Dastgah Homayoun & Esfahan – Persian Music Continued

by Majnuun Music & Dance on December 10, 2013, 2 comments


In continuing our discussion about Persian Dastgah system and Radif, I will now discuss the next “scale” that is most familiar to Western ears. This is our equivalent to any harmonic minor scale, except with the ABSENCE of equal temperament and the ADDITION of a few quartertones.


In the last article, I discussed the Dastgah Mahur starting from C. This is as close as we get to a Major scale in Persian music. Now I will show you Homayoun in G and Esfahan in C. Homayoun and Esfahan are Dastgah that can use the same intervals but the tonic is different. In some ways, you can view Esfahan as a mode of Homayoun, or you can view them as totally separate.



(Aqb = A quarter flat)

G (Ab) Aqb B C D Eb (Eqb) F G

A flat and E quarterflat are used in different gushe during melodic development.




C D Eb F G Aqb B C


The problem with viewing the scale like this is it gives you some erroneous preconceptions. Remember that:

Persian Dastgah are not played in linear fashion.

Persian Dastgah are played by emphasizing and dividing up these notes into what are called “Ajna” (plural), “jins” (singular), or “gushe” in Persian music. It would make more sense to look at the notes like this:


Homayoun: (Tonic or Shahed is in Bold lettering)


(Eqf F G)  (G Aqf B C) (B C D Eb F) (F G Ab) A flat is only used on the high octave




(G Aqb B C) (C D Eb)  (F G Ab)

So the brackets divide up the notes that are used in certain gushe. Sometimes only a few of these notes will be used in a certain gushe. As a reminder, gushe means corner or niche. In other words, a corner of the scale uses X notes. For example, listen to Daramade Avval of Homayoun and you will see that the set of notes (Eqf F G Aqb B C) are the only ones used. It doesn’t even go up to D or Eb yet…

Homayoun has another characteristic note that can used in modulation. It is the Eqb used in the above soundfile. When the melody moves toward the tonic (G) in this case, you use a Eqb note. When you move away from the tonic, particularly when descending you can use an Eb. For example:

The way you use this note in modulation is if you establish the D note as the focus of your melody you can use Eqb to go into Dastgah Shur or maqam Bayati, or theoretically anything else that uses the D Eqb F G tetrachord, or jins, or gushe. For example:

Here you can hear me modulating from Homayoun to shur to maqam sabah and then to sikah. In Arabic music, modulating from Bayati to Bayati Shuri is another common modulation. In essence, this is the same as modulating from Dastgah Shur, to Homayoun.


In Persian music, the easiest way to modulate from Homayoun to Shur is to use the gushe Bidaad. Bidaad uses the notes B C D Eb to establish the melody, and the D note is the focus. This is the note that is in common with Bayati or Dastgah Shur.

Another characteristic of Homayoun that you should listen for is the use of Aqb. Homayoun likes to take a break or pause on Aqb. This is heard in Daramad avval above as well. Resting on Aqb is used when developing the melody of Homayoun in the beginning of an improvisation and also in preparation to conclude of the tonic G when finishing the improvisation. Also listen to how the note B is used as well. There are some shorter pauses on B natural as well.




Esfahan is like a backwards Homayoun. Instead of the tonic being on G it is a perfect fourth note away on C. Also the gushe is developed differently, and the whole feeling of the Dastgah is different.


In Persian music, traditionally you play either in Homayoun or Esfahan, you never tend to modulate from one to the other, but in theory you can do this easily. It is not done because Homayoun is very developed, meaning that it has a well established order and progression. If you study the Radif and all the gushe’s within Homayoun, you can experience this. It also has it’s own feeling. Nevertheless, I have heard musicians play Esfahan and use the gushe Bidaad in their melodic development. When you hear Bidaad, you really just have to think about the melody focusing on the 5th note of the scale. Bidaad is not traditionally associated with Esfahan, but it is easy to include.


One way to look at Esfahan in a very basic way is to see the tonic as a place to begin and the notes around it are used in different ways. Listen to the Daramad (Prelude) of Esfahan and then I’ll explain what happens.

The melody starts on the tonic and plays with these notes, C B Aqb G, but always returns to the tonic C. Sometimes there is a short pause on Aqb, but soon returns to the tonic. Also, make note of the use of C D Eb. Reference to these notes is made, and this is very characteristic of Esfahan. The bending of the notes D and Eb, and emphasising Eb at times creates a feeling of longing, love, or mysticism. Esfahan is very often used in mystic music. It is a very important Dastgah in the repertoire of Tanbur music. A really good album to listen to is On Through Eternity: Homage to Molavi by Dastan Ensemble. Most of the album is in Esfahan and it really hits the mystic element home.


In the Radif of Mirza Abdollah, Esfahan is rather short including only 7 gushe. But it is very well developed as well.  Here is another gushe from the Radif.

It is also important and interesting to note that there is an old version of Esfahan and a modern version. The pre-modern version flattens the B natural by a quarter tone, whereas the modern version sharpens the B to a perfect third from G. I’ll play them both, listen carefully.

I hope this article has been useful to you, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Did you enjoy this article? Get our latest articles in your email inbox!


2 thoughts on “Dastgah Homayoun & Esfahan – Persian Music Continued

  1. Hello

    I enjoyed reading the article

    I have a confusion about the scale of homayoun

    I wanted to know if it start in – sol,What are all the Homayoun notes
    What the ist what the shahed

    Are all the episodes is the same thing, or that may violate any instance in chakovak or bidad

    Thank you very much

    • Hi Hayim, sorry for the late reply.
      If you start in Sol (G), all the notes are

      G Aqb(koron) B C D Eb F G
      But also you have Eqb(koron) and F below Sol(G) This E koron is sometimes played as E natural, but this is a modern simplification.

      Homayoun is very confusing because sometimes it seems like Fa (F) is shahed, and sometimes it seems like Sol is the shahed. For example, in gushe Sushtari Sol becomes the Shahed. Aqb(koron) is “ist”.

      In chakavak, Do (C) is the shahed, and then “ist” is A koron again.

      In Bidad, Sol is shahed, and the ist changes from Re(D) to B briefly. Let me know if you would like to discuss this further and I will be glad to help you.

Comments are closed.