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Author: Subject: An introduction, and a few questions :)
TomtheTall
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[*] posted on 4-11-2014 at 11:46 PM
An introduction, and a few questions :)


Hello everyone! I've just joined the forums here so thought I would introduce myself. My name is Tom, I'm 25, and am from Cornwall, UK. I'm trained as a jazz double bass player, and have a love for improvised musics from all over the world, but particularly South Asia and the Middle East.

About two months ago I was fortunate enough to borrow an oud from a friend of mine. He doesn't know much about it, but was told it was of Egyptian origin. There is a label inside the bowl, but I can neither read Arabic nor get a good enough photo for anyone else to read it :( Regardless, here is the instrument itself:




If anyone could tell me a little more about it that would be great :D

I'm particularly interested in the music and style of oud playing from Iraq (my favourite maqam so far is Mukhalif :D), but am a little confused as to how they tune their ouds. I'm currently in DGADGC: from what I've read a common Iraqi tuning bases the drone string on an F. I'm guessing this involves going up a minor third, instead of down a major sixth? If so, this would surely place too much stress on my instrument? I also read about the Bashir tuning, which I think goes a little like CDGCFF? Would my instrument be more applicable for this type?

I have loooads of other questions, but don't want to put too much in my first post.

Look forward to chatting with you all :D

Tom
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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 06:26 AM


Hi Tom, welcome to the forum. You have an oud, there is a wealth of ueful information in Mikeouds to help you on your journey. Have a look at the FAQS for some answers and links:
http://www.mikeouds.com/messageboard/viewthread.php?tid=6809

There are many ways to tune the oud, you'll find examples in the FAQs.
Check out the 'learn to play section' for video clips on left and right hand techniques:

http://www.mikeouds.com/learn.php

forum member majnuunNavid has put a lot of useful clips up for example:
http://www.mikeouds.com/messageboard/viewthread.php?tid=14814
Check the scale of your oud (distance from nut to bridge) and be sure you have the right tension strings for your oud.
Again it's all in the FAQs, so get faqin' started mate.:)
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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 06:43 AM


Tom, the oud is a transposing instrument like a guitar or the bass you play. It is played in all keys, therefore all strings are drone strings from time to time. I think you are probably referring to the single bass string.

This website has an easy-to-use *search* function. Use it and you will find out everything you want to know about different tunings.

Here are are few facts to get you started:

1) the modern Iraqi tuning such as used by Munir Bashir (but not his brother Jamil Bashir who tuned a step higher) not only uses different pitches, it uses different strings.

2) the typical tuning for the oud you have borrowed is - From Low To High- C FF AA dd gg cc. The tuning you are now using is also used. Notice that the four treble double courses are the same in both tunings. These are always tuned in fourths, just like your bass.

3a) the Munir Bashir tuning involves a shift of the lowest string from its expected position to the position nearest the floor. This is likely to necessitate widening a hole in the bridge.
3b) Munir Bashir's strings don't pass through holes in a fixed bridge. He uses a floating bridge and a tailpiece. The same idea as a jazz guitar.

4) his tuning were the bass string not moved would be, as you surmised, a minor third higher than your current tuning (for the the four treble courses, but not the basses) …like this:
F CC dd gg cc ff but since the bass course is out of the expected sequence it is actually CC dd gg cc ff F

5) not all Iraqi music that uses oud uses this F tuning. Especially not in the past when the lower tunings commonly found further west in the Arab world were used, and on fixed bridge ouds.

6) there are other F tunings

7) yes, tuning the strings usually found on Egyptian ouds will damage the instrument. Good thing you asked!

8) you *can* take a photo of the label. Go on, you can do it. Even I managed a few times, with the humblest of cameras.


