The ney is an end-blown flute that is mostly seen in Middle Eastern music. In some of these musical traditions, it is the only wind instrument used. The ney has been played for the last 4,500–5,000 years and this makes it one of the oldest musical instruments still in use.
The Turkish ney is an end-blown reed flute, an Ottoman variation on the ancient ney. Turkish ney is one of the most typical instrument of Classical Turkish music with the Turkish tanbur and Turkish kemençe. The ney also plays a primary role in the music of the Mevlevi Sufi rites (semâ). The Turkish ney is played by pressing the bashpare against nearly-closed lips and angling the flute so that a narrow air-stream can be blown from the center of the lips against the interior edge to the left or right, depending on whether the flute is left- or right-handed in construction. This technique gives a lower volume, but a better controlled sound compared to the technique used with the Persian ney or the Mongolian tsuur, which are played by tucking the mouthpiece under the upper lip and making contact with the teeth.
In Turkish language playing the ney is described using the verb üflemek ("blow") whereas for all other instrumentalists one uses the verb çalmak ("play/brush"). It is thought that the ney's close identification with the Mevlevi Sufis might be the origin of this usage (God made Adam out of mud, and then "blew" life into it).
Turkish Neys come in various lengths and they all produce a different key. Professional players usually own a range of ney in different keys so that they can match Ney Instrument to other instruments in an ensemble.
Which Type of Ney Should Beginners Prefer?
The longer the length of the ney instrument, the more difficult it is to obtain sound, to control, to reach the notes (perde) and move quickly. For this reason, a person who is just starting to play ney is recommended to play ney of medium to high length like Mansur or Kız Ney. Those who can blow these two (Mansur or Kız Ney) can easily succeed in shorter neys. Their length is around 70 cm. If you are tall, you may prefer Mansur Ney. For those who are short, they can prefer Yıldız Ney or Supurge Ney. Boleyenk Nısfiye or Supurge Ney can be preferred for children. Today, Sah Ney is used in solo performances by some master neyzens, Dâvud Ney is rarely used and Dâvud - Bolâhenk Mabeyni and Bolâhenk Ney are almost never used. Since classical Ottoman music performers generally perform in Mansur, Kız, Yıldız and Süpürde rhymes, they prefer neys in these rhythms. The lengths of the ney instruments are approximate. Depending on the diameter and volume of the reed, these proportions vary plus or minus.
How does the Length of Neys Change?
The lengths of the neys can vary depending on the thickness of the reed and the wide or narrow opening of the inner burner. If a ney instrument is made of a reed that’s diameter is large than Ney’s length will be shorter because the internal volume will be larger. In the same way if the reed is thin, the length of the reed will be a little longer than that. As the ney instruments shorten, their voice becomes treble, and the longer the length, the thicker the sound.
The keys in which the Turkish Ney is constructed and their names can be listed as the following:
Ney name Length (average) Dügah tone (old name) Dügah tone (Turkish) Dügah tone (piano) Bolahenk Nısfiye 520 mm Hüseyni La E / Mi Süpürde Ney 580 mm Neva Sol D / Re Müstahsen 620 mm Nim Hicaz Fa diyez C♯ / Do diyez Yıldız Ney 665 mm Çargah Fa C / Do Kız Ney 710 mm Buselik Mi H / Si Mansur Ney 780 mm Dügah Re A / La Şah Ney 860 mm Rast Do G / Sol Davud Ney 910 mm Irak Si F♯ / Fa diyez Bolahenk Ney 1 m 40 mm Hüseyni Aşiran La E / Mi
For further information please see our Ney Collection.