JOHN VARTAN specializes in the performance of  many middle-eastern musical instruments. Below are the descriptions, pictures, sound clips and video clips of some of his instruments.




The oud is a tear-drop shaped instrument, much like the European Lute. There are five pairs of strings and one bass string. The oud pictured above is made by Karibian. Karibian was a world renowned Armenian oud maker in the 20th century who resided in Istanbul. This oud was selected by Oudi Hrant for John Vartan when John visited Istanbul back in the 60's.

Here is a sample MP3 (362K)  of John Vartan playing the oud.

YouTube Videos:
Hicaz Taksim, Huseyni Taksim, Nihavend Taksim, Saba Taksim, Sepastia Bar

Oud Sites:
David Parfitt's Oud Page,,,



Kemenche (Kemanche, Kamancha, Kemenše) is a spiked fiddle. It is played on the knee with a horse-hair bow which is tightened with the hand while playing. John Vartan is pictured with a Kemenche from Eastern Armenia (Caucausus region). The body of this Kemenche is in the shape of a parabola and it has 4 strings. Kemenche audio clip


Tar (Tahr)-originates from Eastern Armenia (Caucausus region). The body is constructed in two parts, one oval shape the other, teardrop shaped. It has an animal skin facing and has a fretted neck/finger board. The Tar is a double-stringed, long neck lute, held on the chest when played. This Tar audio clip is from John's Especialy Armenian CD.


Zurna is a musical instrument from the wooden wind family. It has a double reed for generating the sound. The Zurna is mentioned as early as the IX century in the epic tale "David of Sasun". It was widely used in everyday life-it accompanied grape gathering, grain grinding, cloth making, tight rope walkers' feasts, popular games, etc. Today the Zurna is played at weddings and other public festivities, usually in the open air. It is considered an outdoor instrument since it is very loud. Owing to its loud tone, the instrument is rarely used in the orchestra. The performer is often accompanied by another Zurna player sustaining a drone, and, accompnied by a Davul (drum) player. The Zurna originates from Western Armenia (Historical Armenia). Zurna audio clip



Srink (Sring) is a relatively small bamboo flute with the pitch of a piccolo; it is made of wood or cane, with seven or eight finger holes, producing a diatonic scale. The Srink is the instrument of shepards who play on it various signals and tunes connected with their work, and also lyrical love songs called chaban bayaty, as well as progammatic pieces. The Sring is also used in combination with def and the dohl to provide music for dancing. Armenian musicologists (for example, Komitas) believed the Srink to be the most characteristic of national Armenian instruments. The Srink originates from Eastern Amernia (Caucausus Region). Srink audio clip


Duduk (Doudouk, Balaman or Balaban) is a double-reed(approximately 3 inches long), wind instrument that has a human like voice quality. It usually has simple holes and only rarely has mechanical keys. The Duduk is most often played with an accompanist who sustains one tone or drone as in this duduk audio clip. Much of the music heard on this instrument is quite somber.


Kaval is an end-blown open flute, made of wood, with eight finger holes producing a diatonic scale. The Kaval resembles the western recorder but, unlike it, its pipe has thickenings at the ends and its tone is very misty. It is a shepard's instrument, ox-drivers and ploughmen play songs, dance tunes and instrumental pieces are played on the kaval. It is a solo and ensemble instrument. Kaval audio clip


Sulich (Pernk) is a ceramic whistle resembling the ocarina and shaped like a sweet potato; it has nine finger holes and a very sweet, clear tone. Sulich audio clip


The Shvi (Shavi) is a wind instrument with a libium mouth piece (similar to that of a western recorder). It may be made of wood or bamboo. It generally has a range of an octave and a-half. The pitches vary with the size of the instrument. There are no metal keys on the Shvi. The pictured Shvi above is a two piece Shvi from Armenia. Shvi audio clip


Yayli Tanbur audio clip


Saz audio clip