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danieletarab
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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 06:58 AM


Hello Tom, and welcome! I am also a bass player (more trained on electric rather than acoustic).
I'll try to clear your mind up about tunings.
All the ouds, of any culture, tune the first 4 courses (from high to low) in 4th (like on the bass). The other 2 courses vary a lot according to the personal taste or the country. For istance, these are the 3 different ways to tune the first 4 courses (from high to low):
TURKISH: dd\ aa\ ee\ bb\
ARABIC: cc\ gg\ dd\ aa
IRAQI: ff\ cc\ gg\ dd\

For what concerns the other 2 courses, as I told you, there are many ways.
Several musicians (execially turkish) tune them following the same principle of the 4th (like on a six strings bass), so you will have:
TURKISH: dd\ aa\ ee\ bb\ f sharp f sharp\ C sharp
ARABIC: cc\ gg\ dd\ aa\ ee\ B
IRAQI: ff\ cc\ gg\ dd\ aa\ E

As I told you, this way of tuning the low strings is more common among turkish musicians.
Arabic musicians often tune them in different ways.
Very common ARABIC tunings are:
cc\gg\dd\aa\ff\D (or C) or
cc\gg\dd\aa\g\C (or D
You can apply this principle to turkish and Iraqi tunings.

Many players, tune the lowest single string differently according to the maqam.

It's very important that you understand the logic of this.
ALl the arabic traditional tunes, have an extension of 2 octaves, from low G to high G (the last g that you play on the cc string where the neck joints the soundboard). That means, that you can play any arabic melody using any tuning,
As a matter of fact, in the past ouds used to have 5 course (cc\gg\dd\aa\G). The additional C or D low string, or the additional ff treeble string, "are not fundamental", but they are used for ornamentation, as a drone (in the case of low strings), or to make things easier (in the case of ff string).
TUning in F is also used by "virtuoso", "soloists", or musicians that love to develop the taksim (improvisation on a maqam) on the higher registers.
What I said above is not always true, since is very common that musicians that use F tuning, play melodies a 4th higher.
I am not a great fan of high registers on oud, but there are many arabic musician that love to play on the ff strings.

Last thing: ouds are in general built according to the tuning: every tuning has a different tension. I don't if your oud has been built for a C or an F tuning. If it was built for a C tuning, putting F strings may damage your oud because of the higher tension. In order to prevent it, if you want to try an F tuning, use ligher and thinner strings.

I hope this was helpful and not confusing! :)
Welcome!

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Dr. Oud
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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 07:12 AM


Tuning to F (highest string) on a fixed (glued) bridge is possible only by removing the sixth bass (wound) string and adding another nylon pair at the highest position. The high FF strings need to be a smaller diameter or gauge (~.005in/.13mm) so as not to increase the string tension on the glued bridge. The floating bridge does not have the glue joint so it can withstand a higher tension(larger gauge) string set.



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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 09:01 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Dr. Oud  
Tuning to F (highest string) on a fixed (glued) bridge is possible only by removing the sixth bass (wound) string and adding another nylon pair at the highest position. The high FF strings need to be a smaller diameter or gauge (~.005in/.13mm) so as not to increase the string tension on the glued bridge. The floating bridge does not have the glue joint so it can withstand a higher tension(larger gauge) string set.



yes, high ff on any oud would certainly require the ffs be a lighter/thinner gauge string, but just to clarify Doc, any potential problem with high ffs is is referring to fixed bridge ouds over 59.5 cm scale?
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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 11:13 AM


Wow, thanks for the extensive replies everyone :) I have indeed been trawling this forum as well as various other online resources for basics on the instrument and the musical maze that is the maqamat :) I was given the recommendation to tune it in the manner I described. I'm glad I asked here about trying some Iraqi tunings before actually doing it - sounds as though my instrument isn't quite suitable!

I probably should have mentioned I've been practicing the instrument quite heavily since I got it :P In fact it has taken over a lot of practice time I usually dedicate to the bass. I have mostly been working on cleanness and fluidity in the left hand, and building up an even tone and consistent rhythm in my right, as well familiarizing myself with some of the common maqamat: Rast, Bayati, Saba, Sikah, and a few others.
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[*] posted on 4-12-2014 at 11:24 AM


What is the measurement from bridge to nut?
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[*] posted on 5-28-2014 at 11:12 AM


Heeey, sorry for the delayed response, had a lot of other things going on lately which have reduced both my online presence and my ability to play music. Thankfully things are moving a little more in the right direction.

