Turkey, rich in musical heritage, has developed this art in two areas, Turkish classical and Turkish folk music. When describing Turkish music today it is generally said that Ottoman composers availed themselves of the rich musical heritage found in the cultural centers of the Abbasid and the Timurogullari, where Turkish, Araband Iranian musicians performed and created music known as Ottoman court music. This music was based on mode and human voices.
The mode and musical instruments of Turkish music can be found in all middle-east countries. However, with the passing of time, there have been changes in the mode from region to region. Although written sources indicate 600 modes, only 212 have survived to our day. These can be divided as follows:
- Simple modes,
- Combined modes,
- Modes with changing pitch.
Through the centuries many instruments have been used in Turkish music, such as the ud, tanbur, kemence, ney, kanun, kudum, bendir, def, halile, lavta, santur, rebap, musikar, cenk and sinelkeman.
The various types of Turkish music differing in modes and pitch include tunes and spirituals and are classified as kar, murabba beste, agir semai, yuruk semai, sarki, pesrev, saz semai, taksim, gazel, ilahi and kaside.
Turkish music is also graded under the four headings below:
- Non-religious music (with or without words),
- Military music,
- Mosque music,
- Islamic mystic music.
The history of Turkish music, especially in regard to melodic variations, can be divided into four periods. The first is the formation which goes back to the years 1360-1453, when the Turks adopted Islam. After the conquest of Istanbul, but prior to the period of classical music, Ottoman music was influenced by Byzantine music, mainly in the years 1640-1712. The greatest proponents of the Ottoman style after the exemplary classical music created by Itri were Ebubekir Aga, Tab'i Mustafa Efendi, Kucuk Mehmet Aga, Sadulla Aga, Padisha III Selim and Ismail Dede Efendi. The period from 1955 onwards has been designated as the reform period.
Intended reforms in the field of music during the Republican period led to debates on the subjects of European, Turkish, polyphonic and monophonic music. During this period composers who were noted for their work included Refik Fersan, Cevdet Cagla, Sadettin Kaynak, Selahattin Pinar, Suphi Ziya Ozbekkan, Lem'i Atli, Rauf Yekta, Suphi Ezgi, Huseyin Saadettin Arel and others.
Currently, three groups represent Turkish music. The first group favors polyphonic music. The second group prefers an individual interpretation of classical music. Numbered among this group were the Nevzat Atlig chorus, Bekir Sidki Sezgin, Meral Ugurlu, Niyzi Sayin, Necdet Yasar, Ihsan Ozgen, Erol Deran, Cinucen Tanrikorur and others. The third group preserves traditional ties coupledwith high quality and includes Yalcin Tura, Mutlu Torun, Ruhi Ayangil and others of the "new wave."
Turkish music is a product of Turkish thoughts and feelings and of migrations and changing geographical positions. It expresses the changes in the ways of life of the Turkish people throughout history.
Ballads and songs are especially important. Turkish folk music encompasses all natural and communal events. It branches out into "Kirik Hava" and "Uzun Hava" and makes use of wind, string, and rhythm instruments.
From 1926 onwards various state enterprises have conducted research into Turkish folk music.
In 1826, Sultan Mahmut II attempted to modernize the Turkish Army and organize a military band similar to the bands of western armies, and in 1828 the Imperial Band was founded.
After the proclamation of the Republic, the orchestra was renamed the Riyaseti Cumhur Musiki Heyeti, and in 1958 it was again renamed the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, its current title. The Music Teachers Academy was opened in 1924 and the Ankara State Conservatory in 1936. Today there are conservatories in both Istanbul and Izmir.
The flow of pop music from the west has also influenced Turkey, and since the 1960's Turkey has followed world trends and produced artists in this field of music.