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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 7-26-2014 at 04:19 AM
New member with a high action oud


Hello everyone! My names is Chris and i'm a novice oud player, but long time lover of the maqam. Im very happy this place exists, i've been reading through and absorbing all the knowledge here. I recently got this oud from a guy who brought it back fro Cairo as a souvenir. I didnt pay much for it and i know its probably firewoud to most of you but it's my first and i'm happy to start at the bottom. However, the action is WAY too high, half an inch above the pic-guard. It needs to be half that, at least. Can I make some new string holes below the present ones to fix it? I'm not looking to take it the soundboard off if possible. Any advice is appreciated!
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[*] posted on 7-26-2014 at 04:33 AM


Hello Chris and welcome to the forums.
This is indeed a problem instrument and it may cost more than it's worth to make it playable.
As you know, many of these instruments are made for tourists who want to take them home as a wall decoration.
Hopefully yours is not one of those and has just suffered some unusual stresses in transit.

The photographs are good, but it would be even better to include another single profile photograph showing the string height from the nut
all the way through to the bridge. Maybe a combination of lowering the strings on the bridge and a neck reset will bring it back from the land of the dead.

Regards,

Greg
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SamirCanada
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[*] posted on 7-26-2014 at 05:13 AM


Needs a neck reset, the strings are at the correct height from the soundboard.
The neck was probably not placed at the correct angle right from factory it came from.

Greg is right, most likely not worth it to repair. look at the link above Maurice oud shop
You can find a nice student Oud for rather cheap.




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[*] posted on 7-26-2014 at 06:34 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris_Stephens  
However, the action is WAY too high, half an inch above the pic-guard.


half an inch above the pick guard does not seem like a problem to me. How high is the action above the fingerboard?
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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 7-27-2014 at 05:27 AM


Thanks for the replies, i'll look into a neck reset. I've read about the process before but it seems like too much for such a low-end instrument. The strings float about 12mm above the 5th making it nearly impossible to switch strings while playing up there. If I apply pressure to the pegbox the neck shifts about 1mm and brings the action where it should be but leaves a tiny gap where the soundboard meets the fretboard. I'm thinking of placing a small wedge between the two so the pressure would prevent it from bending back from the tension of the strings and then smoothing it out. Would that work as a cheap fix?
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[*] posted on 7-27-2014 at 09:32 AM


Dear Chris ,

Welcome to the forum, Greg and Samir are right , usually the neck is cut and it is modified (by adding pieces of wood to fill in the gaps as an attempted to modify it) it really takes a lot of time and you need a professional to fix it , you can't do it by yourself . I had a very unique Egyptian oud that could stand on its bottom . However it started suffering from the same problem and it gave me a lot of hard time to fix it . Oud projects are so fun to work on but my advice to you since you are a new Oud player , is that you need a good reliable instrument that will not let you down, a stubborn oud to tune with low sound quality will pull you down and you will progress slower . Trust me I have been through all this .

Best Regards
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jdowning
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[*] posted on 7-27-2014 at 10:53 AM


If a gap appears at the neck joint when you bend the neck back then the glue in the joint has failed (if it was ever properly glued in the first place). Wedging the joint as you suggest is not a proper repair or to be recommended but is not unknown as a cheap 'quick fix' that may or may not succeed. If you can remove the 'bracelet' that covers the neck joint (that black crescent shaped piece of wood underneath) you will be better able to assess the extent of the problem. It is likely glued with hide glue so may be softened with water and application of heat - remove the strings first!
Work glue (preferably hot hide glue) into the entire joint with a thin bladed spatula or knife + pack the gap with wood veneer glued in place so that the neck is correctly set and the joint saturated with glue. Refit the 'bracelet' and trim any surplus material projecting above the joint. Allow the joint to cure fully for a couple of days before restringing.

It is a cheap oud so there is nothing much to lose.

Always good advice to purchase the best instrument that you can afford - one that is properly built and set up with a reasonable tone - as already suggested.
Good luck.
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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 09:00 AM


Well, i did it. I wedged a little piece of 1mm aluminum between the neck and soundboard and voila the action height was dropped by at least half. I'm happy with the results, and while its just a starter instrument and i'd love to be able to afford a quality oud, this one is ok for now- the tuning pegs dont slip or get stuck, it has great resonance, the fretboard is smooth, it stays in tune, and now the action is fixed.

Also, does anyone know anything about this oud? I can't find a similar one online, is it Egyptian?

One more thing- are my nylon gg and cc courses too far apart?
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SamirCanada
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 11:00 AM


Yes it's Egyptian, designed to hang on the wall rather than play

Also, the action should be 3mm about above the neck joint




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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 11:29 AM


Quote: Originally posted by SamirCanada  
designed to hang on the wall rather than play


Really? That seems a bit harsh, why is that? Is it because the decorations are so ornate? It has a good enough sound to me, its not a professional instrument but its the best i could get. I'll upload a recording and then you can judge. I got the action to about 5mm above the neck joint, not great but more manageable than the 12mm it started with.
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 11:39 AM


How far apart are the courses?

If you were able to insert a 1mm thick shim into the gap I have to wonder what is holding the neck in place - only the 'bracelet' perhaps? Hopefully there will be a dowel or dovetail as part of the neck to neck block connection.
Anyway - for now - you have the ability to adjust the action and make music.

.... and soon you will be in a position to test run and evaluate your next oud before purchase. Progress!


