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helpmetoi
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[*] posted on 10-6-2015 at 06:55 PM
Learning oud or guitar (no experience)


So I want to learn to play the oud, and also some guitar. I know it's not easy, but I just want to know where to start. Do you recommend I start with one over the other? I'm arab so I'm very familiar with the music if that makes any difference. Appreciate the help :)

P.S. I will most likely be self taught in the beginning
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[*] posted on 10-6-2015 at 07:34 PM


It's my opinion that you should focus on one or the other in the beginning so you can commit yourself fully to practicing one instrument. Where do you live? It's always good to get a few in-person lessons in the beginning.
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[*] posted on 10-6-2015 at 07:37 PM


I understand that focusing on one is better. But is one easier to learn than the other? And is it easier to go from oud to guitar than guitar to oud or is it pretty much the same?
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 05:38 AM


Hi:wavey:

Like Jason says, the best is to focus one one, but I think it`ll be easyer to learn to play the oud first.
That does not mean Oud playing is easy, but as there are no frets on a oud you`ll train your ears,because you dont really see where you have to set your fingers.
Guitar learning is a more visual thing, because you can clearly see where your finger have to be to play the note/chord you want.
The oud is a melody-Instrument, you dont play much chords on it. The guitar, if used in arabic music, usualy play chords.

So, what do you want to play? Melody= oud, Chords=Guitar

But again.....start with one is the best choice I guess.

And for sure, the oud sounds much better than guitars:D




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John Erlich
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 08:37 AM


If you don't already play guitar, then we don't worry as much about you trying to play the oud "...like a guitar," which is bad body mechanics. (I started to develop repetitive stress [AKA "tennis elbow"] when I frst started playing oud, because my body positioning and picking technique were wrong.)

Samer Totah is a good example of very "orthodox" Arabic-style oud technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK5FJZOi9u4

NOTE:

1) The very "upright" position of the instrument: It's not tilted back toward the player and you really can't easily look at the fingerboard.

2) That picking is mostly wrist action, not elbow (this is significantly different from typical guitar technique).

3) His legs are crossed (the one non-"orthodox" element of his technique). Most serious oud players don't sit cross-legged, and use a footrest, like classical guitarists.

4) The oud pick ("risha" in Arabic, "mizrap" in Turkish, "mizrab" in Persian) is typically at least 5 inches long (mine are much longer), and is held GENTLY by the ENTIRE HAND, not squeezed between the thumb and forefinger like a guitar pick. There are as many different types of oud picks are there are oud players. There are all kinds of different types of store-bought picks available in the Middle East & North Africa, but most of us end us making our own, once we know what consistency we like.

5) He is reaching around the bottom of the oud, not over the side of the instrument. This can also be described as reaching over the bridge. This is another significant difference from typical Western string instrument technique. Not every player does this, but it is the more "orthodox" or "received" technique. One of my teachers--a veteran player--recently retrained himself, "correcting" his body position from reaching over the side of the instrument (like a guitar) to reaching around the bottom and over the bridge. I find reaching over the bridge to be much more relaxing and efficient.

It is always easier if you have a live experienced oud player to show and explain this to you.

You won't just sound better, you'll feel better! ;=)

Good luck!

All the best,
"Udi" John
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 09:40 AM


John, with the exception of the over-the-side right arm, what you are describing as "guitar technique" is absolutely not. Anyone who plays like that will get as bad a result from the guitar as when applying these "techniques" to the oud. Apologies if this seems rude of me but I've been playing guitar professionally for nearly 60 years and it's a sore point for me when people compare oud technique with guitar technique and wrongly equate bad plectrum use with typical guitar playing.

I also cannot agree that crossing one's legs makes an oud player less serious. Simon Shaheen and Nasser Houaari play with crossed legs. Need I say more?

I do agree that the over-the-bridge approach to oud gives the typical sound and that it is a good sound. But this technique is only accessible to those with sufficiently long arms. Jamil Bashir could not do it.
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 09:51 AM


for what it is worth... I found learning classical guitar more complicated than oud. So I stuck with the oud and have no regrets about it.





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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 10:21 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Jody Stecher  
John, with the exception of the over-the-side right arm, what you are describing as "guitar technique" is absolutely not. Anyone who plays like that will get as bad a result from the guitar as when applying these "techniques" to the oud. Apologies if this seems rude of me but I've been playing guitar professionally for nearly 60 years and it's a sore point for me when people compare oud technique with guitar technique and wrongly equate bad plectrum use with typical guitar playing.

