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[*] posted on 6-8-2011 at 05:12 AM
Oud Seventh Course?


According to historical record and surviving tablatures, a seventh course was added to the European lute by the early part of the 16th C. The seventh course was at that time tuned a fourth below the sixth course (i.e D for a lute in G tuning - the standard tuning, in intervals, of a six course lute - bass to treble - being 4th, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 4th).
By the late 16th C the 7th course was tuned a full tone below the 6th course (i.e. F)

Given what is known about the lute is there any equivalent historical record that confirms when a 7th course was added to the oud and how this might have been tuned relative to the 6th course? How is a seven course oud tuned today by way of comparison? Is the 7th course usually single or double?
Thanks

(edited 14 August 2014)
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 6-8-2011 at 05:53 AM


I don't know about the historical record, but in my experience 7-course ouds all have a high double course added (ff or equivalent).



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[*] posted on 6-8-2011 at 06:59 AM



Hi John, Brian

As for when the 7th course was added I've no idea and would love to know this fact for reference.

I tune my 7 course Dr M Mussa Egyptian oud as follows:
D EE AA DD GG CC FF "440hz"

I recently read and heared a sound sample about an 8 course oud recreated by Naseer Shama, according to him he found an old plan drawn by Al Faraby one of the music historical legends, for an 8 course oud.
I might be able to fetch some pics and sound samples for you.




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[*] posted on 6-8-2011 at 10:44 AM


Many thanks Brian and Awad.

Interesting that although the additional course is added to the treble side this results in the lowest bass course being single and tuned one full tone below the next string above - like the seven course lute in the late 16th C. (but with an octave tuned double course). This suggests that the 7 course oud may have an early history.
I would be very interested to see the old Al Faraby (10th C) plan of an 8 course lute. I have not heard about this drawing before so (if it is genuine) it would be a very important document in the history of string making technology. By way of comparison, the eight course lute did not become a practical possibility until about the end of the 16th C.
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[*] posted on 6-8-2011 at 11:01 AM


Ok. A quick Google search revealed this old but interesting discussion about the drawing in question as well as some information about the origins of the 7 course oud (16th C). A good starting point for further research.

http://elashmawyoudandnay.com

See under 'Replies'
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[*] posted on 6-8-2011 at 01:17 PM



Yes John I came across the Ashmawy oud too,

here another one made by forum member Dr. Ali

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-xbo3HSsjI




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Awad
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[*] posted on 6-9-2011 at 06:00 AM


So, by all accounts it would seem that the historical claims for an 8 course oud are probably invalid. Nevertheless it is useful to note what forum member Longa has found in the historical record:-

No mention of ouds with more than 4 or 5 courses until the late 15th C when Ottoman author al-Ladhiqi describes a new type of oud ('oud akmal') with 6 courses together with the traditional 4 course oud ('oud qadim') and 5 course oud ('oud kamil').
In the early 16th C Ottoman court musician Mahmud al-Maraghi describes a 7 course oud (oud mukammal). By the 17th or 18th C this type of oud had found its way to Egypt (then part of the Ottoman empire) - described by French scholar Villoteau when visiting Egypt circa 1800.
There is an engraving of a 7 course oud in Napoleon Bonaparte's 'Description de l'Egypte' that appears to be almost identical to the old (late 18th C?) 7 course oud Cat. #0164 in the Brussels Musical Instrument Museum. This surviving example has 7 double courses and has a geometry that is very similar to that of the traditional Turkish oud.

Note also that the oud drawn in 'Description de l'Egypte' is described as an instrument known in Egypt but not of Egyptian origin.

Also the engraver has only represented single strings whereas the engraving of the peg box confirms that 7 double courses were fitted.
It is important to differentiate between the number of strings and the number of courses (which may be double or single) to avoid errors in interpretation of the historical record. For example Melchior Barberii's lute book of 1549 contains four fantasias for the little 4 course guitar of the period - described as a 'chitara da sette corde' - correctly describing the number of strings (7) that were arranged in three double and one single course. Not to be taken as evidence for an early 7 course guitar!


Brussels 0164 Bridge.jpg - 42kB Napoleon Oud Bridge (706 x 532).jpg - 147kB
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[*] posted on 6-9-2011 at 07:36 AM



Thanks John for the enlightenment, very intersting finds :applause:




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Awad
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[*] posted on 6-9-2011 at 10:59 AM


Thanks for mentioning the old 'Al Faraby' oud diagram Awad - as this has led to the uncovering of a bit more useful historical data. Every little 'piece of the jigsaw' helps and may be of significance and importance historically.

