Mike's Oud Forums

Help!:) Need to make decision fast about work done to attempt to save my Sukar, my one and only oud!:)

grassyknoll - 1-5-2019 at 12:08 PM

Hello knowledgeable Oud folk:)

I have a situation... My Oud is at the luthier now and I will need to make a decision soon which may affect the destiny of this instrument.

It's my only instrument right now, and I don't have money to get another.

Here is my story:

I actually got a piece of .. black rosewood, i believe (will have to ask my luthier again what that was) installed on my sukar oud as a fretboard -- glued overtop whatever softer wood (with inlays on the sides) was the original.

He told me this wood was about as dense as ebony.

There were immediately noticable, big changes to the sound.

I was put off. The sound was more "metallic" than before, with the same strings, and it set me off on a huge process trying to add warmth by trying different strings.

I started tuning down a half-step, and that helped -alot-

I went through all this effort because i was enjoying the longer sustain given by the harder wood (and also the fact that some annoying buzzing in the braces seemed to be fixed by adding this piece, and also the fact that the original fingerboard was having issues)

In the end I couldn't deny that something had been lost, in warmth, and overall richness of sound (This was months later, and I had ample before-and- after recordings to prove it)

So now my oud is back at the luthier, getting that fingerboard removed.

I'm not sure what state my instrument will be in after it's gone (there were a couple screws installed to hold down the vaneer, and of course the fish glue) My luthier Is going to call me to arrange the next step.

It's unfortunate because the original fingerboard was a bit difficult, with the inlays, in the varying humidity in Canada

It would be nice to put a single piece of something stable on there

Not sure what to do

It's possible that the reason the sound was so adversely affected (by the dense fingerboard) is because it was also glued over a section of the soundboard (effectively raising the action). If that's the case, then i could theoretically have my cake and eat it too, ie. Have good sustain and warmth - simply by not having anything glued to the soundboard,.but rather by sanding down the fingerboard and adding a harder piece of wood ..

I can either go that route, or also try vaneering the original fingerboard with something not quite as hard, ie. mahogany.(assuming the fingerboard material is affecting the sound that much, and it's not the fact that the fingerboard vaneer was attached to the soundboard/the vaneer over the soundboard was too thick)

Of course, as my luthier says, the soundboard underneath the old fingerboard vaneer might be a bit f***'d up now, and - though I asked him to attempt to restore it as best as possible without adding vaneer to it - he seemed to think that might be inevitable. Maybe a thinner piece, he suggested, of something softer, or even cedar, like the soundboard

Any feedback or suggestions would be much appreciated.

It costs a bundle to keep shifting things around, not to mention, more time away from my baby, weeks at a time:(

I don't know if there's a way to have good action and restore the original sound.. except maybe to sand down some of the soundboard (I had the sukar wing nut really tight, and so higher notes started to get choked). My luthier was reluctant to remove material, on the basis that ouds are already so thin and fragile.. however mine didn't seem so very thin, compared to others.. maybe I will insist he sand some off the soundboard..

Yes.. lots of aspects to my situation, I know:p. ..

Any feedback about whatever aspect would be most appreciated:)

SamirCanada - 1-5-2019 at 01:01 PM

Are you near Ottawa? I could take a look at it for you.

If you don't like the sound of the Blackwood and you prefer something else, you will mostly likely need a neck reset when you remove the fingerboard. It's relatively easy with a sukkar oud.

Also instead of gluing a fingerboard on top, you could also remove the old one and replace it with something else. Should be closer to the original sound.

MattOud - 1-5-2019 at 01:03 PM

I would bring it to another Luthier, who can set it up similar to mine.
You can read here and see I had a fingerboard put on my Sukur. It sounds amazing.
Good Luck!

grassyknoll - 1-5-2019 at 05:05 PM


I am kind of close to Ottawa. Montréal. I really don't get over there too much, at all, but I could if I needed.

Are you saying you yourself tackle things like neck resets? It could be worth the trip to have this handled by someone with experience, if my luthier isn't up to it.

If you do this kind of thing, do you have an approximate idea how much it would cost?

Feel free to email me as well: teacow@hotmail.com

Just to clarify, are you saying a neck reset could deliver a low action, while still allowing playability above the neck joint, in a way that adjusting the Sukar wing nut could not? (I think i guess the answer.. but just making sure.)

grassyknoll - 1-5-2019 at 05:09 PM

@ Matt.