I also cannot agree that crossing one's legs makes an oud player less serious. Simon Shaheen and Nasser Houaari play with crossed legs. Need I say more?

I do agree that the over-the-bridge approach to oud gives the typical sound and that it is a good sound. But this technique is only accessible to those with sufficiently long arms. Jamil Bashir could not do it.


Well...if you don't like my suggestions, you don't need to follow them. I can only say that I was a professional jazz guitarist, and I quite nearly f-ed up my arm permanently by playing oud "like a guitar," with poor body mechanics FOR THE OUD.

I am not suggesting that guitar technique is "bad," it's just for guitar. The problem is that so many of us in the West start with guitar (or mandolin, banjo, etc.) and move over to the oud without any proper instruction.

My suggestion to those who find it impossibly difficult to reach over the bridge is to find a smaller oud, maybe play a Turkish instrument instead. I didn't want to "out" my teacher who retrained himself to reach over the bridge, but it was none other Yair Dalal, who, if you know him, is a short man with short arms (photos attached).

One strategy for those with shorter arms is to hold the oud with the bowl slightly lower than the pegbox. This is actually way the most oudists of the Iraqi Bashir school hold the instrument, tall or short. (I personally don't like the feel and sound this way, but, to each his own. I notice Yair does this sometimes.)

I DID NOT intend to suggest that oud players who sit crossed legged when playing are necessarily "less serious," just that this is not way most serious oud players sit, and I think I'm correct on that score. I happen to be a huge fan of both Simon Shaheen and Nasser Houari, but just want to suggest--like a good teacher--that new students learn with "orthodox" technique and wait to experiment until they have a better feel for the instrument. It's easier to start with good technique than to unlearn problemmatic technique later on.

Peace out,
"Udi" John
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 11:20 AM


my 2¢:

There are some aspects of guitar technique (mostly in some way related to chords) that are not ideal for the oud. However, there are a lot of varying techniques for playing guitar, depending on style. In general, the guitar is more forgiving of poor technique than the oud (at least in the short run).

In my opinion, there is more overlap between guitar and oud technique than is immediately apparent, but mainly at the deeper levels. Initially, we all begin with many flaws in technique. What is different is that the flaws that guitar will tolerate are quite different than the flaws that the oud will tolerate, and that the musical demands are different (requiring different techniques to meet those demands). Perhaps another way of thinking about it is this: there is an approach to technique that is applicable to both oud and guitar, but there are aspects of technique that are exclusive to each instrument. Attempting to apply guitar-specific techniques to oud-specific demands is going to cause problems.

Habits learned are difficult to unlearn, though. My observation seems to be that for many people some of the habits of guitar may be more difficult to unlearn on the oud than the other way around. But each individual is different and has different strengths and learning styles. What I would suggest is trying both guitar and oud for a couple of weeks and see which one seems more immediately accessible to you.

Regarding cross-legged sitting, it seems a can of worms is open! :D
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ6DxPEbScE

I don't know that there is enough consistency over the history of the oud to claim any approach is "orthodox" or not, but I would tend to agree that playing cross-legged is likely to pose some additional and unnecessary challenges to the beginner and that a foot stool is a safer approach.








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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 11:52 AM



John, with respect, what I meant was that the technique you described as being typical for guitar was not good or common guitar technique. I didn't think you were saying it was bad for guitar. I'm the one who is saying that.

I'll try again: good guitar technique is good for the guitar (by which I mean it's good for player and for the listener.) Bad guitar technique is as bad for the guitar (and its players and listeners) as it is bad for the oud. Playing the guitar with a death grip on the plectrum and using the elbow as the principal hinge produces a poor sound on the guitar, reduces clarity and speed, and it injures the player. I submit that if you continued on guitar using that technique you would have eventually gotten the same injuries that you got using these techniques on oud. The oud will hasten the onset of the injury because the depth of the bowl causes the right shoulder to come forward when using the Over-The-Side approach.

By all means oudists should start out using proper oud technique but the techniques rejected should not be described as belonging to the guitar, because that is not how able guitarists and skillful players of other western plectrum instruments use their right hand. A good grip on a guitar plectrum is loose. The wrist is the principal hinge. I first got a bee in my bonnet about misrepresenting guitar technique when another forum member wrote that the difference between oud and guitar playing was that oud players play both downstrokes and upstrokes whereas guitarists play only downstrokes!!! Since then there have been other such posts where any daft picking idea is ascribed to the guitar and contrasted with the lovely oud.

