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Author: Subject: Playing oud left-handed : a testimony
Danielo
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[*] posted on 11-19-2018 at 06:43 AM
Playing oud left-handed : a testimony


Hi,

I would like to share my experience which may be useful for left-handed beginners to the oud.

When I started to learn the instrument, long time ago, my first teacher advised me to learn as a right-handed (i.e. picking with the right hand). Since I had no guitar background, I had no prejudice against this and, as a piano player, I had not experienced any issue of this sort.

For years I have learned and practiced this way, but my risha technique has always been by far my weakest point. In particular, I've never been able to play a tremolo at all, despite training. I felt that I had reached a threshold in my playing that I did not succeed to cross.

It was a very frustrating experience as at some point the oud was one of the most important things in my life. I have thought several times that I would benefit from playing left-handed, but I was so much into playing that I was not ready to accept to restart learning everything from scratch, while not being able to play anything properly for months or years.

More recently, I had somehow a more distant relationship wth the instrument (which I still love to play and hear) so I decided to take the plunge one month ago. I wanted to keep my instruments that I have learned to appreciate so my plan was to learn how to play with the oud upside down, plucking with the left hand but with the the treble course on top.

Everything that was familiar (posture, hand positions, etc...) felt really awkward, but slowly I managed to adapt. Right now I'm just able to play very basic tunes, but it is obvious that plucking technique is developing much better. Tremolo starts to sounds good after just few weeks, something that I was completely unable to do when I played right-handed even after many years. My left wrist is both more powerful and more relaxed.


I still have several years ahead of training to recover and outdo my skills of the past, and I regret to have lost so many years in developing my playing in the wrong way, but I'm happy to have tried this eventually and hope to achieve soon a reasonable level of playing.

Of course this is just my personal experience, some left-handed certainly achieve to play right-handed very well, but this is certainly not the case for everyone; I think this is something that every left-handed person should keep in mind while starting to learn this wonderful instrument,


Dan
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 11-19-2018 at 12:57 PM


I've met a number of lefty oud players, some who string the oud normally and play upside down and some who restring it so that it's the same.
Your experience makes sense. The only argument I've ever heard that is a good justification for learning the other way is that if you want to also play violin it would be helpful for the fingering hand to remain the same (since the violin is often in a section and bowing the opposite of others is problematic).




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ChanningPDX
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[*] posted on 11-19-2018 at 04:31 PM


In my other musical life, I play Scottish bagpipes, Irish uilleann pipes and wooden simple system flute--all left-handed. (I.e., mirror-image of a "normal" right-handed player and with my right hand on top and left hand on the bottom.) The reason why is that when I was young and started playing bagpipes, my first teacher didn't have a problem with me playing this way. Indeed, a number of excellent pipers do. Bagpipes are a mass-produced instrument, but they generally don't employ keywork that would make handedness an issue; you just tie the pipes into a leather bag so that the drones sit on the left shoulder if you're right-handed and on the right shoulder if you're left handed.

In Irish music, it's again very common for musicians to play left-handed. For keyed flutes and uilleann pipes, you do need to order custom instruments, but these are all hand-made by individual instrument makers anyway, so again, it's not a serious issue, and most don't charge extra for this.

The main reason why so many instruments today are designed to be right-hand normative really has to do with the onset of industrialized mass production of instruments in the mid-late 19th century. Prior to that, playing left handed tended to be more common and socially acceptable--even in some Western symphony orchestras. Still, with mass-produced guitars, reversing the strings is no big deal, and that's why they remain one of the few instruments you can easily buy left-handed off the shelf.

Ironically, the one instrument I didn't play left-handed (aside from a bit of piano) was the guitar. All the guitars I had encountered had been right-handed and I was always too lazy to try reversing the strings. Granted, I'm not a very good guitar player, but I'd mostly chalk that up to lack of effort rather than crossed wires in my brain.

When I started playing oud, guitar was already enough in my brain that it made sense to just play conventionally. Honestly, I don't think it makes all that much of a difference in the end, but if playing mirror image really feels better and ultimately results in better music, then why not?
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ChanningPDX
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[*] posted on 11-19-2018 at 04:36 PM


Also, I just remembered that my oud teacher recently told me a story about how when he began studying oud in Morocco, his teacher was musically ambidextrous and could pick up ouds strung left-handed or right-handed and play them either way. It's not that surprising if you think about it--in traditional music cultures, people often just play what's available however they can.
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Amu Daria
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[*] posted on 12-3-2018 at 05:12 PM


I am a left handed oud player. I bought a left handed oud and I enjoy playing tremendously! I am the first and only left handed player that my professor has ever had ( he teaches oud since 25 years).
I am a true left handed person. I play all sports left handed so there was no question when I started to play the oud 2 years ago. :buttrock:
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ilnokaly
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[*] posted on 2-16-2020 at 04:08 PM


Fellow lefties ! Please allow me to tell you story about playing the oud lefthanded. I am already a left handed person, i do almost everything with my left hand. When i started playing, I took like 3 or 4 lessons with a very talented teacher, the 1st time i holded they oud in my life, i felt very natural to hold the risha like i hold a pencil. The 1st thing that developed super quick is my tremolo. After 2 or 3 months, i started to develop the tremolo of an intermediate level student. However, my right hand (fretting hand) was way way behind my risha. After many years of playing regularly, i started to really enjoy my sound. And this is because there was a similar level between the 2 hands.

Also for me the advantage of playing the strings upside down (trebbles up) is that you may invent different patterns while doing taqasims, just because you mechanism is inversed, and ur up risha is the right hand,s down richa. And vice versa.

Sometimes in taqasims, when I try "naturally" to explore different phrases, while staying in the traditional tarab for, i begin to play complex phrases which involve a certain down risha, and sometimes double hummering, these elements will not at all natural for a right handed person.

So for me being lefthanded, is, beside the hand practice, a good source of creativity which will not be the natural way of a right handed.

I still consider myself a beginner, and for me my idol in taqasim is Mohamed AlAssabguy, i think he was a genius, yet he sticked to the traditional forms espacially in taqasims
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Jack_Campin
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[*] posted on 2-17-2020 at 12:20 PM


In Mevlevi music ensembles you sometimes see the ney players arranged symmetrically with lefty players on one side of the stage and righties on the other, all with their instruments pointing in to the centre.

I've seen a suggestion from a British Army pipe major in Vctorian times that your band looked neater if you had an equal number of lefties and rghties so you could have a double column with their drones over opposite shoulders.

I'm sure some tekke or TRT show has had a neatfreak director with similar ideas about ouds.




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