Maqamlessons Network Demo Site


Welcome to the test version of what is intended to become a full representation of the Sharqi Maqam System, representing the Egyptian & Syrian traditions, with pages for 33 maqamat. This version is a demo of that future site, with only 6 maqamat and 8 jins pages. If you've visited before, you can head straight for the Maqamat & Ajnas (playground entrance), or take the tour.

What is a maqam, and how is it represented on this site?

A maqam is a melodic mode in Arabic music. Melodies, rather than scales, are the best way to approach maqam; in those terms, a maqam can best be understood as a pathway (or set of pathways) among melodies or melodic areas, each of which we call a jins (plural ajnas).

Definition: Maqam: A pathway among Ajnas

So what is a jins? A jins can be understood in three ways: 1. as a set of 3, 4, or 5 notes with specific intervals among them, 2. as a collection/repertory of melodies using those notes, and 3. as a particular mood, color, or flavor of melody (this is the more metaphorical, affective way of understanding jins). The second component of this definition--jins as a collection of melodies--is the most important, contains the most information, and is the primary entrance for learning jins and maqam.

A jins is represented on this site by a simple box:

  • Jins Hijaz
    • This text will be replaced by the flash music player.

If you hover over the box above with your mouse, you should see a player pop down; push play to hear the audio sample. You will notice that the audio sample has melodic phrases that are repeated--this is in order to allow you to repeat the phrase along with me the second time I play it. This audio sample is a mini call-and-response lesson, like those at, and the idea is that by repeating these melodic phrases over and over again, you can build your melodic vocabulary for the maqam system.

Thus I give component 2. of my jins definition prominence--a jins as a collection of melodies. For those who read music, or are interested in seeing a representation of the intervals (component 1. of my definition), I do provide a representation of each jins in Western notation, like the following:

Hover over the notated image, and you will find the same audio sample as you found above. In this site, all of the information is doubled--with colored boxes for those who don't wish to look at Western notation, and with notated images for those who do. The audio samples in both representations are identical

A maqam doesn't end with one jins, however. Eventually musicians will move to melodies in another jins, and that is represented on this site by a line connecting the boxes for each jins, in this pathway taken from Maqam Hijaz:

  • Jins Hijaz
    • This text will be replaced by the flash music player.
  • Jins Nahawand
    • This text will be replaced by the flash music player.

If you listen to the audio samples associated with each jins one after the other, you should find that they sound reasonably good together. Now consider the following pathways, taken from Maqam Bayati Shuri:

  • Jins Hijaz
    • This text will be replaced by the flash music player.
  • Jins Bayati
    • This text will be replaced by the flash music player.
  • Jins Nahawand
    • This text will be replaced by the flash music player.

Jins Hijaz sounds good in conjunction with either Jins Bayati or Jins Nahawand. However, Jins Bayati and Jins Nahawand don't sound very well connected if you play one right after the other. Give it a try.

When you look at the maqamat as represented on this site, you will find many more pathways represented than in the samples above. That is because each maqam doesn't contain only one or two ajnas, and the pathways among them, but many different ajnas and many pathways among them. Some maqamat, like Maqam Suzdalar, do only contain a few paths. But some, like Maqam Rast, contain many many ajnas and paths. When you are examining each maqam, be sure to listen to the audio samples and see which ones fit better in sequence--you should find that for the most part, the ajnas that sound good together have a line connecting them. Be sure to imitate my phrases and sing or play along with the second iteration of each one!

How to Read the Maqam and Jins pages

The information on this site is always designed to be read from top to bottom, and that applies to both the networks and the lists of ajnas. The most frequently used ajnas in a particular maqam are at the top of the graph, and the top of the list; the less common ajnas occur farther down the network or list. The jins at the very top of the network is the opening, or leading, jins of that maqam. So when you look at the page for Maqam Bayati Shuri, represented below, you will see that Jins Hijaz, the leading jins for that maqam, occurs at the top of both the list of notated ajnas as well as the network representation of ajnas; you will see that Jins Ajam occurs at the bottom, and this indicates that it is less important than the Ajnas above it; in fact, a presentation of Maqam Bayati Shuri wouldn't have to include Jins Ajam at all:

maqam bayati graph

One more thing to keep in mind when looking at these networks: the left-to-right axis of the network represents register. The ajnas in the lower register are on the left side, and those on the higher register are on the right side. If you read music, you will see that mirrored in the list of notated ajnas, where you will find all of the ajnas lined up so that common tones appear exactly above one another, with the notes ascending as you proceed from left to right.

The numbers in the jins boxes correspond to the jins numbering in the list; and are an indication of the relative order of importance of the ajnas within each maqam. You may ask why there are numbers missing, and that is because I have selected some, but not all, of the ajnas within each maqam for this demo site. I have chosen to preserve the numbering that will be used in the full site, so it will be easy to relate the demo version to it; the missing numbers correspond to ajnas that will appear in the full site, but not in this version.

Traveling Between Pages

In addition to moving among ajnas along the pathways represented by the lines of the network graphs, there is another way to move within the maqam system. In short songs or improvisations, most of the melodies occur within the primary ajnas of the maqam (the first one, two, or three represented on these pages), and any of the other ajnas occur briefly, if at all. However, in longer songs (such as Umm Kulthum's long songs) or longer improvisations--or even in shorter songs and improvisations in which the composer or player wishes to be more unconventional--some of the less important ajnas within the maqam can become more prominent. When dwelling on a particular jins, it is common to bring in some of the other close pathways associated with that jins--pathways that might not be a fundamental part of the maqam in question, but which might be taken from other maqamat in which that jins occurs.

Such a move is represented on this site by the HTML links among pages. Every jins image on this site (either in box form or notated form) is a link to a page for that jins, listing all of the other maqamat in which that particular jins occurs. The maqam images on that jins page are in turn links to the pages for the maqamat in question. So you can modulate between maqamat on this site, via ajnas held in common. Just as is the case with the network graphs, the shorter the path between any two ajnas, the more likely they are to occur in conjunction.

The site as a whole, then, can be viewed as a larger network containing the smaller networks of the individual maqamat; each connections in that larger network of maqamat is provided by a common jins. This is best represented on the site map.

Getting Started

Now you're ready to start exploring the site. The exploration of the site itself will teach you much more than I can express through further explanation. Start at the playground entrance, where you can find the links to all of the maqamat and ajnas on the site. The playground also contains a more theoretical discussion of the structure and intention of this site. Or you can take the tour, a narrated step-by-step guide that will walk you through several pages, to give you an idea of how you can use the site.

Good luck! Contact me if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.