The bridge-to-nut-measurement on my oud is about 64cm. I notice the bridge looks as though it has been re-glued not too long ago, and that it seems too far over the treble end of the instrument: if you see in the picture, the top course of strings are almost hanging over the edge of the fingerboard higher up. Playing upwards of the octave can be a bit slippery.

I've also been reading up a bit about the "fret" inlays on the fingerboard of my oud. I would prefer to do without them, as with my previous instrument, I'm using my ear as much possible, and don't want to be tempted to look down :) Would I be right in saying the inlays are an optional addition by request of the customer? I've browsed this forum for similar topics and have seen a few other Egyptian ouds have the inlays, but it may just be coincidence.
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[*] posted on 5-28-2014 at 12:58 PM


Quote: Originally posted by TomtheTall  

I've also been reading up a bit about the "fret" inlays on the fingerboard of my oud. I would prefer to do without them, as with my previous instrument, I'm using my ear as much possible, and don't want to be tempted to look down :) Would I be right in saying the inlays are an optional addition by request of the customer? I've browsed this forum for similar topics and have seen a few other Egyptian ouds have the inlays, but it may just be coincidence.


Well, ideally you shouldn't be looking at the fingerboard at all! That's why these inlays are purely decorative, the fingerboard faces away from the player while playing. Some dots on the side of the board [like a guitar neck] would be another matter. A lot of ouds don't have those inlays - I would be as bold as to say most ouds.
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TomtheTall
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[*] posted on 5-28-2014 at 01:13 PM


That's what I mean :) I'd be happy without them. Most of my musical life has been spent playing fretless instruments so would like to think I use my ears over my eyes when guiding my hands.
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[*] posted on 5-28-2014 at 04:01 PM


hi tom - i play/teach oud - im based in devon - get in touch if you fancy a play or whatever
cheers
russ
ps - i play a range of other middle eastern instruments, as well
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[*] posted on 5-28-2014 at 11:29 PM


nice oud! looks Egyptian
Egyptian ouds come only with 5 sest of strings. i guess the sixth was added later?
i'd tune it (starting from lower string : fa- do- sol - re- la- fa ) and chek how it sounds. that won't hurt the oud
its the standard arabic (sharqi) tuning used in egypt, syria and gulf with little exceptions assuming the strings are not the short turkish ones!
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[*] posted on 5-29-2014 at 02:26 AM


Russ, thanks for the message, I'd love to get together for a session sometime. I could really do with a bit of tuition to give me some guidance and push things in the right direction.

Thanks Bayat :) I didn't know the Egyptian ouds are only built with five sets of strings. I have so much to learn! Would it be the extra treble course that was added? I notice the holes in the bridge for this course seem to have been altered in the past. Interesting... so that that tuning would be, from bass to treble: F A D G C F ?
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[*] posted on 5-30-2014 at 11:30 AM


Yes Tom thats the standard tuning for arabic ouds and it's how the pro players i met and my teacher tune thier ouds. Modern Iraqi players tune differently..i'm not familiar with that.
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[*] posted on 5-30-2014 at 01:08 PM


*Somebody* is going to reply to this one, possibly yelling and screaming, so it may as well be me. I will try not to yell.

The single bass course is the one not found on an Egyptian 5 course oud and F tuning is emphatically not what all the professionals use. Sorry, it just ain't so. F tuning is a recent Iraqi import to Cairo.

If you use a standard set of Arabic strings for F tuning on your oud you will destroy your oud unless you are lucky and the strings break first.

And Turkish strings are not shorter than Arabic strings when they are taken out of the envelope. There is no harm in using La Bella or D'Addario turkish gauge strings on your Arabic oud if you tune it to standard Arabic tuning. The trebles will be floppy unless you have a very long scale (62 or 63 cm).

Please re-read this entire thread. the proper tuning has been given to you by several people.

The only Old School Egyptian player I can think of that had a high ff course was George Michel when he recorded with a 7 course oud. But it still had the low C course and the deep bass sound of Egyptian oud.

