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Author: Subject: About string action: would a "progressive" string action make sense?
alchemy
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[*] posted on 7-14-2015 at 10:48 AM
About string action: would a "progressive" string action make sense?


Hi Oud folks! After my Oud was repaired and playing back, I resumed my study with a new teacher and he suggested that the string action is quite high and I would benefit from lowering it a millimeter. I made a measurement myself (I'm no luthier or expert, just put a ruler on the side of the neck-body joint and looked at it to see how many millimeters I was able to see between neck and strings) and indeed that measurement was 6mm!

Quite high I thought, and definitely want to lower it, so soon I'm going to give it to a luthier to lower the action to between 3 and 4 mm (it's an Arabic Oud). I've read in this forum that that is a good number for Arabic Ouds. I know that some Ouds are built with even lower action (2.5 mm), like some Ghadbans, but I'm worried that doing so would introduce string buzzing in a Turkish fashion, which I would like to avoid on this instrument (probably not a problem for him as he can control other factors in the instrument construction that probably avoid that buzzing, I'm just speculating). Also tone would be clearer staying between 3 and 4 mm I believe?

On the other hand, I was thinking and wanted to get your input on this: would a "progressive" action work on an Oud? In other words, starting with an action of 2.5mm on the cc' course and scaling progressively to a 4mm action on the C bass string. In that way we could have a nice and soft low action on trebles and going up to a bit higher to avoid buzzing as well as string slapping against Oud face/fingerboard on the bass strings. That may sound a good idea but not sure practically if will feel ok for the hands and fingers, physically and/or psychologically.
Otherwise, will go with an equal action of 3-4mm.

Please let me know all your thoughts about this.
Thanks in advance! Have a good playing time.
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Alfaraby
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[*] posted on 7-17-2015 at 03:32 PM


I think this thread is very important, but it has been neglected due to the fact that fellow members here are still thinking how this progressive or differential action could be implemented in practice.
RIGHT ?
I'd say this is an issue for luthiers to deal with, rather than for players or oud-fans like us, with minimal knowledge and experience in maintaining musical instruments.
I can only imagine the FB attached to the bowl, not flush with the SB but slanted/twisted a bit upwards > the bass strings.
OMG, how poor my technical language is. I hope/call Mr Downing to rush explaining what I really meant &/or what should be actually done.

Waiting ..

Yours indeed
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 7-17-2015 at 03:41 PM


It seems to me it's partly a matter of how high or low the holes in the bridge are and how deep the slots in the nut are. But I think maybe it is mostly a matter of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
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[*] posted on 7-17-2015 at 03:45 PM


Greetings,

I may be misunderstanding the question but isn't it fairly normal practice to "pull up" the strings at the bridge more on the bass side than the treble. Typically if all the other geometrical pieces are correct it's possible to get a decent fraction of a mm. of adjustment in string height at the neck/body joint by how one sets the string at the bridge. Personally, I always try to make sure that there is enough material on the top of the bridge to allow for a good amount of string set adjustment. Of course if the action at the neck/body joint is already 4+mm when the string knot at the bridge is at it's lowest possible position, a neck re-set is called for. After that the knot location can be used to set the string height. And, for actions below 2 - 2.5mm, neck relief (on the order of 1/4 of the string diameter - another form of "graduation") in the region of a major 2nd to the major 3rd above the nut is often helpful to minimize string buzz.

Cheers




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jdowning
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[*] posted on 7-18-2015 at 04:24 AM


In response to Jamil's posting. Surviving lutes and guitars of the late 16th and 17th C usually are built with the bridge holes/slots cut lower on the treble side and higher on the bass generally about 1mm difference in height from treble to bass. Most lute bridges did not allow for adjustment by 'pulling up' a string to a greater height due to a projection or ledge over the string at the front of the bridge or insufficient depth of material above the string holes. Typically bridge height would be about 6 mm on the treble side to about 7 mm on the bass ( 0.5 mm). String centre heights would then be about 0.5 mm or so lower.

Although this fixed built in variation of string heights at the bridge implies a higher string action on the bass side (due to larger diameter bass strings at lower tension than the trebles so greater amplitude of string vibration to be accommodated) the action at the highest stopped string position would depend upon how the neck was set, height of the strings at the nut, whether or not the fingerboard surface was plane or crowned (as found on later lutes with up to 13/14 courses) and whether or not graduated fret diameters were used. I have no data on file about measured string action on surviving lutes - which in any case on instruments that are now over 400 years old would likely not be representative of any original settings. Safe to say that action would have been kept as low as possible to facilitate playing - particularly on the larger lutes.

Impossible to know if early gut strung ouds once also had the same bridge design as lutes as no ouds survive prior to the 19th C but it is quite possible that they did for the same reason as found on lutes. However, today with the use of metal wound basses and providing some scope for adjusting string height at the bridge by 'pull up' as observed by Harry - all else being equal - is likely all that is required for fine adjustment of string action on an oud.
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alchemy
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[*] posted on 7-18-2015 at 11:29 AM


Thanks everyone for their replies.

So my understanding is that while theoretically speaking the idea might make sense, it seems in practice we're covered by having a decent equal action and the possibility of minute adjustments of bass strings by the pull-up technique.
And now that we mention adjustment of strings on the bridge, I've never been able to do that tiny adjustment while stringing the instrument. I've tried to pull-down the strings while tuning up, but they always end the same when they get tight/fully tuned. Never tried to pull-up since the action is already high. Seems that this adjustment on the bridge is only for raising the action more than the standard, and not for lowering? Or is it something that I'm doing wrong? It would be great if someone could make a short explanatory video demonstrating it.

Finally, then an equal action of between 3 and 4 mm is good for an Arabic Oud?

Thank you very much.
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[*] posted on 7-18-2015 at 12:01 PM


And one more question: would I benefit from using lower tension strings while I await for luthier to be ready to perform the fix? Would it compensate and make things easier for the fingers a little bit?
Thanks and have good time.
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 7-18-2015 at 01:27 PM


How much you can adjust the strings depends on the action and the design of the bridge (and where on the bridge the holes have been drilled).

On some ouds you can only pull up, some you can move up and down.
Mostly you have to get the oud up to pitch more or less and then move the string (which will then require retuning). It make take a couple of tries to get it right.

I agree with the others that generally a progressive action is desirable but this can be achieved by adjustments of the strings on an otherwise well-set-up instrument.




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alchemy
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[*] posted on 7-19-2015 at 08:51 PM


I see. I never tried while string is fully tuned because I'm afraid to break it.
Anyhow, do you think I'll get some benefit in terms of easier playability from lowering string tension temporarily until I fix string action?
Thanks!
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alchemy
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[*] posted on 7-20-2015 at 10:43 PM


I found a set of Aquilas lower tension and found the time to try them. Even though they feel better on my left hand, I miss some tension on the right hand strike. Still a temporary solution until I can get the action lowered a bit.
Thanks again for all your inputs!
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