The simsimiyya is a traditional plucked lyre played in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. It is mostly used by Bedouins as a social instrument. In Egypt it is traditionally used to accompany a dance called bambutiyya. Our Simsimiyya sample library includes two separate virtual instruments, one sampled from a small instrument (simsimiyya I) and one that’s a little larger (simsimiyya II).


Middle Eastern music often uses unique modes called maqams, this is one of the things that distinguishes the Middle Eastern sound from Western music. You can read about maqams in detail at maqamworld.

Our simsimiyya library includes a unique maqam selection feature that offers ten of the most common maqams as presets, with controls for you to define four presets of your own. Listen to this audio file for an introduction to maqams:

Main Interface

Simsimiyya 1

ADSR & Tuning

Both instruments in this library use the same graphical interface. A row of knobs along the top can be used to adjust the ADSR, the instrument’s fine tuning, the Ebow samples’ pitch, and the Ebow volume.

If you want to control the ADSR of the Ebow independently from the rest of the instrument then we recommend that you load two instances of the instrument and use one instance only for the Ebow, this won’t increase the RAM footprint of the library as the two instances will share the same sample pool.

Maqam Menus

The drop down menus in the centre of the interface are used for selecting and editing maqams. You can disable the maqam feature by selecting “None” from the first menu, any other setting will enable a maqam. Ten of the most common maqams have been pre-programmed and are available from this menu. There are also four custom options that you can use to define your own presets.

Kontakt Keyboard Maqams

To create your own maqam, select one of the custom slots from the first menu and use the 12 note menus to specify the setting for each note of the scale. Notes can either be on, off, or quarter-tone. As you adjust these menus you will see any notes that you’ve disabled become either black or white on Kontakt’s on-screen keyboard (depending on if it’s a white or black key). Any presets you create will be saved when you re-save the Kontakt instrument (NKI).


The bottom of the interface includes a selection of effects, each has two sliders to adjust its parameters. You can enable or disable individual effects by clicking on the button with the effect’s name.

Continuous Controllers

The instruments in the Simsimiyya library respond to the following continuous controllers:

  • CC1 (mod-wheel) controls the volume of the Ebow samples.
  • CC11 (expression) for overall instrument volume control.
  • Pitch bend – both patches respond to the standard pitch bend controller
  • MIDI Velocity – the plucked samples were recorded at three dynamic layers which crossfade smoothly as you play at different velocities.

Keyboard Layout

Simsimiyya Keyboard Layout

The two instruments in the library, Simsimiyya I and Simsimiyya II, have an almost identical keyboard layout. The purpose of the various keys and the differences between the two patches are explained below:

  • The cyan keys at the high end of the keyboard (A4 – G6) will trigger the Ebow drone samples.
  • The blue keys (G2-E4) represent the main range of the instrument. For the Simsimiyya I patch this is just for the plucked samples. For the Simsimiyya II patch this is both the plucked and tremolo articulations.
  • The yellow keys (C2 – E2) are only available on the Simsimiyya I patch and will trigger a selection of percussive samples that have 7x round robins.
  • Green key G1: this is the quarter-tone key switch. The next note played after this will be re-tuned to a quarter-tone.
  • Green key A1: this function key retriggers the last note played. This is ideal for re-plucking notes or playing a live tremolo.
  • The red keys (E0 – F#1) are the maqam selection keys. These provide a quick alternative to selecting a maqam via the on-screen menu.
  • Black keys (C0, D1) these two key switches are only available for the Simsimiyya II instrument, they allow you to switch between the plucked and tremolo articulations.


Produced by: David Healey & Amir Samman
Sample Recording & Editing: Amir Samman
Scripting & GUI Design: David Healey