One of the most interesting aspects of Turkish classical music is the manner in which melodies are formed. As in music the world over, this music comprises certain genres, determined by a variety of elements. The majority of these can be classified by the general type of melody (religious/secular music), means of performance (instrumental/vocal), performance context (military, classical, entertainment music), area in which it is performed (chamber music, urban music, Sufi lodge music), performance style (rhythmic or free-rhythm). The structure of Turkish music has also been influenced by the melodic form and its social implications. Based on these, it is possible to divide Turkish music into two general forms:

A) Instrumental music
B) Vocal music

These main classifications contain melodic forms of a variety of characters, short descriptions of which are given below.

A) Instrumental Music

a) Pesrev
b) Taksim
c) Medhal
d) Saz semaisi
e) Oyun Havasi
f) Aranagme

Pesrev is the highest form of instrumental work. Pesrevs are founded on sections called Hane, which are usually four in number. Some old pesrevs comprised of only three hanes are known, but this type of pesrev did not remain popular and was abandoned. Each hane ends with a section called a teslim; however, pesrevs with no teslim are also encountered. Pesrevs are composed using the majors. The first movement of the fasil performance genre is a pesrev.

Taksim is the name applied to improvisations performed on a single instrument, on the tonal patterns of the makams. The taksim is constructed either of known or improvised melodic elements, played in the makam to be performed, before the actual instrumental or vocal piece begins.

As the taksim is performed, the dominant, semi tonic and tonic of the makam are emphasized. Thus the term "taksim" means a free-meter progression/stroll through the makam of the piece to be played, in a manner conforming to its style.

Medhal: Short instrumental pieces performed by the entire ensemble, and generally before the beginning of the program, are called medhal. Medhals are not divided into sections such as hane or tesllim. According to the taste and discretion of the composer, they can be of varying length, and are played before entering into the makam to be performed. The medhal does not have a long history; they were written and adopted by recent period composers.

Saz Semaisi is the term given to the last piece played in a fasil performance. Like pesrevs, saz semaisis are also divided into four sections, but unlike pesrevs, their meters consist of the minors. The first three hanes, as in pesrevs, display features such as the entrance and transitions. The melody and usul of the fourth hane, however, is free, and up to the discretion of the composer. Saz semais can be played at the end of a fasil, but they can also be performed as independent pieces of music. As saz semais have a rhythmic and free structure, they have been more popular with composers.

Aranagme: At the very beginning of some pieces, there is a short section played instrumentally only. This is called "giris müzigi" (entrance music), or more commonly, aranagme (interval/in-between tune). Besides at the beginning of the piece, aranagmes sometimes occur in the middle or at the conclusion of a piece. Though several of the older works do not include an aranagme, today it is very rare to compose a piece without an aranagme.

Oyun Havasi: These are instrumental works, usually in minors, without one strict form. This type of piece mostly occurs in folk music.

B) Vocal Music

Vocal music can be divided further into two main classifications:

I) Religious music
II) Secular music

I) Religious forms

a) Mevlevi Ayini
b) Na't
c) Durak
d) Miraciye
e) Ilahi, tevsih
f) Sugûl
g) Ezan
h) Tekbir, Temcid, Tesbih
i) Salat, Selam
j) Münacaat
k) Mevlit

II) Secular Forms

a) Kâr
b) Beste
c) Semai
d) Gazel
e) Sarki
f) Türkü
g) Köçekçe

I) Religious Forms
Mevlevi Ayini: Of all the forms of Turkish music, both religious and classical, this is the highest form. It consists of four sections. Each division is known as a selâm. The Mevlevi ayini, known formally as the "Ayin-i Serif," (the Sacred Ayin) must not be confused with the Mevlevi semah. The ayin is the musical form that accompanies the Mevlevi semah. The semah, on the other hand, is the turning performed by the semazens (ritual turners) with in a strict discipline. As a whole, this is called the "Mevlevî Mukabelesi" (mukabale: lit. facing, reciprocations). The form is as follows:

1. The Hafiz chants the Holy Koran
2. The Naathan Itrî (Singer of naats) chants the rast naat.
3. The Neyzenbasi (head ney player) plays a rather long taksim in the makam of the Ayin-i Serif to be performed.
4. Pesrev.
5. The Ayinhans (singers) begin the first selâm.
6. Second selam, in the usul Agir Evfer (also known as the Mevlevî Evferi)
7. Third selâm, in the Devr-i Kebir, Aksak Semâi and Yürük Semâi usuls.
8. Fourth selâ, in the Agir Evfer usul.
9. Last pesrev and last yürük semâî.
10. Last taksim, by one of the instruments.
11. Reading of the Holy Koran. Turning to face the sheikh, the Semazenbasi (head semazen) chants the Mevlevî Gülbang prayer. The Salat-i selâm is chanted, almost non-melodically, and the Mevlevî ayin comes to a close. Everyone bows. The sheikh takes a few steps, and this time bows to the musicians. This bow is returned by the neyzenbasi, the semahane (area where the sema is turned), and the Ayin is over.

