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Author: Subject: Beginner Taqsim Attempt
Oud Lover

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[*] posted on 7-10-2019 at 08:44 PM
Beginner Taqsim Attempt


Been practicing semi-consistently for about 9 months and I've started trying to put together (well, technically, divide up) some taqasim, but I feel like I'm not really getting it. I can copy some players' melodies, but I still can't come up with any of my own besides going up and down the scale. Any thoughts/critiques?

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Oud Junkie

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[*] posted on 7-11-2019 at 04:09 PM

This is really good for a first attempt.

Your playing is very clean.

You're creating phrases, there is movement to different sections of the scale or maqam you're playing. You're using the full range of the oud.

Copying other people's melodies is what you need to continue doing. It's like learning vocabulary in a language.

Don't be afraid to put your own spin on things. You are technically skilled enough to be able to.

One exercise I recommend is to shadow the melody of a composed tune you know, say from a samai. Play the melody non rhythmically, then take the essence of the melody and experiment by adding your own twist but continuing to maintain the essence or direction of the melody.

Keep doing this and see how far you can improvise but still maintain a likeness to the original melody.

Also take some time in your practice to just completely mess around, allow whatever you want to play to just come out. Melodies come out of thin air, hear them in your head, and let them come out on the oud. If your technical skill is higher, this flow comes more easily because there is no impediment. Be like a hollow reed.

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Oud Lover

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[*] posted on 7-11-2019 at 07:04 PM

Thanks, Navid! A lot of what I learned was from your videos, so I'm glad you didn't think it was horrible. I'll definitely try out what you suggested. I'm still completely lost when it comes to modulation to different maqams, but I guess that'll come with time, too.
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 8-20-2019 at 10:25 AM

This is a really good start. You're doing a nice job with the opening and the overall structure, you're making phrases and your ornamentation is on the right track.

At this point, I don't think you need specific comments on what you're doing as much as some general pointers for what to listen for in recordings and some things to pay attention to in your own playing.

Every phrase has the following features:
• a note of entry (starting note, but I say entry because people often mistake the first emphasized note as the "starting point")
• a note of emphasis (possibly more than one, but usually one per phrase)
• a high note
• a low note
• a general direction/countour (up, down, up/down, down/up, up/down/up, down/up/down, etc)
• a range/ambitus (how far apart the lowest and highest notes are)

You should note these features in phrases of taqasim that you listen to, as well as in your own taqasim

Phrases also have:
Rhythmic content
Relative space/density (are there few notes or a lot of notes)
Perceived tempo or lack thereof
Length (is the phrase long, medium, or short)
Space before and after (long, medium, or short)
Dynamics (how loud things are generally) and accents (how loud a note is in relation to its neighbors)

Listen to how master improvisers manipulate these characteristics to create repetition and contrast.

Just working with these features and being aware of what you're doing will do a lot to help your taqsim create musical direction and a dramatic arc.

For instance, you could play a medium phrase, two short phrases, then a long phrase. The contrast alone will create interest and structure. Or play a medium-loud phrase, followed by a soft phrase, followed a loud phrase. The real sophistication comes when you can combine multiple features in interesting ways while also making melodic sense and developing melodic ideas.

One crucial thing to develop is taking small melodic and rhythmic ideas and turning them into longer ideas and sequences.
You should work towards being able to:
• take any idea and play it one step higher or lower, or a third higher or lower, and then repeating that through the scale.
• take an idea and extend or shorten it to have a related idea
• take an idea and invert the intervals or play it backwards in order to generate related melodic content

Most players have fine ideas and plenty of them—the problem is they don't learn to develop the ideas they have and consequently the taqsim is a continuous flow of unrelated ideas rather than a coherent set of musical idea that flow logically and add up to a larger musical statement.
For instance the idea that starts your second phrase at about 0:20 is a totally usable idea, but instead of doing something with it, you play it twice and then just move on to more unrelated material—you could have turned that into a small ascending sequence that would have been more effective. Listen back to your recording and see if you can identify similar ideas that could have been developed. They are all over the place.

Hope this is helpful!

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