My learning process into Bukharian Shashmaqom on the nay as part of an artistic research project

Today I will present my first findings in my artistic research project on intercultural music-making between nay and western silver flute. This is the very first method I developed for myself, after making a journal about my own practice and analyzing it.

Question : How to build a practice program for getting used to nay finger technique?

First step: Look for audiovisual examples, preferably original material from traditional Uzbek music and players.

Find an example that is musically and technically accessible for a Western musician who is a beginner in Nay playing and Uzbek musical tradition. For instance: choose an example that builds on Western chords, which is not typical for Shashmaqom, but that helps to reduce the new information that has to be learned.

This is the video I chose:

Second step: Try to play along

If simply playing along does not work, slow down the speed, search for patterns of ornaments, and try to play along again.

If it is still too complicated, edit the video in a way that it mimics oral learning: insert silences and repeat the phrase immediately after having heard it in the silences. Search for patterns. This method is derived from a tradition that is practiced in Irish oral tradition, which I watch on the following videos :

Irish Music On Silver Flute – Lesson 1 – The Dancing Master

Irish Flute Lesson #3 – [Flute Basics 2.0] – Learn « Gander Down the Prattie Hole » Today

It also responds to a proposal from my Uzbek teacher Batyr Dosimbetov who suggested to follow audio examples which he sent me.

🡪 Problem : The audio only does not help with the placement of the hands on the instrument, the fingerings, and erases the body language, important for the mood of the music in general.

🡪 Solution: Watch video that allow you to observe those elements instead of only following audio.


The large open finger holes of the nay allow to make seamless glissandi. The presence of keys on the western silver flute is on the contrary marks every stop of the chromatic western scale very clearly.

Even though the open holes make the glissandi and the microtonality easier, the glissando has to be helped with the lips, making a combination of lip glissando and finger glissando. One has to be careful with the octave jump, which occurs between C# and D on the silver flute, and between G and A on the Uzbek nay. The octave jump breaks the glissando and thus stops the glissando that would have been otherwise possible on several notes.

You need to be patient when learning the glissando on the Uzbek nay: it’s tricky to start and stop at the right height of pitch. The pressure of the air and the many possible combinations of the positions of the fingers on the holes give a lot of room for influencing the pitch.

I suggest repeating it many times not only with the nay or the silver flute but also with your voice. The voice is very important in Shashmaqom, not only for the lyrics, but mostly for all the fine intonations and microtonality the voice does with ease.

Interval jump

Another very important ornament is the quick jump of fourth above. This interval is very logical on the nay because we apply the whole hand. I didn’t learn the official name of this ornament, but for now I call it “stroke” because Batyr Dosimbetov told me to play it “like a Doyra stroke”.

🡪 Insert photo/video as additional explanation


Doyra is the traditional frame drum from Uzbekistan with a strong, clear sound. It suggests that unlike the very refined and virtuosic glissando, this jump has to be made with some strength and energy.

Here is an example of Doyra rythms by the famous Abbos Kosimov. Doira plays an important role in Shashmaqom because it conveys the transformation of the state that the listener is supposed to feel after in each section. The score you can follow along depicts the different moods that Kosimov plays.

 Abbos Kosimov | Music for Doyra | Improvisation #1