One of the oldest forms of flute is the ney, the endblown flute. The word ney means reed and the instrument is played from Morocco to Pakistan. It's ancestor the Kaval, Kawla or Kawala and the Salaam or salamiya flutes which are thicker and are usually less longer than the classical nay. This type can be found from Egypt to Azerbaijan, as well as in Turkey, Macedonia and Bulgaria These kind have no extra thumb hole. The washint of Ethiopia belongs to the same family. This type of flute is considered as the oldest instrument in use.
Kawala and nay flutes come in different sizes to fit each makam.
The oldest forms of the nai dates back to the age of the pyramids, shown on Egyptian tomb paintings as early as 3000-2500 years BC. The oldest nay found was 5000 years old, in good shape and playable. The intervals were the same in use today. These kind of ney are still used among certain Ethiopian tribes. The origin of the word comes from the early Persian "nây" which simply means flute.
It is an end-blown flute with seven holes, six fingerhholes plus a thumbhole. The Turks started to use wood, bone, horn around the 11th century and now even plastic mouthpieces, really liprests. As for playing, the fingering and lip technique remain the same. This embouchure is called bilabial blowing, upper and lower lip are used to partially close the end of the tube.
The name of the top of the ney is Baspare in Turkish. Turkish style ney's have a special mouthpiece which is called Parazvana (some kind of black cone which protects the mouthpiece).
Both Arab nai and Turkish ney come in different lengths, each one being tuned to a specific pitch, simular like the irish pennywhistle.
A neyeti or ney player usually has a set of neys to use depending on the Maqam and key. The normal set consists of seven Neys. However, a competent Ney player usually uses two one being the dokah. The Neys are referred to by the name of the second note. That is the note the Ney produces when the first hole is uncovered. In the typical Ney, the note is "D". It is usually called by the Turkish name which is "Dokah".
For the Docah Ney, when all the holes are covered, the basic note is 'C' or Do as most Egyptian musicians call it.
Notes are also produced by partially opening a tonehole, changing the blowing angle or a combination of the above and also by altering your blowing force. The G note in the 1st register is the same pitch as the all-holes-closed note in the 2nd, as is the C in the 2nd reg. and the closed C of the 3rd; these alternate fingerings are used for musical purposes and to check internal tuning and angle position.
Arabs play more rhythmic, reflecting the instrument used in the sheperd tradition, a good example is the use of the ney in oriental music. A classical nai is usually longer, the folk models like the kavala or kawal - which has no thumbhole - are shorter.
In Turkey the ney is a more urban classical instrument. The Turkish style is more smooth and flowing. In Turkey, the Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes) long ago adopted the ney as their main instrument in the Sema, the spiritual service that includes the trance dancing spinning.
The lament of Ney is a fire.
who has not this fire be perished.
(Special thanks to my ney teachers Asfour (who worked together with Abdelli and Ghalia Benali) and Mohamed El Toukhy, former neyeti of Hossam Ramzy)