Note that in the topic 'Oud Sixth Course?' below, Alfaraby mentions an even earlier reference to an oud sixth course in a text by an unknown writer from 14th C Baghdad. If anyone can provide information about where this document is located or any more information about it - this would be important historically for both oud and lute.
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[*] posted on 6-9-2011 at 03:35 PM


Further information for interest. French scholar Guillaume-Andre Villoteau was a member of Bonaparte's late 18th C expedition to Egypt who reported on the music and instruments of Egypt in 'Description de l'Egypte'. It is, therefore, tempting to speculate that the 7 course oud in the Brussels MIM might have been the model for Napoleon's engraver - an instrument brought back to Europe among the various collections of Egyptian antiquities?
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[*] posted on 6-13-2011 at 05:02 AM


The information provided by Longa may require revision according to this article detailing the history and works of the musicians at the court of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II.

http://www.saramusik.org/article.php3?id_article=154#nb10

"Mahmud al-Maraghi" may have been the son of Hwaja Abd al-Aziz and grandson of Hwaja Abd al-Kadir Maraghi all musicians at the Ottoman court? He wrote the musical treatise "Maqasid al-Adwar" and was rewarded for his efforts in 1509.

"Al-Ladiqi" may have been Ottoman court musician and famed theorist Ladiqi Mehmed Chelebi who died in Istanbul circa 1495?
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[*] posted on 6-19-2011 at 10:19 AM


I'm so happy to have found this post as I have a question for those 7 course players.
I have only played 6 course ouds. I currently have a Sukar #13 and will now treat myself to a special gift in saving for a Fadi Matta oud.
To those of you who have played 6 and 7 course ouds...
...In your experience was it a big jump to go from 6 to 7 courses or did it feel natural?; I'm considering buying a seven but have never had the chance to play one.
Thanks.




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[*] posted on 6-21-2011 at 05:07 AM


I recently came across another reference to the 7 course oud in its historical context apparently taken from an article by Stanley Sadie in the 'New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'. The writer explains that the 7 course oud was being used in Egypt and Lebanon during the 19th C.
Tunisian virtuoso Fawzl Sayib's oud was strung with six pairs and one single but these were arranged in reverse normal order i.e. with the trebles on the left to bass on the right.
According to Mikha'il Mushaqa (1800 - 1888) "only four of the seven courses were played - the lowest course (jaharka) and two highest (busalik and nihuft) being unused in performance".
Does this mean that these three courses were not 'stopped' on the fingerboard (not played) but were in fact played 'open'? If this was not the case what would be the point of having the three additional courses rather than just the traditional four courses? Does anyone know more about this type of stringing arrangement?

Note that the lowest and highest courses (all double) on the Brussels #0164, 7 course Egyptian oud currently seem to lie mostly outside the fingerboard area so cannot be 'stopped'.
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[*] posted on 6-21-2011 at 05:58 AM


Perhaps Fawzl Sayib was left handed?
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[*] posted on 6-22-2011 at 05:04 AM


A left handed set up would be a reasonable explanation but no mention is made by the author of the source documentation of the oud player being left handed.

The oudist is described as "Tunisian Fawzl Sayib living master of the 7 course oud ". The string arrangement being six double courses and a single seventh course. I could find no reference to 'Fawzl Sayib' on the Internet but there is plenty of reference to a Fawsi Sayeb that I assume is the same person 'Fawzl Sayib' likely being a printer's error.
Images of Fawsi Sayeb show him playing - always right handed - both six and seven course ouds. The attached image is particularly interesting as it shows what appears to be a seven double course oud. However, the nut has been extended to overhang the neck on the bass side to accommodate an extra string widely separated from the (original?) single seventh course suggesting that this may be a seven course oud that has been modified to accommodate 8 courses - six double and two single. Note the peg at the tail end of the peg box that seems to be 'squeezed in' to take the extra string. Both of these bass strings seem to lie outside the fingerboard area so are presumably played only in the 'open' position.

So - from the images - Fawsi Sayeb would appear to be a right handed player, unless of course all of the available photographic images have been edited into mirror image.
This unlikely scenario, however, begs the question - is there some kind of irrational prejudice against left handed oud players that might result in mirror images of the artist being presented to the public? This kind of stigma was at one time common in European societies causing children at school to be forced to write and draw right handed under pain of punishment.
Or did the author of the source document just get things completely wrong regarding the orientation of the courses?

In memoriam Fawzi Sayeb (506 x 695).jpg - 110kB
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[*] posted on 8-16-2014 at 04:41 AM


In the course of current research into the origins of the 7 course lute I have found it necessary to revise my first posting in this thread.

