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Author: Subject: I gave up on the oud because I am bad with the pick (risha)
zaazi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 01:32 AM
I gave up on the oud because I am bad with the pick (risha)


Hello. I have a strange story with the oud. I was introduced to the Oud when I was 19 years old (I am 35 now). I played the Oud then for six months then gave up because I was bad with the pick. I tried different holding styles, different picks, homemade picks, but with no result. My hand is heavy with the pick. I can't switch between strings smoothly especially during a tremolo. The tremolo itself isn't easy even on a single string. And I also can't play loudly because it makes the pick much more difficult to control.

Ten years later I tried again with the Oud. But I failed again with the pick. So I gave up again.

I came back to the oud one year ago. And again no matter what I tried I never got comfortable with the pick. I have seen many videos teaching how to hold the pick. I tried everything. So I gave up after a few months.
Here's a video of me playing the Oud (recorded one year a go) :

https://youtu.be/1xPVPfGm5wY

Can you tell what my problem is with the pick? Do you think I can improve?. I thought about seeing an Oud teacher but I have always believed that my problem is natural. Oud players usually naturally play the pick smoothly including my brother who was the one who introduced me to the Oud. He was surprised that I struggle with the pick. That's why I haven't seen a teacher. Do you guys think I should? Do you think my problem can be solved? I really love the Oud and after all these years it's a still a dream of mine to play the Oud flawlessly.


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zaazi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 01:47 AM


I also notice that it's easier to control the pick when I play very close to the bridge. But it changes the Oud sound so it wasn't a solution.
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pouryatorabi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 04:14 AM


I have started playing Oud for 6 months now, I have played Setar before that and it was really harder than Oud, But the picking of Oud is really hard for everyone specially the tremolo. As I saw your video you are actually better than me right now but you have some problems that I also had and my teachers solved them for me. I'm a beginner so these are not from me, I'm just telling you what other told me:
1- The best Risha for me was the soft Istanbul Risha, don't use the hard one. It's really easier to play with it.
2- You may want to change the style of your picking. This video may help:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXkpWU1epjw
I think the style you are using (Persian Style), is a little harder.
3- For fast tremolo, The hand must move less and shorter ditances, This video might help:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALhbfUxDWzE
4- It seems you are using your wrist for picking, and holding the Risha very tight, Don't grip the Risha, just put it between your fingers and let it move freely and use your forearm muscles.
5- Another thing that helps me sometimes is that I focus on right picking each time and don't even pay attention for left one and just let the Risha hit the string on the way back. Did you get it?
6- Don't speed up the picking, just do 2*whole note, 4*Half note, 8*Quarter note, 16*eighth note and so on, them come back and speed up, focus on picking the right amount not the speed.
May be these will help you, these are from my my teacher, not from me.;) But I also mentioned some from my experience.
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zaazi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 06:41 AM


Thank you.
If your teacher made your pick control better then maybe it's time for me to see a teacher. The problem is I have tried everything imaginable. I watched the videos you linked long time ago. And many other videos in Arabic. But my pick control never improved. Which was disheartening.
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pouryatorabi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 07:00 AM


I'm sure a good teacher will help you a lot.
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 07:29 AM


I watched the video and I don't think your right hand is bad at all. I can't see your right arm but it looks as though your pick stroke might be powered from the elbow! Playing tremolo with the whole forearm is difficult or impossible. If that's the case (and maybe I am wrong) try powering the stroke more from the wrist. Pouryatorabi is right that the forearm *muscles* can be involved (just relax the arm and these muscles will automatically engage) but you don't want to be moving the bones of the arm. That's too much weight.

