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Author: Subject: Does changing the tuning really affect the bowl over time?
Eric Stern Music
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 11:36 AM
Does changing the tuning really affect the bowl over time?


I have been playing oud for three years, and four years ago when I was reading through the site I found this in the FAQ's:

"It is also advisable not to keep changing the tunings on the same oud. One reason given by Nazih Ghadban: “in my opinion it is not advisable to tune different tunings (Turkish–Arabic) to the same oud even if the strings are different (Turkish set or Arabic set). I think as you will lose many harmonic pitches in that oud, and with time you will destroy the oud acoustically, as the bowl keeps inside the wood an imprint for each vibration, and the sound will be muzzled without any reverb of the harmonic pitches”.

I keep wondering if this is supported by science? Does the wood really "keep an imprint for each vibration"? This is not just an academic question. I have two ouds. I always keep my Arabic oud at CFadgc, however sometimes it migrates down, and I usually let it. However there are times when I play with others who are at concert pitch so then I tune it back up to concert for an evening. My Turkish oud is a step up, but since it's a little better quality than my Arabic I bring it to my lesson every week, and for that hour tune it down to my teacher's Arabic oud. Sometimes I leave it in that tuning for a day or two, especially if I don't play it, and then then tune the slack strings back up. Is all this tuning and re-tuning ruining my ouds? Thanks!
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franck leriche
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 12:44 PM


I've been thinking about the same issue since i read Mr Ghadban advce.

Recently i've ben checking out the tuning of Cinucen Tanrikorur on different recordings.
I founded some in D, others in C, and others in C#. He always have his incredible sound...

I've been playing the iranian tar for quite a long time, and at most of the rehearsals i'had so change the tuning, once for the singer, once for the ney player. Every tar player i've met did the same and the tar has a wooden body too... and so many harmonics...

Recently i bought a fifteen years old turkish oud from a great maker.
I found that it sounded the best tuned in C#.
The maker told me that the oud was almost never played during that time. It had almost no using marks.
So why does it sound best (for my ears)in C#.

There's a lot of mysteries in the instrument making, other wise it should be very easy to make great instruments.

Some makers claim their ability to keep the same sound, but from my own experience i've heard more bad ouds than great ones, even from famous makers....but this is a bit off the topic.

For what it worth i change very often the tuning of the bass strings and will continue to do so, i never heard anything bad from it.

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majnuunNavid
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 05:17 PM


I am wondering about this too. And how does this relate to the bracing on the soundboard, or does it relate at all?

Harmonics on the Tar might be different because I think a lot of harmonics are the result of the membrane rather than the bowl. no? If you play a cumbus, you get way more harmonic resonance than Oud, plus you have a metal bowl as a resonator.





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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 06:30 PM


There is no question that a wooden musical instrument "remembers" the exact pitches that were played on it. The violin instructor Kato Havas describes in one of her books how she can always tell what notes a student has been practicing in and out of tune. All she has to do is play the student's violin for a minute or so and she can discern which pitches respond well with accurate fingering and which do not. The ones that do not were mis-fingered by the student. In my own experience this memory by the wood is not necessarily permanent. So if I let a very skilled player play one of my instruments for five minutes, when I play it myself right afterwards, I sound better than I expect from my own playing. The impression left behind lasts about a day. And if an unskilled player should get their grubby hands on one of my instruments for five minutes I find my instrument responds horribly. The only thing I can do to save it is to discard all the strings and re-string it and then play it for several hours to get it back to before it was exposed to Guitar Influenza. the impression left behind is *that* severe. But if someone else plays my instrument every day for a week or a month or a year, the impression left behind is long lasting and perhaps permanent.

When I was a teenager I had a reputation for leaving behind positive impressions on instruments. People with valuable guitars that I could not possibly afford, would leave their guitars with me for a week or so and ask me to play it a lot, which I did for sure. I mean I played these treasures every spare minute I had. The guitar owners reported that the guitar now sounded better and permanently better.

I agree with franck leriche that sometimes an oud "wants" to be tuned to a non-standard pitch, a lower pitch. And I agree it is better not argue with the oud. It knows what it wants.

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majnuunNavid
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 06:43 PM


Jody, that is a good piece of the puzzle. I remember another thread on here, but can't remember which, someone related a similar story.

Even though on fretted instruments you can play the same pitches with frets, more skilled players can get a better tone and quality out of the instrument even with frets, the difference is apparent.





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rootsguitar
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 06:51 PM


Train like an MMA fighter and approach modern technique with your entire self, The tunings, the oud, the strings, they are only relevant because of you and how you move.

May it be musical, fluid, and expressive.

Whatever it takes to motivate your practice any given day is totally legit…

the long term fundamental building blocks seem un magical and rooted in human movement.

my 2 cents.

Surf them tunings & trick your fingers into “ looking without looking.”

some luthier will feel happy about that.

There's an excellent reason these instruments spread around the globe, they are hardy like horses and salt water.


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Eric Stern Music
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[*] posted on 11-18-2015 at 08:37 PM


Hey roots, no disrespect intended, but I don't see the relevance at all in your response to my post. But maybe I'm not understanding.Thanks everybody else for your responses.
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[*] posted on 11-19-2015 at 03:50 AM



Hi Eric,

no offense taken

My same 2 cents: Even if changing the tuning affects your instrument I don’t think it will ruin it

if the tensions are within the design limits and the tunings are stable while you perform.

I think some of those concepts, and like the ones Jody mentioned, can be motivating in some ways.

Commitment to detail is admirable…it can be expressed in lots of ways.

