In Turkey the Fretless Guitar is called “Perdesiz Gitar”
Turkish music is traditionally beyond the scope of instruments with equal temperament tuning, the twelve notes to the octave used in Western music, examples of these instruments would be the piano and the fretted guitar.
The Turkish Tanbur is a fretted instrument allowing 24 notes to each octave, but these are not evenly spaced but are built up with tetrachords and pentachords which make up Makams or scales and there are many variations of these. (read more here and download a diagram of Turkish tunings)
The Oud is a fretless instrument which allows Makams to be easily played as there are no fixed notes apart from the open strings, but there are some limitations, amplification of the original instrument can be difficult and due to its bowed body shape, the player has to be seated.
Enter Turkish master musician Erkan Oğur, who in 1976 made his first fretless nylon acoustic guitar. This breakthrough spawned a huge interest in Turkey and saw many players take up this tool and put it to good use.
There had been some forerunners, Zeynel Avidin Cümbüş in 1930, invented the Cümbüş, a twelve string fretless banjo like instrument with six two string courses the strings being identically pitched unlike the twelve string guitar. Full story here.
Born in Ankara, Turkey in 1954, Erkan grew up in Elaziğ, Eastern Turkey. At the age of four he took up violin and the bağlama, progressing on to mandolin, cümbüş and tanbur. He studied physics and chemical engineering in Munich, Germany and took up guitar in 1973. He was then set on a course to be a professional musician. Playing fretless guitar from 1976, his album “Fretless” would not be released until 1993. In 1989 he moved to the USA for a couple of years, playing with the bluesman Robert ‘One Man’ Johnson. He continues to tour the world playing mainly Turkish music.
Deniz Atalay was born in 1977 and grew up in Ankara, Turkiye. He got his musical education from several local teachers in Ankara such as Hatıra Ahmedli (composition & solfeggio) and Murat Arkan (jazz guitar). In 1999 Deniz decided to study jazz guitar and he passed exams of the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, Netherlands. He had further Turkish Music & Theory lessons from Ahmet Polat, which helped him to improve his fretless guitar playing and build synthesis of harmony and makam (modal) in his original music. In 2004 he moved to Poland played & recorded in different projects and gave many concerts around the country. He appeared as part of the Story Tellers Group “Studnia O”, and gave Turkish Music Workshops in Cracow. He moved back to Turkey in 2010.
Currently he is giving guitar lessons and recording his own album with his own compositions with the contribution of Marcin Malinowski, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Cezary Kondrad, Pawel Panta, Cem Aksel, Daniel Monski and Eleonora Atalay.
He has written an excellent Masterclass in Turkish Music for Unfretted: Turkish Makam Masterclass.
Born in Turkey in 1973 and now living in the Netherlands Timucin plays a doubleneck “VIC” guitar crafted in Turkey by Zafer Senkal. He modestly describes himself as a guitarist and composer. He has played with jazz trios “On The Line” and “Rare Falcons” see reviews here. The Timucin Sahin Trio plays heady Jazz throughout Europe and the USA. Read More about Timucin here.
Best known for his role in the Jeff Beck Band, Swiss born Meier has a Turkish wife and the music on his solo albums “Journey” and “From Istanbul to Ceuta with a Smile” are fine examples of the influence of Turkish music on his work.
Born in Kars, Turkey 1981 Bilal achieved the Jazz Performance bachelor degree from Istanbul Bilgi University (2000-2004) and works as a Professional Guitarist. He describes his music as: “A unique near east approach to jazz guitar”
Cenk Erdogan is a Composer, Fretless and fretted guitar player from Turkey. He started playing fretless guitar in 1999.
In his own words: “After I graduated from music school I started to compose music for TV and I am still doing it. I am also working as a studio guitarist. My idea about my music is, trying to find the true note, true notes give you the way to reach the deep sides of your spirit. I sometimes find the true notes sometimes not but geting into that is the risk and I love the risk while I am playing.”
Cenk Erdogan Plays “Kadınım” by Tanju Okan
Cenk hosts the excellent website: Fretless Guitar Lessons
Ali was born in 1984 in Eskişehir, Turkey. He was introduced to music at an early age. He completed his undergraduate education at Istanbul Technical University Department of Architecture Department of City and Regional Planning. He began training on the fretless guitar with Erkan Oğur at university. At Haliç University he was awarded a master’s degree in the Turkish Music section.
Ali Saran – Perdesiz Gitar Taksim (Fretless Guitar Taksim)
Sinan Cem Eroğlu
Born in 1986 in Ankara, Turkey, Sinan playing a Simurg Doubleneck built by Turan Guitars.
Özge Öz Erdoğan – Değirmene Taş Koydum / Sinan Cem Eroğlu (Perdesiz Gitar / Fretless Guitar Solo)
Elektrik Perdesiz Gitar (Albüm Kaydı Solo) / Electric Fretless Guitar – Sinan Cem EROGLU (Fenix Headless by Turan Guitars)
Aktaş Fatih Erdoğan
Born in 1987 Aktaş brought his project Crossover to the sixth Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival in 2011. He is currently working on his first album.
Emre wrote the excellent article Converting an Electric Guitar to a Fretless Guitar for Unfretted and the example pictures show his VIC guitar going through the process. As well as a fine musician he works primarily as an artist, he provided all the artwork for the Village of the Unfretted CD and artwork for Ed DeGeanaro’s CDs “Less is Seldom More” and “Doghouse”.
Hasan Cihat Örter
Hasan was born October 24, 1958 in Kastamonu, Turkey, he is a Turkish composer, prograssive guitarist and arranger.
Hasan Cihat Örter – HİCAZ TAKSİM – Ebow – Perdesiz Elektro Gitar
Lives in Rize, Turkey
Uğur Varol – Ağla Beni [ Seyyare ]
Uğur Varol – Iğdır’ın Al Alması [ Seyyare ]
Yüzün Gördüm Dedim – Telvin Cover
Luthier Özgür Turan heads up Turan Guitars based in Eskişehir a city in northwestern Turkey.
Uluönder Mah. Baksan Sanayi Sitesi 18/7 26190
Tepebasi / ESKiSEHİR / TÜRKİYE
+902222282096 – 05069709282
VIC guitars are made by the luthier Zafer Senkal in Izmir/Turkey.
Tolgahan is a musician and academic at Istanbul Technical University’s classical Turkish music department, who has developed a new guitar which is microtonally fretted allowing musicians to play a variety of sounds from Eastern and Western world music types. Read more here: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-musician-invents-a-guitar-for-music-of-east.aspx?pageID=238&nID=44716&NewsCatID=383
Like many articles it is quite likely I left some things out, or missed some artists, as much of the information is written in Turkish it is very hard to research, automatic translators do not help and return gibberish much of the time. For example: the term “Curtainless Guitar” where did that come from? So you dear reader, can help and improve this article, any help is much appreciated.
Editor’s note: I found after writing this article the Turkish word “Perde” means “fret” and also means “curtain”.
Turkish Makam Masterclass by Deniz Atalay
Deniz Atalay website – excellent resource with fretless lessons in English
MAKAM – Modal Practice in Turkish Art Music (book review)More Fretless Articles