All About Persian Daf Instrument


Tips For Purchasing A Good Persian Daf Instrument

The history of frame drums based on the ancient times. The persian daf is one of the ancient musical instrument in Iran and neighboring countries.They have strong and dramatic sound with a simple structure and used both in spiritual rituals and entertainment gatherings. Daf instrument is known as one of the oldest frame drums from the ancient history of Asia and Africa. In Sufi culture, they use daf for spiritual chanting and Iranian musicians integrated that successfully in Persian music. The player usually holds the persian daf with left hand (for right handed players). Persian daf has four main techniques. Using these four techniques, all different rhythms and sounds can be produced on Daf. The right hand techniques are called “Tom” and “Bak” and left hand techniques are called “Chap” and “Zanjir”.  In Iran, Sufis use persian daf during their Zikr rituals (spiritual chanting); in recent years Iranian musicians have successfully integrated it into Persian music.




What is a daf?

Daf instrument is a large frame drum from the Middle East. It is commonly used in Armenia, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and also in Greece. It can spell as Daf, Daff, Deff, Duff. The frame is made of wood and covered with a lot of metal rings attached around it. The membrane of a daf is mostly made of animal skin, like a goat, horse, and cow but in modern versions, synthetic materials are also in use.

The frame is made of a strong wood. The diameter of it is about 48 - 55 cm wide. The skin of the daf instrument is strongly glued to cover the frame. In order to keep skin tight, metal pins are nailed behind the frame. There are no jingles in the Daf instrument. In the inner part of the wooden frame, there are hooks that help the rings hanging. These rings work like jingles when the instrument moves.




What are the different types of daf?

Solo daf is a model specifically designed for solo performances. The jingles have a high pitched clear sound. It has a higher-tone and a voluminous sound. The soloist plays the instrument easily by relaxed finger movements on the surface.

The skin of the daf might be affected by the humidity because of the natural materials used in the making process. A studio daf is a special model produced to prevent the changes on tightness of skin. It helps to play the instrument for the whole performance without worrying about the changes of the tune.

The daf instrument is a strong voiced instrument. But in an orchestra this strong voice could kill the sound of the other instruments. To avoid this problem in an ensemble, the player should use an orchestra daf which has a lighter soft sound that blends warmly with other instruments.

The bass daf is a model which is larger and has a thicker skin. This helps it to catch a fuller, deeper and more appropriate bass sound.

Treble daf is another specialized style, designed to catch high notes. They are also suitable for winter performances.




How to play the daf?

Hold the instrument in front of your body. Place the left hand at the 6 o’clock position and the right hand at the 3 o’clock. The rings should face towards the player while drumhead faces away. The three beginning strokes are; bass toned “dum”, high pitched tone “tak” and another high pitched but softer and slightly muted tone “ka”. The dum and tak strokes are produced by right hand while the ka stroke is made by the left hand.

To create the dum stroke, keep fingertips together in a little arc position and hit the center of the daf with the tips. It will help the daf bounce and creates a deep, bass tone. For the tak sound use four fingers and hit the instrument slightly from the edge. To create the ka stroke, twist your left wrist hit with four fingers slightly from the upper edge of the frame.

Playing of the daf involves arms, wrists, hands and fingers working together at the same time. The hands and the wrists help player hold the instrument firmly while fingers creates the sound. At the same time arms get lower or rise up and shake the frame to produce simultaneous movements with the head and the rings. Hand and finger techniques create a wide range of tonal and rhythmic variations.



Place of Daf in Modern Music Genres Throughout History

In a world where even musical instruments go extinct and forgotten, daf can still hold its place and survive in some cultures today. Although Daf does not have the worldwide popularity it used to have, it is still a big accomplishment for an instrument to survive thousands of years in different cultures. Just imagine how many different objects Persian tried to make music with and decided that Daf was better than the most. As a result, Daf has managed to preserve its popularity and relevance. 

Looking at its status today, Daf instrument is still fairly popular in many classical orchestras which lean a little bit towards oriental music taste. It is very common to stumble upon a daf player when visiting any musical show in countries such as Turkey, Armenia, or Greece. Not only the oriental classic music but also folk music and in some instances of pop music of these countries have a place for Daf because of its unique oriental spice.

daf instrument

Daf’s Story Started Thousands of Years Ago

Even though there are so many different ways to make music nowadays, instruments like daf still manage to stay relevant. Any instrument who survived as long as daf should be apricated because they guided the music through dark ages to become what it is today. They are one of the reasons music is an essential part of the entertainment industry today. 


daf instrument history


The Future of Daf

It is impossible to predict the future yet considering the era we live in and the resilience of Daf, it is easy to say it will be around for many more years. The main reason for this is there will always be new people making good music who will try unique things to make their music distinctive. Since nowadays internet stores everything in it, something as historically important as def will never disappear from the face of the earth.


  • Posted on by Fariba

    I am looking for small daf If by any chance you have one please let me know

  • Posted on by Kirk

    Not a very in-depth history of the Daf. Does not mention that the instrument came from Kurdish people and was originally used only for prayer.

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