The earliest references to the 7 course (13 string) lute that I know about are in the German lute tutors of the 16th C.
The earliest of these is a reference in 'Musica Getutscht' by Sebastian Virdung published in 1511 where he writes 'In the other book, however, I will tell you about three more kinds of tablature and to learn to intabulate (set music into tablature) for 13 strings'. Unfortunately his 'other book' does not seem to have survived (if it was ever published).

The next reference is in Hans Gerle's 'Musica Teutch' dated 1532 where he devotes a section to the 7 course lute including how to intabulate and with 3 musical examples in tablature. The tuning of the 7th course is a fourth below the G sixth course (i.e. D).

The last reference is by Melchior Newsidler in the Preface to his 'Teutsch Lautenbuch' published in 1574 where he makes reference to the 7th course tuned in D as the 'old way' and proposes a new tuning with the 7th course tuned in F. His musical examples in tablature are for 6 course lute as well as for a seven course lute with the seventh course tuned in F.

It is said that the first reference to a seven course oud dates to the early 16th C where the Ottoman court musician Mahmoud al-Maraghi describes a new style of oud with seven courses called 'oud mukammal'. Does any one have more details about this oud? At what date did al-Maraghi write about the seven course oud (and in what publication or manuscript now located where?) and what was the relative tuning of that instrument?
Presumably the Ottoman court at that time was under the rule of Sultan Bayezid II (1481 -1512)?

Thanks
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[*] posted on 8-16-2014 at 11:35 AM


I had forgotten but al-Maraghi's musical treatise is 'Maqasid al-Adwar'. A copy is here - Cat#3649 in the Nuruosmaniye Library, Turkey.
So does anyone know the date of publication of this treatise and the tuning of the seven course oud as it was then?

How does 'Maqasid al-Adwar' translate into English - 'Guidance (or Rules) Concerning the Modes' perhaps?
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[*] posted on 8-22-2014 at 12:13 PM


The ouds and lutes at the end of the 15th C/ beginning of the 16th C had strings of silk and gut - the strands twisted to form uniform cylindrical strings. Strings made from the finer silk filaments could be made more uniform in diameter than those made from animal intestines - the early gut strings tending to be tapered along their length affecting intonation of the stopped string for fretted instruments at least.

In order for the thicker diameter strings (fourth courses and below) to sound well they must be made more elastic. This may be achieved to some degree by increasing the amount of twist of the string fibres and reducing string tension (Mersenne-Taylor Law). A further improvement in elasticity may be achieved by making the strings like small ropes (the ancient Chinese made their silk strings this way for their Zither or Qin).
However, for lutes and ouds - instruments of relatively short string length there is a limit to achieving adequate acoustical performance from a string by twisting the string like a rope and reducing string tension. The lower limit for a lute (and oud) gut string is the sixth course - and even then the dullness of sound must be enhanced by using octave tuned courses - the thinner and higher pitched octave pair providing the missing upper harmonics.

So - if the 7th course was tuned a fourth (or even two semitones) below the 6th course - how were these strings constructed to overcome the physical limitations mentioned above? Increasing the uniform material density of a string is the solution but how to achieve this for gut or silk strings with specific gravity of about 1.3 when the required specific gravity might be at least double that in order to avoid string diameter increase and consequent reduction in acoustic performance? Silk filaments may be treated with chemicals (heavy metals) that are adsorbed into the fibres to increase their relative weight (known as 'weighting') but this may not be enough to achieve the desired linear density increase - and the 'weighted' silk fibres are subject to deterioration and brittle failure.
A solution proposed by Mimmo Peruffo (Aquila strings) for gut strings is to load the strings with fine metallic powder (e.g copper mixed into a glue matrix).

The 'modern' solution - familiar to us all - is to increase the string linear density by close winding wire around a core of fibres (wound strings). However, there may be another possible historical solution worthy of investigation - that is to wind a silk cover around a dense metallic core or to incorporate thin dense metallic wires into the filament structure of a string.

More to follow.
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[*] posted on 8-23-2014 at 04:16 AM


The problem with making viable bass strings of gut in the 16th and 17th C - based upon practical experience in string making, measurement of string hole diameters of surviving instruments etc. - is well explained by Mimmo Peruffo in his research paper 'The Lute in its Historical Reality' available here as a free Pdf file download:

http://ricerche.aquilacorde.com/i-nostri-lavori/33/il-liuto-nella-s...
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[*] posted on 8-24-2014 at 11:37 AM


Braiding is a type of construction used for making smooth, flexible and elastic cords and ropes - an alternative to the more familiar twisted rope construction.