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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 11:59 AM


Further adjustments to the action may also be possible by adjusting string height at the nut and/or bridge - the latter requiring re-drilling of the bridge holes to a lower position, a modification that can be done with the bridge in place. Dependant upon the finger board thickness further small adjustment is possible by planing material from the nut end. Maximum action effect is to lower string height at the bridge (string geometry being, length of fingerboard = 1/3 string length)

Curious about the decoration on the bowl that seems to be created from individual tiles glued in place (?) - or is it just some kind of a printed (paper?) overlay on a wooden bowl?
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 12:03 PM


Quote: Originally posted by jdowning  
Further adjustments to the action may also be possible by adjusting string height at the nut and/or bridge - the latter requiring re-drilling of the bridge holes to a lower position, a modification that can be done with the bridge in place. Dependant upon the finger board thickness further small adjustment is possible by planing material from the nut end. Maximum action effect is to lower string height at the bridge (string geometry being, length of fingerboard = 1/3 string length)

Curious about the decoration on the bowl that seems to be created from individual tiles glued in place (?) - or is it just some kind of a printed (paper?) overlay on a wooden bowl?


Yes, i also plan to lower the string holes on the bridge by 1 or 2 mm but my tiny drill bit broke off inside it :/ so i'll have to fish it out and try something else. how are those holes drilled? dentistry tools? And yes, the back pattern is individually glued pieces, it must have taken a lot of time to do.
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 12:09 PM


Quote: Originally posted by jdowning  
How far apart are the courses?

If you were able to insert a 1mm thick shim into the gap I have to wonder what is holding the neck in place - only the 'bracelet' perhaps? Hopefully there will be a dowel or dovetail as part of the neck to neck block connection.
Anyway - for now - you have the ability to adjust the action and make music.

.... and soon you will be in a position to test run and evaluate your next oud before purchase. Progress!




The joint between the neck and body was solid, i only scraped out the glue and put the metal wedge in the gap it left. The joint is strong, it was just bending under pressure since it wasnt an even cut, about 2mm short, which is what the metal strip fixed.

The courses are spaced properly i think, but it seems the two nylon courses have more space between the two strings than the rest.
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 12:13 PM


Re-drilling the bridge holes in situ has already been covered as a topic on this forum. First try a forum search before breaking more drills.

The Egyptian craftsmen are very skilled at this intricate work be it inlay (wood and metal) or engraved/chased work (trays etc.) Much of their ready market is for sale to tourists as souvenirs but, the decorative craft work at least, is usually not compromised.
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 12:15 PM


Thank you, i'll search the forum.
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 06:37 PM


The comment on the oud being for hanging on the wall is not an insult, but just a reflection of the reality of this kind of oud: the makers are churning them out in a factory in large volumes with no consideration of them being used as actual instruments.
They are careless, and you find things like pegs that don't fit, nuts cut with incorrect spacing, bridges drilled haphazardly with incorrect spacing (as in your case), insufficient glue to create a solid joint, insufficient or poorly glued bracing inside, insufficiently strong neck construction (leading to warpage and high action), etc. etc.

They are intended to be passable enough to sell to tourists (including middle-eastern tourists) as "ouds", and that's about it. If you get one that lasts a couple of years as a semi-playable instrument, then you have been quite lucky.




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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 06:55 PM


Thank you Brian. I don't feel insulted it just seems like a playable instrument for me right now and hanging it on the wall would be a waste of quality time spent learning to play it. I completely understand this 'kind' of instrument now, my main instrument is the sitar and they definitely 'churn out' those breeds of instruments there too. I suppose its like that with any instrument though. Anyway, I really like this oud and i'm grateful to have it for such a small price. I'd love a 'real' oud in the future when im better but ive literally been playing for 15 hours or so. I'm recording something tonight to post here. as i said i'm very glad this forum exists, the sitar forum is full of knowledgable players as well and its great to have this resource.

oh hey youre Brian Prunka! I love your jazz man
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 07:17 PM


I think a lot of people here think (from experience) that once you start playing oud, you won't ever stop—so you might as well get something decent from the beginning! But as long as the oud is not so frustrating that you quit, it is serving a purpose. I would only warn that a too-high action and other issues could lead to developing some bad habits in fingering and risha technique that will take some time and effort to undo should you continue with playing the oud.

Thanks for the compliment, I'm glad you like my music!





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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 07:19 PM


as soon as the money starts flowing it shall bring me a proper oud!
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[*] posted on 7-28-2014 at 08:15 PM


Yeah please don't be insulted, I didn't have time to write an elaborate response.
I just don't want anyone discouraged to learn by thinking it's their fault they can't play properly when you have an "instrument" which will give you headaches and hold you back.

I visit Egypt, my background is Lebanese and Egyptian, i am also a oud maker. As Brian said and I concur 100% Believe me, your oud is a decoration piece for hanging advertised even as such by the people who make them. If you were to ask them I am looking for a Oud to learn to play even they would suggest to you something else. No doubt in the right setting it can be modified to somewhat play nice but it's not made for that purpose. Please take no offense I am just trying to guide you,maybe you can sell it to someone who likes to have a decoration?




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[*] posted on 8-1-2014 at 11:39 AM


Chris, both Brian and Samir are in the right about having a quality instrument. I paid too much money for my first oud from Mid-East instruments... It was just enough to get me hooked... but the instrument is now living as a decoration at my parent's house. I actually tuned it up and played it last Christmas, but then put it back on it's stand shortly after.

In the past it was almost impossible to get a good beginner or student instrument... you really had to search around or know someone. Mike (who owns this site) is selling student ouds from Maurice Shehata's aprentices (I should actually have one next week) for a VERY reasonable price - like 400USD.




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Chris_Stephens
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[*] posted on 8-1-2014 at 11:42 AM


I looked there (the maurice ad at the top of the forum), and was wondering what the catch with that price was?? If i get enough positive responses i'll go with one of those as well!
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[*] posted on 8-1-2014 at 11:48 AM


I actually have one of the student model ouds and the sound and playability is comparable to shehata ouds. Excellent value for the money



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