Ultimately though I think human motion affects the sound most of all...




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Eric Stern Music
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[*] posted on 11-19-2015 at 08:48 AM


Ah. Gotcha. Thanks.
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Eric Stern Music
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[*] posted on 11-20-2015 at 09:22 AM


So not to be a pest, but I am wondering if the admins would consider either taking the original statement off the FAQ's or modifying it with extra context or if someone would give a scientifically-informed justification of the point of view represented on the FAQ's? Thanks!
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 11-20-2015 at 09:49 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Eric Stern Music  
So not to be a pest, but I am wondering if the admins would consider either taking the original statement off the FAQ's or modifying it with extra context or if someone would give a scientifically-informed justification of the point of view represented on the FAQ's? Thanks!


Not every phenomenon on this earth has been studied scientifically. Most human knowledge is gained by experience. The experience of so many oud players tells us that many ouds respond best when they are kept in one tuning. If the pitch of the single bass string is sometimes adjusted according to the maqam being played that seems to have no bad effect, especially if it is returned to its customary pitch and tension. Some ouds may not be adversely affected by frequent and drastic changes in tuning (such as Arabic to Turkish and back again) but experience tells us that many ouds perform best when kept at stable tuning.

Opinion gained from experience is not the same as as prejudice or rumors or beliefs. It is the very opposite. What we learn about ouds from experience is similar to what we learn via the scientific method with the difference that measuring tools are not used. In both cases our minds interact with what is being studied. Science is not entirely ready to accept that maybe.

Since the FAQ item mentioned in your original post is more true than not, I don't see why it should be amended or supplemented.
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Eric Stern Music
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[*] posted on 11-20-2015 at 10:15 AM


Well first, I actually think perhaps it SHOULD be amended with your quote starting from "The experience of many oud players...stable tuning". That's a great statement

But the original statement in the FAQ's is not only saying ouds perform best when kept in a stable tuning it says that "the bowl keeps inside the wood an imprint for each vibration". I really want to know if this is true or fanciful or what? I mean. that's a fairly strong specific statement, and is not just saying something from experience, which I value as well, but something very specific. I have seen so much wonderful discussion about acoustic properties on this forum, going into detail of detail of minutiae, I would think that if this were true, about the bowl, some of you luthiers could speak on it, or I could find this info somewhere. I'm not trying to call anyone out, but just want the evidence because it is interesting, and also want the faq's modified because as a beginner, it would have been helpful to know that it's okay to change tunings, once in awhile. Or not, if it really isn't, if, say, the bowl is keeping an imprint for each vibration.
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 11-20-2015 at 10:56 AM


I understand your point better now. I think the comment about what the bowl keeps is something like a poetic statement. Sometimes poetic statements are more accurate than scientific statements. In this case I don't see how vibrational memory that is stored in a wooden bowl can be measured by a scientific instrument. What would be a good name for a measurable unit of vibrational memory?
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Eric Stern Music
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[*] posted on 11-20-2015 at 11:18 AM


Well poetry is valuable, good, and true in a deep sense, certainly, but if one is going to make a poetic statement on a FAQ then it should be broadcast as such. In any case, as much as I appreciate your views on poetry, and I really do, I think it is a stretch or even speculation to say that that is what was meant in the original quote. A good name for a measurable unit of vibrational memory? Hmmm...
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[*] posted on 11-20-2015 at 12:15 PM


Vibrational memory sounds like something from the Twilight Zone. Certainly, bowls have a resonate frequency and certain pitches will resonate differently but that is a slightly different concept. I believe this is what people are experiencing when they talk about an instrument "liking" a certain tuning. For example if your oud seems to resonate on C and you tune c g d a G C every open string other than the A is part of the overtone series. The oud would sound quite different tuned up a step in Turkish tuning.

Tuning up and down also causes a lot of stress on the strings which can lead a person to believe an oud doesn't enjoy having the tuning altered.
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[*] posted on 11-25-2015 at 10:11 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Jason  
Vibrational memory sounds like something from the Twilight Zone.


Well, yes, that is an understandable perspective. But most things in the subtle realm sound flaky in a way. For example, I once met a highly sensitive woman who said she could no longer purchase used clothing from thrift shops because she could 'feel' the vibration of the person who wore the clothes before her, and it rarely felt good. The clothing carried the vibrational memory of past owners.

As another example, I know some folks who claim to be able to feel the energy of the chef who made their food, and therefore these folks try not to eat food made by angry or troubled individuals.

There is a somewhat Twilight Zone-ish spiritual practice called Psychometry, which purports to know things about objects due to their vibrational history (my paraphrase).

Better yet, anyone more interested in how thought and vibration effect the material realm might find the work of Masaru Emoto highly interesting.

This is all a little step away from the original post, but I can easily believe that tunings can be imprinted on wood, or other materials, at least for a time, and so changing tunings could cause a 'cacaphony' of vibrations to some extent. I expect this depends on how sensitive the player is. I am not nearly that sensitive yet.

As an aside: very interesting experience you have had Jody. I expect you were endowing the instruments with very good energy. If you're ever in Vancouver, I would love to have you over to my place to play all of my instruments.

Jack
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 11-25-2015 at 10:36 AM


Jack, what I was doing on those instruments was playing firmly and confidently and in tune. That is not entirely different from endowing them with "very good energy".

There is so much Woo Woo/Twilight Zone stuff but that does not mean that what is being faked is not itself real.

Of course people leave impressions on their clothing, their ouds, and all their surroundings. How can anyone doubt it?
If that were not so New Jersey would look and feel exactly like the West Bank. ;-)
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