If you want try a 5 course version of F tuning or 6 course F tuning you must use the proper gauges. You can move over the C tuning courses and then get ahold of a pair of ff strings for the highest position.
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[*] posted on 5-30-2014 at 01:31 PM
Let Me Put It Another Way


I will put it another way, Tom. What would happen if on your upright bass, you tuned a set of bass strings designed for EADG standard upright bass tuning to the pitches A D G C? A full fourth higher. Which would break first? The strings? The soundboard? Maybe the tailpiece would explode. Would the fingerboard warp? Something has to give at that tension. The same thing applies to oud. Using a set of oud strings intended for C FF AA dd gg cc tuning and tuning them a fourth higher to F tuning is not a good idea.

Something's Got To Give.
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TomtheTall
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[*] posted on 6-4-2014 at 09:38 AM


I didn't say I was intending to tune my oud to the tuning Bayat mentioned; I asked him if I understood it correctly. I wouldn't be much of a string player if I didn't understand that trying to tune the instrument so differently from what was recommended has the potential to do enormous damage.

Anywho, I managed to get a picture of the label inside the bowl this afternoon. If anyone could tell me anything about what they see it'd be much appreciated.

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[*] posted on 6-4-2014 at 01:13 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Dr. Oud  
Tuning to F (highest string) on a fixed (glued) bridge is possible only by removing the sixth bass (wound) string and adding another nylon pair at the highest position. The high FF strings need to be a smaller diameter or gauge (~.005in/.13mm) so as not to increase the string tension on the glued bridge. The floating bridge does not have the glue joint so it can withstand a higher tension(larger gauge) string set.


Doc is correct in principle, but the gauges are way off . . . f'f' strings should range from roughly .016in/0.40mm to .022in/.56mm (in nylon) depending on the scale of the oud, the construction (floating vs. fixed) and the preferred tension of the player.

For a modern fixed-bridge Egyptian oud like this, assuming a scale in the neighborhood of 61cm I would start with .018-.019in, which yields about 3.0Kg - 3.35Kg tension . . . safely on the medium-low side. If it seems too light, you could go up to .020 or .021.

Though I second Jody's comment: the f'f' tuning is not the "classical" tuning, it is a more recent trend. Many professionals use the classical C/D-c' tuning, such as Simon Shaheen.




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[*] posted on 6-22-2014 at 11:59 PM


Tom
the label says,
Tharwat for musical instruments ( The shop's name)

Tharwat Salah Mohammed (the oud maker or the shop's owner full name)
and the shop's address in Eygept.
no production date mentioned,
no serial number.






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[*] posted on 6-23-2014 at 08:23 PM


I can't speak for anyone else but what *I* "frown upon" is misinformation. When someone recommends a tuning that is going to cause damage to an oud (unless the right gauges of strings are used) I am likely to speak up. If someone says that F tuning is what "everyone" uses I am going to speak up because that is the equivalent of saying that most of my favorite players are the equivalent of Nobody.

Of the students of Sharif Mohiddin Targan I personally like the playing of Jamil Bashir and Salman Shukur the best . My preference is for musical reasons, not because of any ideology. All my favorite players are innovators as well as tradition bearers.




Quote: Originally posted by PaulS  
I find this all very informative, thank you.
I am a bit puzzled about one thing however. There seems to be strong strong feelings against the 'modern' Iraqi tradition of Munir Basheer, Naseer Shamma et al. Is this because it is an innovation (only two generations old now!)? To my ear, Iraqi style is quite different from Turkish and other Arabic, it seems more related to Flamenco in the west. But no one I know here makes the rigid judgments about the difference I am reading here, and I wonder why? I have been studying two wonderful pieces by Rawhi al Khammesh, a Palestinian musician who studied in Cairo, Istanbul and then Baghdad and I don't see why this blending of styles is a negative thing at all.
I am playing a Turkish oud strung to C-C arabic tuning and playing along just fine with the others at Bait al Oud. I get a little extra work out in the high positions, for sure.
Anyway I am curious why this innovation seems to be frowned upon??
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