Braiding of cords is a very ancient technique found in many early societies from Europe to the Far East and is particularly associated with the silk industry - braid being popular as a decorative/functional feature of clothing especially when laced with wire of precious metals such as gold and silver - as it often was. However, braid may be made from any fibrous material - including, for example, gut, strips of leather (e.g stock whips and harnesses) and modern synthetic fibres.

The process of braiding concerning instrument string making has been briefly discussed here - starting at the post dated 3-18-2013.

http://www.mikeouds.com/messageboard/viewthread.php?tid=10010&p...

I intend to further explore the possibilities of braided strings for oud or lute on that thread rather than as part of this topic. More to follow.

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[*] posted on 8-26-2014 at 11:59 AM


Braided strings may be made woven around a core of textile filaments or metal. In order to test the feasibility of using a metal cored braided string for a 7th course (oud or lute), I found a 100 meter coil of troll fishing line in a local sports store (on sale cost $10, so potentially low cost modern 'historical' bass strings?). This line has a cylindrical core of soft lead (density 11.35 gm/cc) covered with a smooth braided 'Dacron' sleeve - outside diameter around 0.78 - 0.8 mm. Dacron fibre has a density of 1.38 gm/cc - close enough to that of silk. Other lead filled braided fishing lines of different diameters are also readily available.
The lead core of this line measures about 0.53 mm in diameter.
As it is possible to easily strip the lead core from its braided cover, the test line was given two coats of a flexible varnish (TruOil) both to (hopefully) bond the cover to the core and provide a durable, wear resistant finish to the line.

Testing the line on my string test rig, D pitch at 73 Hz (A440 standard) was achieved with a tension of around 2.0 Kg. Sustain on the rig was about 7 seconds - not very impressive compared to modern wound strings.

Next to see how it might work (or not!) on my 7 course lute.

[file]32391[/file]
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[*] posted on 8-27-2014 at 11:48 AM


Here are some more images of the lead filled 'Dacron' braided line used for this test - as purchased on a 100 yard spool (costs less than 10 cents a yard!) and with the lead core exposed. These lines vary in diameter and price for today around $20-40 for 100 yards.

The varnished test line has now been fitted to my 7 course lute for evaluation. The lute is strung with Pyramid PVF and wound strings in unison tuned courses. String length is 60 cm tuned two semitones below G (i.e. F for the 6th course) - equivalent to the pitch had all gut stringing been used.

The 7th course is currently tuned to D sharp or two semitones below the pitch of the 6th Course. Tension at this pitch is about 2.5 Kg consistent with the tension of the other strings.
Tuning down a further three semitones (to C 65Hz at A440 standard or a fourth below the 6th course pitch) would require a tension reduction to about 1.8 Kg so may not work too well acoustically.

First impression is that the string does not sound bad at all - less sustain than the wound 7th but without the metallic sounding overtones of the wound string.
After the first 24 hours at tension the string is still stabilising in pitch and requires frequent retuning (requiring slight raising in pitch).

Once the string has stabilised in pitch (if it ever does) some sound files will be made for comparison and information.

[file]32432[/file] [file]32434[/file]
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[*] posted on 9-5-2014 at 11:39 AM


Attached - for information and comparison - is a sound file of the braided/lead cored string compared to a wound Pyramid string (1012). The first two signals are of the wound string followed by that of the braided string.

All other strings on the lute have been damped with a cloth so that they have no influence on the result. The two strings under test have then been separately sounded using a leather plectrum.

Next to remove the wound string and to replace it with an octave tuned string - just to see how the octave pair sounds.

Perhaps not! Cannot post this file (625 kB) as it exceeds current file limitations. Will give it another shot later.
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[*] posted on 9-5-2014 at 11:55 AM


So here is the revised sound file with one of the two wound string tracks deleted. So you will hear wound string sound followed by two braided string sounds.
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[*] posted on 9-6-2014 at 12:04 PM


It is perhaps worth mentioning that although copper, silver and gold were drawn into fine wires in ancient times lead was not. Today lead wire is made by extruding the metal under high pressure though dies. It is just that this modern, lead cored 'Dacron' braided string was readily available for testing and cheap. Lead has a specific gravity (density compared to that of water) of 11.35 so is relatively a bit 'heavier' than pure silver that would be the close historical alternative.

For comparison other possible core materials have a specific gravity of Copper 8.96, Silver 10.49 and Gold 19.32. So a silk braided Catline string with a pure gold wire core might be made smaller in diameter than one with a pure silver core operating at the same pitch - together with improved acoustical performance.

For a braided string with metal core the least temperature sensitive (lowest coefficient of expansion) is gold followed by copper, then silver. Lead has an expansion coefficient of about 1.8 X that of gold or 1.4X that of silver - hence the need to slightly adjust the tuning of the test string each day as ambient temperature fluctuates.
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