Techniques – Stroke combinations with new notation!

The richness of dutar music depends on the elaborating the melodic line not only by melodic ornaments as played by the left hand on the fretboard, but also by the rhythmic patterns strummed on the right hand. More often, it is a combination of both that gives us its manifold subtleties that seem to defy a simple transcription of the melody. As such effects are core to good dutar playing, it is necessary to be able to notate the gestures of both hands separately so we could better learn them.

I have therefore devised a tablature for the right hand, with an aim to make it visually intuitive. The notation aims to pack the all the necessary information within a note without recourse to extra symbols. Here are its basic elements:

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 11.44.00 PM.png

The bottom for notes represent down-strokes by the four fingers (a = ring, m = middle, i = index, p = thumb) respectively, whilst the four top notes represent up-strokes of these four fingers. So, say, for the following example:

TMD - During ex1

(taken from Jean During, « Hand Made. Pour une anthropologie du geste musical », Cahiers d’ethnomusicologie [Online], 14 | 2001, uploaded 4 April 2012, accessed 8 November 2015. URL :

In my notation, it would be notated on two lines, the top being the right hand (melody) and the bottom line left hand as follows:

TMD - During ex1trans

This melody, the beginning of Qoradali, can be played various ways, and being able to compare them on a purely gestural level will be of great benefit to the learner.

I shall first list Jean During’s transcriptions of the various possible ways of playing the melody:

A.  TMD - During Ex 2
B.  TMD - During ex 3
C.  TMD - During ex 4

to be followed by my transcriptions:

TMD - During Ex 2-4 trans

In this way, it is clear that the melody stays the same while the right hand gestures change constantly to give the melody variety. This is a principal way of variation in Uzbek dutar music and being able to compare them will greatly enhance learning progress.

Typical stroke patterns

We have covered the common single strokes in a previous post. Here are they represented in the notation:

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 11.40.13 PM.png


Besides single stroke, there are also some common double stroke patterns as follows:

TMD - double strokes

Followed by triple strokes:

TMD - triple strokes

and quadruple strokes:

TMD - quad strokes

Which, when played fast, become a tremolo (or riz):

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 11.37.48 PM

If it is all a bit abstract, the following demonstration video should give you a much better idea of how they sound:


I acknowledge that the ideas in this post are mostly taken from two papers:



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