Mevlîd: The mevlîd is a musical form of a text written by Süleyman Çelebi in the common language of the people, which tells of the birth of the Prophet Muhammed. This work holds a special place in Turkish literature, and it has become customary to sing it at worship gatherings, and on the occasion of births and deaths. The music was composed by various people, in a variety of makams, and without usul. It is transmitted orally, from master to apprentice. The melodies used in mevlîd music are mostly improvised upon. This is an important feature of the mevlîd; everyone who sings it makes changes and additions according to his/her own taste, musical education, and knowledge of makam.

Mersiye: Metered works, sung without usul and sung in remembrance of the dead, are known as mersiye. These are chanted by people with some knowledge of music in an improvised fashion, in all makams. Though they are generally without usul, notation does exist for some famous Mersiyes written in usuls. There are many, many verses of this metered form in Turkish literature. Mersiyes written by folk poets are known as "agit" (laments).

Sugul: Devotional songs in Arabic, composed in the ilahî style is called sugul. These are sun in zikrs in the tekkes (Sufi lodges). Usually in the usuls of düyek and sofyan, suguls are musically simpler, lighter and more vivacious than ilahîs.

Ilahî: These are metered works, written in Turkish, about the virtues of Allah and the Prophet (Muhammed) and other religious figures, in various makams and usuls in a style unique unto themselves. Ilahîs are sung by one or several people together at mosques, tekkes and other such devotional gatherings. While they may be written in any makam, it is not traditional to write ilahîs in the joyful or upbeat makams. Written as they are in a variety of makams, and in both the major and minor usuls, the many examples of ilahîs constitute a rich treasure within the body of Turkish music.

Tevsih: Ilahîs sung during breaks in the mevlîd.

Durak: This is a religious musical genre, based on poetry written in the kaside type (eulogy/commemorative poetry generally with fifteen or verses). Duraks exist both in free rhythm as well as composed in the "durak evferi" usul.

Miraciye: A great religious form, written by Kutb'un Nayî Osman Dede, relating the Prophet Muhammed's ascent to heaven. These are long, and written with various transitions of makam and usul.

Na't: A religious musical form, sung at Mevlevihanes by one person before the beginning of the Ayin. Praises to Allah, they are in Arabic, Persian or Turkish.

Ezan: The adhan, or call to ritual prayer; sung from the minarets of mosques in Arabic, in free rhythm.

Tekbir: A genre sung together at ritual prayer during bayram (`eid, the feast following Ramadan, the month of fasting). Itrî's tekbir was composed in the segâh makam.

Temcid: A form sung in Arabic from minarets towards dawn on holy nights.

Salat and Selam: Works that express the mercy and concord of God and Muhammed. There are several forms, such as Morning Salat, Friday Salat, Bayram Salat and Funeral Salat.

Münacaat: A musical form founded on poetry in the kaside form (see Durak, above), the words of which implore God for forgiveness.

II) Secular Forms

Kâr: A name applied to long songs, with rich rhythmic and melodic content and written in a variety of usuls, which usually begin with a terennüm (see definition under "Beste," below). They are generally sung immediately following the pesrev. These differences in usul lend a vivacity to the piece. After the Kâr, the Beste form is performed. A difference between the Kâr and Beste forms is the free nature of the refrain. According to their length, works in the Kâr form are sometimes referred to by different names such as Kâr, Kârçe, Kâr-i Nev, and Kâr-i Natik, which describe the pieces' structure.

Beste: In Turkish, the word beste generally brings to mind any and all works of music. The words beste, bestelemek and bestekâr (composition, to compose, composer) are all closely related words. In contrast to the broad definition of the word "beste" above, it has a different meaning in the context of Turkish classical music. The "Beste" is, after the Kâr form, the most all-encompassing genre of Turkish music. Bestes are composed with four hanes, each of which contains one line of poetry. At the end of each line, motifs known as terennüms occur. Terennüms are sections, either meaningful or meaningless, but with a melodic structure. Terennüms may consist of syllables/words, or several words. Frequently occurring syllables and words include "ye," "le," "li," "la," "ta," "ne," "dil," "dir," "ten," "ni," "canim," "ruhum," "gel serv-i revanim" or "canim efendim."

Semai is one of the richly varied composition forms of Turkish classical music. There are two different types of semai: 1) Agir Semai and 2) Yürük Semai.

Agir (heavy) Semais, in terms of order of movement in a fasil, are played immediately following the beste. As is clear from the name, they are of a heavy and moving form. They are metered in the minors.

In the fasil performance, another semai occurs after the sarkis. But the semai here in the order of events is not an agir semai; this type of semai is known as "yürük semai."

Yürük (fleet, active) semais are counted in an usul also known as "yürük semai." In comparison with the agir semais, yürük semais are more lively and upbeat. After the yürük semai, the saz semaisi (instrumental semai) is performed, thus concluding the fasil.

Sarki: Literally "song," sarki is the name applied in Turkish music to vocal works in four hanes, with no terenüm, metered in minors. Their lyrics are generally quatrains. The names of the four hanes in order of performance are: Zernin, Nakarat, Meyan and Nakarat.

Gazel: A vocal improvization performed by a singer on a particular set of lyrics is known in Turkish classical music as a gazel. Gazells are in free-rhythm, but of strong makam structure. Performers of gazels are known as gazelhans. Today, the gazel form has fallen from favor.

Köçekçe: This term is generally applied to a suite of vivacious and joyful sarkis and türküs in the same makam. In the old days, köçekçe was music arranged to accompany dancers known as çengis or köçeks.