The Ney (also known as nay, flute, reed or naiu) is an end-blown flute which plays a primary role in Classical Turkish Music. The name of ney" comes from the Farsi words "nay" and "na".
The artist who plays ney is called "neyzen". This name comes from the Farsi word "zeden" that has a meaning of "a person who plays an instrument".
Neyzen : Zeki Sozen
The oldest ney ever known is displayed as "Reed with Seven Holes" in the Section of Egyptian Instruments in the University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology. You can have more information about it in our The History of Ney page.
In his travelbook, Hodja Gıyaseddin Nakkaş (a globetrotter in the 15th century) stated that approximately 2000 sazendes (musicians) and neyzens played their instruments and prayed for the Khan (the supreme ruler) of Hıtay Turks.
Ney is made of reed that can be found in marshes. However, every reed cant be used to make ney. It must have nine nodes that are close to each other. It must be yellow, hard and fibrous but not bent down. In Turkey, this type of reed can be found in Samandağı, Hatay. It can also be seen in Marseilles, Syria and old Mesopotamia (the region between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers). The reeds are cut in fall season and left for drying nearly three months. After that, their two nodes from the both ends are cut off and left for drying again nearly six months.
Finally, the reeds are ready to use for ney makers. They choose the suitable reeds and make holes in them from the certain points.
Then, some metal rings called parazvana or parazvane are placed in the both ends to prevent cracking. The metal rings can be made of silver or copper, it depends on the neyzens preference.
Neys have a mouthpiece called Başpâre that is placed for a cleaner, better sound. Başpâre is usually made of water buffalo horn, or sometimes ivory, ebony, plastic, or similar durable material. It does not have a standard size, it can be changed for the neyzens lip shape and thickness.
Only Turkish neys have Başpâre and their closest relatives in other countries (for example, the Araps smaller neys called nısfiye or picolo) do not use a mouthpiece.
The sound interval of ney is nearly two and half octaves. Since its interval is not wide enough like piano or violin, ney doesnt allow transposition. It is an instrument that one can play the sounds from the key of G to the key of D. The sounds in the lowest octave are called dem sesler. It is quite difficult to blow dem sesler, but when it is achieved, the sounds have very impressive timbre. Neyzen plays ney by holding it with 45 degree-angle in sitting position. In Mevlevi Ceremonies (some religious ceremonies), ney can be played in standing position.
To obtain the oriental sounds, the holes must be opened in certain positions like semi-opened or quarter-opened. In some cases, neyzen can blow these special tones by bending his head. Ney is one of the two primary musical instruments of Mevlevi music (the other one is kudüm), but it is also very common in temporal music.
Neys can be in different lengths and each of them has a different name. These are (from low to high) Bolahenk, Davut Mabeyn, Davut, Şah, Mansur Mabeyn, Mansur, Kız Mabeyn, Kız, Yıldız, Müstahsen Süpürde, Bolahenk Mabeyn and Bolahenk Nısfiye. These names are also the names of the tones in Turkish music.
There are 12 types of neys; seven of them have natural tones and five of them have semitones (you can have more information in our The Types of Ney page). There are also nısfiye neys that are shorter (half of the normal length) and have a sound of one octave high. Nısfiye neys are prefered instead of the longer neys (like bolahenk and davut) because playing the longer ones is much more difficult. The neys having flat sounds as their fundemental sounds are called Mabeyn.
The Types of Ney
A neyzen uses blow ney instead of play ney. Blowing is a figurative expression here and it comes from an Islamic belief that states when Allah (The God) created human, he blew his soul into him.