Music Structures

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In Arab music a wazn (Arabic: وزن; pl. awzān, أوزان) is a rhythmic pattern or cycle, literally translated as "measure" (also called darb, mizan, and usul) (Touma 1996, p. 210).

A wazn is only used in musical genres with a fixed rhythmic-temporal organization including recurring measures, motifs, and meter or pulse (ibid, p. 47).

A wazn consists of two or more regularly recurring time segments, each time segment consisting of at least two beats (naqarāt, plural of naqrah). There are approximately one hundred different cycles used in the repertoire of Arab music, most shared with Turkish music. They are recorded and remembered through onomatopoetic syllables and the written symbols O and I (ibid, p. 48).

For example, wazn wahdah sayirah (4/4), a relatively short wazn of four beats (p. 50):


Wazn wahdah sayirah
Wazn may be as large as 176 units of time (p. 48).

Wazn are performed on the goblet drum (Darabuka), frame drum (riqq or tar), and kettle drums (naqqarat) (ibid, p. 49).


  • Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340888.