holed ney. To produce sound on the ney, the player must blow into the reed while covering the holes with their fingers. The pitch of the note changes based on which holes are covered.

The ney has a haunting and mysterious sound that can be used to express a wide range of emotions. It is often used in slow-tempo pieces or sad songs to convey sorrow or grief. The instrument can also be used in more upbeat tunes to create a festive atmosphere.

The Kanun

The Kanun is a plucked zither, a stringed instrument with between 26 and 40 strings. It is also sometimes called the qanun, kanoon or ganoon. It is one of the most popular instruments in the Arab world and is used in a wide range of musical styles including classical, folk and pop. The kanun generally has a trapezoidal shape and is played with the fingers of both hands. Each strings is tuned to a specific note, which allows the instrument to play chords as well as single notes.

The Qanun

The qanun is a traditional string instrument from the Middle East. It is played with the fingers, and usually has 72 or more strings. The strings are plucked one at a time to produce a soft, ethereal sound. The qanun is often used in traditional Arabic music, and has a distinctive place in the ensemble.

The Riq

The riq is a tambourine-like instrument that is played with the hands. It is one of the most popular instruments in Middle Eastern music, and it is often used in folk and pop music. The riq has a round body with metal jingles attached to the rim. It is usually made from wood, but it can also be made from plastic or metal.

The riq is typically used as an accompaniment to other instruments, but it can also be played solo. When played solo, the riq is often used to keep the beat or to provide a rhythmic foundation for other instruments. The jingles on the riq add a bright, metallic sound to the music.

The riq is a versatile instrument that can be used in many different genres of music. It is commonly used in Arabic music, but it has also been used in Turkish, Greek, and Iranian music.

The Doumbek

The doumbek is a type of drum that is popular in many Middle Eastern countries. It is usually made of clay or metal, and has a single head that is hit with the hand. The doumbek produces a variety of sounds, depending on where it is hit and how hard it is hit.

The doumbek is often used in traditional Middle Eastern music, and can be played solo or in accompaniment with other instruments. It is also a popular instrument for belly dancers, as the beat of the doumbek can help to keep the dancer’s movements in time.

The Different Styles of Middle Eastern Music

There are many different types of Middle Eastern music, from the more commonly known Arabic music to the lesser known Kurdish music. Each type of music has its own unique style and sound. Arabic music is often characterized by its use of the oud, a stringed instrument, and its use of rhythm and melody. Kurdish music, on the other hand, is often characterized by its use of the kamanche, a type of fiddle, and its use of harmony and improvisation.


The word “classical”, when applied to music, is used by modernists to refer to art music produced in the West from the Middle Ages up until around 200 years ago. It is sometimes called “art music”, or more commonly simply “classical music”.

In the East, the word “classical” refers to music of a different sort entirely: Traditional music which has been passed down orally over generations, usually without being written down. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “traditional” applied to music. In the West, the word “traditional” generally refers to folk music.

So when we use the word “classical music” in the West, we are referring to a period of time during which composers wrote down their works and performers played them from sheet music. The period generally begins with the Medieval era and continues through the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods. It ends around 1900, give or take a few years.


Sufi music is devotional music associated with Sufism, a mystical Islamic belief. Sufi music has a particular style and format, usually based around the singing of poetry or hymns. The lyrics are usually in a trance-like state, designed to induce an altered state of consciousness.

styles of Sufi music include:
-Qawwali: This is the best-known form of Sufi music and comes from Pakistan. It is based around the devotional singing of poetry, often in Urdu or Hindi.
-Ghazal: This is a more spiritually-based form of Sufi music, originating in Persia. Ghazal lyrics often deal with themes of love and yearning.
-Sama: Sama is a form of music and meditation associated with the Mevlevi order of Sufism. It involves chanting and dancing in a circle, often led by a singer known as a sheykh.


Folk music is the music of the people, handed down orally from one generation to the next. In contrast to commercial music, which is produced for profit, folk music is produced by and for the performers themselves. It is usually a communal activity, involving people in dancing, singing and clapping along with the music. The instruments used in folk music are often everyday objects that have been adapted for musical use, such as jugs, washboards and spoons.

Some of the most popular folk styles come from Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. Bulgarian folk music is known for its complex rhythms and fast tempo, while Greek folk music is characterized by its emotionally charged lyrics and mournful melodies. Turkish folk music often features a distinctive eastern flavor, with instruments such as the ney (a type of flute) and the oud (a type of lute) playing an important role. Egyptian folk music has a more relaxed feel, with gentle rhythms and soothing melodies.


Instrumental music from the Middle East can provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This type of music is often characterized by its use of Arabic or Persian scales, and its distinctive rhythms. Whether you’re looking for something to help you relax, or simply want to enjoy the beauty of the region’s musical traditions, Middle Eastern instrumental music is sure to please.

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