Western Music’s Most Turkish Instrument

The Rich Range Of Microtones Characteristic Of The Turkish And Middle Eastern Musical Modes (Aka Maqams) Could Not Be Played On Western Fretted Instruments. Not Until, That Is, Tolgahan Çoğulu Invented A Solution To The Problem.

Formerly unsuitable for playing eastern music, the classical guitar has undergone a transformation in the hands of Tolgahan Çoğulu, who invented a device for adding and removing frets on the neck of the instrument and produced the “microtonal guitar”.

Why did you feel the need for a microtonal guitar?
The place of the guitar in modal music was a constant subject of debate. What, for example, was the guitar going to do if microtones were used in a melody? I attached bağlama (traditional Turkish string instrument) frets to the fretless guitar that was developed by Erkan Oğur, but that didn’t work. For a while I played fretless guitar, but its sound was very different from that of the classical guitar. I wanted to produce the microtones without losing the sound of the classical guitar. Success finally came while I was doing my Ph.D. at Istanbul Technical University.

What possibilities does the microtonal guitar offer in terms of performing modern music?
The microtonal guitar offers the possibility of a new world of sound and harmony in contemporary/avantgarde/experimental music, orwhat is called new music. Modal polyphony, for example, is a new and untapped area of music, the theory of which is as yet undeveloped, and it can be played easily on the microtonal guitar.

How were the concerts of The Duo you formed with Sinan Cem Eroğlu received abroad?
There was big interest in the microtonal guitar Duo. We were coming from Istanbul and our guitars were not normal: one had no frets, the other had more frets than usual! We were playing Anatolian folk music, producing the microtones Turkish folk musicians use on the bağlama, but also trying to make it polyphonic.

Among the concerts you’ve given up to now, which meant the most to you?
A concert we gave in an old Ottoman hamam at Sarajevo in 2012, and the Kardeş Türküler concert at Harbiye Open Air Theater in 2011 where Sezen Aksu and Ara Dinkjina were guests.

Çoğulu, who examined a number of similar instruments before making his microtonal guitar, was influenced by the Vogt guitar, invented by Walter Vogt in 1985. The intervals on this guitar, the closest instrument to the microtonal guitar, can be changed to some extent thanks to its adjustable frets