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Persian Percussion Encyclopedia

Historical Tonbak players

Tonbak Players of the Past

Peyman Nasehpour © 2002


In this article I try to recall some Tonbak players of the past that there is not much information about most of them.

Tonbak Player of Ghajar, 19thCentury, Persia

Notating Tonbak Rhythms

Two Systems for Notating Rhythms Played on the Tombak (Zarb)

Peyman Nasehpour and Matt Hannafin © 2002

There are two systems for notating rhythms played on the tombak (Persian goblet drum). This article introduces both, and explains the various symbols used to indicate all the basic techniques of the drum.


Tonbak Acoustics & Tonbak Science

Notes on Tombak Acoustics

Shahin Mohajeri ©2003

Tombak follows the same basic rules as other goblet drums:

See also Matt Hannafin's article on Playing strokes and technique

Acoustics of striking the drum

Tonbak Strokes

The tombak (also called zarb) is the principal percussion instrument of Persian classical music. Its technique involves innumerable strokes and techniques employing all the fingers of both hands, alone and in combination. Strokes on the tombak and strokes on the doumbek (Arabic/Turkish-style goblet drum) are related, but they're very, very different.

The aim of this article is to explain the basic strokes of the tombak as taught in the style of Ostad Hossein Teherani -- though this is a difficult subject to tackle in print, without visual aid. Photos of the hand/arm positions for these strokes can be found in the liner notes of the CD Iran: L'Art du Tombak (Zarb) by Madjid Khaladj (Buddah Records no. 92594).

Different Names for the Tonbak

A Research for Different Names of Tonbak

Peyman Nasehpour © 2001


Tonbak is the chief percussion skinned instrument of Persian art music. In this article, I try to explain different names of the instrument and conclude that tonbak is the most suitable name for it.


Tonbak is the chief percussion skinned instrument of Persian art music, though it is used in Persian folk music too. This instrument, after the great masters of tonbak especially the late Ostad Hossein Tehrani and the late Ostad Nasser Farhangfar, has advanced in the last century and it has become more popular [Z, p179]. Through the history it has been applied different names for this instrument but the two names, tonbak and zarb have been used more than the others. In this article by explanation of the different names of the instrument I try to get this result that tonbak is the most suitable name for it.

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