If we want to adequately learn Persian music and the traditional Radif, learning Dastgah Shur is of fundamental importance. Shur is at the beginning of the Radif. Radif, as we have discussed means order, or line. Shur is one of the most common Dastgah you will hear in Iran. It is sometimes the first scale you learn in music. Shur is a highly developed Dastgah, it has numerous gushe that you have to learn. The gushes establish many melodic developments, different hand positions, embellishments, and melodic phrase forms that are repeated throughout the Radif.
Shur is the Dastgah that encompasses other minor Dastgah. So if we have this umbrella term Shur, within Shur you have:
Bayate Tork (aka Zand)
These can be treated like separate Dastgah, or as encompassed by Shur. It is difficult to see without being familiar with the music, but once you hear the whole Radif you can see the connection. These Dastgah all share a common root, which is what we know in Arabic music as the Bayati tetrachord. G Aqb Bb C, or if starting on D: D Eqb F G, or starting on A: A Bqb C D. The intervals between these notes are the same, and this is the root of Shur and the sub-dastgah/avaz/bayat that I have listed. Where they differ is which note they pause on, which note is part of the melodic focus, what happens in the upper range of the scale, and any accidentals. Shur, Dashti, Afshari, Kord, and Abu-Atta are more difficult to distinguish for someone unfamiliar with the tradition, but Bayate Tork is easier to distinguish because it is essentially a mode of Shur with the melody focusing on the minor 3rd note, which creates an effect similar to the Major scale. These sub-dastgah became so well known and very particular in their melodic development that they really had to be called by different names.
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When playing Shur on the Oud, you have several Keys you can play it in. A, D, G, and even C, but less comfortable. These correspond to some of the open strings on the Oud. The book of Radif which I have, has transcribed Shur starting on G, which is a common tuning for Persian Setar. It can be played like this on the Oud as well.
Let’s say we start on D, the note values for Shur are as follows:
D Eqb F G Aqb Bb C
Possible modulations/accidental notes that keep you within Shur:
A natural, and B quarter flat.
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Another useful thing to hear is certain melodic patterns that pop up here and there in the Radif over and over. There are several gushe that can be played in various Dastgah. What changes is the scale and melody being played, but what stays the same is the pattern and phrase forms.
For example, a gushe called Kereshme:
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Kereshme in Mahur
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The following post will elaborate on other sub-dastgah like Dashti, and Afshari which can be derived from Shur. Please feel free to comment and ask questions. If you want to hear about something, please share it, and I will try to make it happen!
A video that will give you a good introduction to Shur and Persian music in general is this one. I seem to always make reference to this video now.
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