Quote: Originally posted by John Erlich  
Quote: Originally posted by Jody Stecher  
John, with the exception of the over-the-side right arm, what you are describing as "guitar technique" is absolutely not. Anyone who plays like that will get as bad a result from the guitar as when applying these "techniques" to the oud. Apologies if this seems rude of me but I've been playing guitar professionally for nearly 60 years and it's a sore point for me when people compare oud technique with guitar technique and wrongly equate bad plectrum use with typical guitar playing.

I also cannot agree that crossing one's legs makes an oud player less serious. Simon Shaheen and Nasser Houaari play with crossed legs. Need I say more?

I do agree that the over-the-bridge approach to oud gives the typical sound and that it is a good sound. But this technique is only accessible to those with sufficiently long arms. Jamil Bashir could not do it.


Well...if you don't like my suggestions, you don't need to follow them. I can only say that I was a professional jazz guitarist, and I quite nearly f-ed up my arm permanently by playing oud "like a guitar," with poor body mechanics FOR THE OUD.


I am not suggesting that guitar technique is "bad," it's just for guitar. The problem is that so many of us in the West start with guitar (or mandolin, banjo, etc.) and move over to the oud without any proper instruction.

My suggestion to those who find it impossibly difficult to reach over the bridge is to find a smaller oud, maybe play a Turkish instrument instead. I didn't want to "out" my teacher who retrained himself to reach over the bridge, but it was none other Yair Dalal, who, if you know him, is a short man with short arms (photos attached).

One strategy for those with shorter arms is to hold the oud with the bowl slightly lower than the pegbox. This is actually way the most oudists of the Iraqi Bashir school hold the instrument, tall or short. (I personally don't like the feel and sound this way, but, to each his own. I notice Yair does this sometimes.)

I DID NOT intend to suggest that oud players who sit crossed legged when playing are necessarily "less serious," just that this is not way most serious oud players sit, and I think I'm correct on that score. I happen to be a huge fan of both Simon Shaheen and Nasser Houari, but just want to suggest--like a good teacher--that new students learn with "orthodox" technique and wait to experiment until they have a better feel for the instrument. It's easier to start with good technique than to unlearn problemmatic technique later on.

Peace out,
"Udi" John
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 12:11 PM




haha, I didn't know if I was a natural oudist :)

though I did teach myself to play, I had no experience with playing stringed instrument though I had been a classically trained trombone player. Which only helps because this instills a knowledge of how to practice (what to focus on) and how to learn musical pieces.

At the time I started teaching myself oud I already owned a Yamaha classical guitar which I had been messing with but I found the guitar cumbersome to play because I don't have the largest hands and also I found I was more apt at playing melodies one string at a time than performing awkward (to me) chords. I am told the chords things eventually becomes easier, I don't doubt this but I didn't stick with it long enough to like it.

It also depends on your goals, I grew up listening to the gypsy kings... when I picked up the guitar I was hoping to sound like an accomplished gypsy flamenco player which was unreasonable.

like I said for what its worth, I found it easier to learn oud and so I enjoyed learning it more.




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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 01:28 PM


So, Helpmetoi, have you considered the clarinet?
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 02:42 PM


Well thanks for all the replies guys! So far the consensus seems to be learning oud without any guitar habits is easier so I'll start with oud. I mainly want to play khaliji songs, specifically adaniyat. Things like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsCY-dAMJ80
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgPvh9ybmH4

Are there any suggestions for type of oud or anything I should know before I get started?

Thanks again!
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 04:05 PM


I'd say my jazz guitar technique, while hardly flawless, was pretty good. I didn't have a "death grip" on the pick. Nevertheless, I had to adjust my plectrum grip and technique, and I find myself helping guitarists to hold the oud risha/mizrap with their whole hand and with a very gentle grip again and again and again. This is just an observation based on personal experience. I am just trying to save prospective guitarist turning to the oud from repetitive stress injuries. That's all.
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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 04:47 PM


Fair enough. And probably more useful than me trying to save the reputation of the guitar and its technique.

Nice arguing with you, yr a reasonable man.

