The rūbāb is a plucked instrument with 12 to 18 strings. In fact, the rūbāb has only six melody strings, and the rest of the strings are drone strings. The rūbāb is played by a pick made of an animal horn or sometimes plastic and has a soft and bass sound. Although the word “rūbāb” is seen in Persian classical literature especially in the poetries of Rumi; however, today this instrument is mostly considered as a local instrument of the Sistan and Baluchistan province, the southeastern Iran.
Figure 1: The horizontal view of the rūbāb
The rūbāb is a short-necked lute made of wood, with goatskin covering the body. The instrument is made from the trunk of a mulberry tree. Originally the strings were made from the intestines of young goats, brought to the size of thread. But, today some strings are made of plastic as well.
The melody strings of the rūbāb were originally five, but now they are six. In fact, each two melody strings are tuned the same; therefore, there are three pair of strings which are tuned in fourths. The drone strings are tuned the same. In fact, the drone strings are not even played; rather they are resonated by the existing air in the sound box of the instrument.
Figure 1: The vertical view of the rūbāb
Figure 2: A close look at the drone strings of the rūbāb
The rūbāb came into vogue again in the Persian art music in 1960s. The musicians’ tendency to establish pure Persian ensembles in that era led them to incorporate not only the urban instruments but also the folk ones. As a result, the rūbāb which was used only in the eastern part of the country was brought back to the field of Persian classical music. Beside Bijan Kamkar and Hussein Alizadeh who are considered pioneers in playing the rūbāb as a classical Persian instrument, today there are many young musicians who play this instrument.
Figure 1: Bijan Kamkar plays the rūbāb
Figure 1: A close look at the drone strings of the rūbāb
Figure 4: Arsham Qaderi