Thanks for the contact, and for the photos as well!

grassyknoll - 1-5-2019 at 05:36 PM

I guess at this point I'm stumped about what the culprit is, as far as what affected the sound of my Oud so much,
and so.. it's unclear what to do to fix it.

The three potential problems seem to be: (according to my unexperienced guesswork)
1) the fingerboard material (the new one that was glued on - the "blackwood" species of rosewood(?)).. either because it's much harder, or because that wood just doesn't sound so great
2) the fact that the new glued-on-fingerboard was glued -onto the soundboard-, also
3) (as Samir is suggesting) that the new fingerboard was glued onto the old, instead of taking the old one out and replacing it completely

I've read the forums and there seems to be no consensus about how much the fingerboard material affects the tone (tho perhaps more consensus about the fact that it affects the sustain and attack).
There's also a mention by ferny that extending the fingerboard onto the soundboard has caused negative consequences for the sound of instruments, according to the reports of some (though I didn't find anyone writing about that directly.. makes sense to me though..)

I might just play it safe, and see if my luthier can true and stabalize the original fingerboard, once it's uncovered - inlays and all.. and then see about a neck reset some later date, to deal with the action in a way that likely won't affect the sound of the instrument as much..

.. though its tempting to try replacing the old fingerboard completely, as Samir suggests.. with something harder, and get more sustain.. gambling on the fact that this would be more like the original tone, since this time I wouldn't make the mistake(?) of having anything glued to the soundboard (or even on top of the old fingerboard, for that matter..

.. yes.. this might just be one of those cases of rather expensive trial and error.. but hopefully not irrevocable change..

Unless some an Oud guru can shed any light on the culprit here:). (either that or maybe I will accept samir's offer and figure a way to take it to Ottawa for a better look)

I swear it's more than a little change when the fingerboard got glued on.. it's like the whole sonority of the instrument really suffered.. bass and treble.

It went from such a deep, juicy earthy warm, archetypically mystical our sound.. to something that well.. lost it's bowels

SamirCanada - 1-5-2019 at 07:11 PM

Sent you an email

bulerias1981 - 1-5-2019 at 11:49 PM

Take it to Samir. Honestly, the change of the fingerboard shouldn't have that much of an impact on the sound. Maybe a different set of strings were installed with that soundboard? Every string manufacture give you a different sound. I'd figure out the string situation. Always try the simple things first.

grassyknoll - 1-6-2019 at 05:32 PM

@ bulerias:

It was the same set of strings as before. I didn't even put a new set.

Yes, it seems that by most of what I'm reading, the fingerboard vaneer should not have affected the sound so much..

I kind of wish it didn't, because it solved so many other problems..

Matthias - 1-7-2019 at 12:13 AM

Quote: Originally posted by grassyknoll  
2) the fact that the new glued-on-fingerboard was glued -onto the soundboard-, also

For me it seems that this was the main reason for a bigger sound change, because the connection from the neck to the body is after that much more stronger. Much more stronger than the quite "loose" connection by the adjustable screw Sugar uses normally ( I assume your instrument did have this ).
Also I cannot imagine, that a different material of the fingerboard causes suge a huge change as you described it. A hard fingerboard is necessary to avoid getting soon gaps from the playing. So I would say mahagony is not the best material for a fingerboard.

Best regards

grassyknoll - 1-7-2019 at 11:15 PM


I think you are right. I dug into the forums again and found another experience that validates this theory.

Also I think you are right about the fingerboard material itself not being a huge factor..

Although I wonder if going to an ebony fingerboard is going to highlight the contrast with the notes played in the upper positions, on my cedar soundboard..
.. Prolly no biggie..

For other reasons, still.. Maybe it's wise to hold off on doing an ebony(short) fingerboard, if possible (ie. The original fingerboard is recoverable) until I'm ready financially to do a neck reset also..

That will probably streamline and simplify things for the luthiers on either end of this, I'd imagine?

Plus I think I wanna be sure I take it to someone who really understands a Sukar neck joint, before doing either..

grassyknoll - 1-7-2019 at 11:32 PM

Thanks so much everyone, BTW:)

And big thanks to Samir, Who i've also been emailing with

I think I know an informed way to move forward, and restore this Sukar to it's former rich fertile sound

I will report when the work is done

(I'm just going to back as close to the original as possible, and forget about how cool it might be, to have an extended fingerboard)