Quote: Originally posted by John Erlich  
I'd say my jazz guitar technique, while hardly flawless, was pretty good. I didn't have a "death grip" on the pick. Nevertheless, I had to adjust my plectrum grip and technique, and I find myself helping guitarists to hold the oud risha/mizrap with their whole hand and with a very gentle grip again and again and again. This is just an observation based on personal experience. I am just trying to save prospective guitarist turning to the oud from repetitive stress injuries. That's all.

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[*] posted on 10-7-2015 at 07:35 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Jody Stecher  
Fair enough. And probably more useful than me trying to save the reputation of the guitar and its technique.

Nice arguing with you, yr a reasonable man.

Quote: Originally posted by John Erlich  
I'd say my jazz guitar technique, while hardly flawless, was pretty good. I didn't have a "death grip" on the pick. Nevertheless, I had to adjust my plectrum grip and technique, and I find myself helping guitarists to hold the oud risha/mizrap with their whole hand and with a very gentle grip again and again and again. This is just an observation based on personal experience. I am just trying to save prospective guitarist turning to the oud from repetitive stress injuries. That's all.



I don't think the guitar and its technique need to be defended. The guitar is a great instrument. If I had had more self-discipline and less harsh self-criticism as a young man, I might have become continued as a jazz guitarist and composer. If I had studied jazz guitar in college, I probably would have learned better technique; I have definitely seen some decent younger jazz guitarists who hold the instrument very differently (almost "upright") from how I was trained. They seem to have evolved a more efficient technique.

I hope that you keep playing guitar, Jody, and, unlike stupid me, don't have to give it up completely (and take up another instrument and music genre) just because you can never feel happy with you own playing!

Be well!

All the best,
"Udi" John
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[*] posted on 10-8-2015 at 07:14 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Brian Prunka  
Regarding cross-legged sitting, it seems a can of worms is open! :D
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ6DxPEbScE

I don't know that there is enough consistency over the history of the oud to claim any approach is "orthodox" or not, but I would tend to agree that playing cross-legged is likely to pose some additional and unnecessary challenges to the beginner and that a foot stool is a safer approach.


Yes Brian. But I notice on the video that if you have white shoes, you put the right leg on the left one. And if you have black shoes, the left on the right one. :D
Unfortunately we don't see the shoes of Samer Totah. But he certainly has black shoes.
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[*] posted on 10-10-2015 at 10:41 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Lute  
It would be best to start with a good few lessons at the beginning, as Jason suggested above.
Make sure to find a good teacher, as they can discourage you, if for example they are disorganised.

Are you planning to learn the music theory or playing by ear?

Good luck




Thank you, it seems like I'll be going for lessons then. How long do you recommend I should stick with a teacher? And honestly I'm not sure whether I will learn music theory or just play by ear. I'll be trying both and see which I can accomplish more with I guess.
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[*] posted on 10-10-2015 at 04:58 PM


The idea of "music theory or play by ear" is kind of a nonsensical question.

It's like asking someone learning a language whether they intend to learn to read the language or speak it. Sure, you could learn one or the other, but it would be a weird thing to assume—most people understand that both are necessary even if you are focusing more on one or the other.




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[*] posted on 10-11-2015 at 02:09 AM


Certainly in the world of classical guitar. However I think in the world of rhythm guitar - and certainly rock guitar - knowledge of theory is not always a requirement. I spent years in bands with people who knew very little musical theory and played largely by ear. Playing by ear is a massive hindrance though, certainly if you want to take your instrument seriously, as I found out to my detriment when I joined the orchestra at uni as an undergrad. The conductor would say, "OK, page ten, bar 254 - go!" and everyone would just play it while I was still counting the lines on the stave.

You can play rhythm guitar by ear quite competently with hardly any theoretical knowledge apart from say, the names of the chords, and that will be enough for some people. Likewise you can improvise on oud just by knowing maqams. But in both cases you're not going to advance very far at all.
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[*] posted on 10-11-2015 at 02:26 PM


Thank you for the help everyone! I'll be looking for a teacher soon then.
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[*] posted on 1-2-2020 at 05:27 PM


Quote: Originally posted by helpmetoi  
So I want to learn to play the oud, and also some guitar. I know it's not easy, but I just want to know where to start. Do you recommend I start with one over the other? I'm arab so I'm very familiar with the music if that makes any difference. Appreciate the help :)

P.S. I will most likely be self taught in the beginning
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[*] posted on 1-2-2020 at 05:31 PM


If you want to learn oud visit my website
learnoudonline.ca
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