I see a bigger problem in the left hand. You are pushing the strings very hard. Speed becomes difficult or impossible with such hard pressing. I think that if you press the strings to the fingerboard hard enough to make a clear sound and no harder, it will become easier to relax your grip on the risha. The two hands will probably improve together. Two hands, one brain.
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zaazi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 08:21 AM


No my pick stroke isn't powered from the elbow. My wrist is bent downward. I find it more comfortable to play like that.
As for my left hand, I might be pushing the strings very hard because this oud has a high action. But I will take your advice into account. Thank you

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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 09:26 AM


I can't seen enough of your hand and arm in the video to diagnose the problem, but I am sure a good teacher can help you sort out what you are doing wrong. There are a lot of very common picking issues that beginning/intermediate oud players frequently struggle with, and a good teacher will likely have encountered all of them and know what the solutions are.

While some people definitely "get" picking more easily than others, I don't think there's anything mechanical about playing an instrument that isn't fundamentally just a physical thing that anyone can learn to do with proper instruction and practice.
People's musicality varies a lot and is almost always the more limiting factor in one's progress.

So giving up because you don't feel like it comes naturally is a mistake; you can absolutely learn to pick well if you are dedicated and have the right guidance.





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Doc139
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 09:34 AM


You need a good teacher, that's all.
My oud teacher corrected in the beginning a lot of small details, not only but also in my picking technique and how I hold the risha, things I would not have seen myself!
Maybe it's also more difficult for you if your own brother learned it so easily, so naturally... Don't compare yourself with him!
Good luck anyway, and don't give up.
Alexander
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zaazi
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 10:58 AM


I found an old video where you can see my full arm:
https://youtu.be/CaxXFbVd-sU

This was recorded 5 years ago. I think I was using a soft pick that I modified. I can't play with hard picks at all. The problem with soft picks is that I can't play loudly with them.
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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 10-18-2019 at 02:53 PM


Jody's guess was correct, you are playing from your elbow. Notice the way your whole forearm is moving up and down. That shouldn't be happening, except for a few specific techniques (rapidly moving between low and high strings being the main one).
A good teacher can help you sort out a lot.

Here are the other things I notice:

Your arm is coming very much over the top of the instrument. This can be ok, but it requires care to avoid certain bad habits.
the oud face is not perpendicular to the floor, but tilted up towards you. This causes all kinds of problems.
your hand appears to be gripping the risha like a fist, this should be refined in several ways in order to have a relaxed grip with good support and control
you are putting your energy into your downstrokes, rather than in the preparation for the downstroke. This causes a bad sound, excessively percussive and without subtlety or warmth, limits tremolo and other rapid techniques, and causes poor control of dynamics

The good news is you appear to be perfectly capable of playing and otherwise have good dexterity, so you should be able to easily fix all of these problems with a little guidance.




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zaazi
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[*] posted on 10-19-2019 at 01:17 AM


Thank you for your valuable notes. May you expand on this cuz I didn't get it: (( you are putting your energy into your downstrokes, rather than in the preparation for the downstroke)).
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majnuunNavid
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[*] posted on 10-19-2019 at 04:56 AM


I agree that there is movement happening that appears to be caused by elbow movement during picking.

It's going to take some patience to overcome your habit, but not worth giving up.

There is an exercise Simon Shaheen gives for alternate plucking parallel strings where you extend your right hand pinky to touch the soundboard as an anchor. This forces your elbow to stop moving and activates the correct muscles in your wrist and forearm to pluck the strings efficiently with minimal movement.

This one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN0e1WhJjJA

Pure genius. It will speed your progress. Good luck.




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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 10-19-2019 at 07:08 AM


Quote: Originally posted by zaazi  
Thank you for your valuable notes. May you expand on this cuz I didn't get it: (( you are putting your energy into your downstrokes, rather than in the preparation for the downstroke)).


What you need is a teacher to work with you. I will try to explain here but you are probably not going to really get it without a proper lesson.

You are "pushing" into the downstroke. The downstroke should be a release, not a push. The work is in the lifting of the upstroke that prepares for the downstroke, you are creating potential energy with the lift/rotation and releasing it with the downstroke.

This is usually challenging to learn and requires a teacher's guidance if it doesn't come naturally, because you are not really aware enough of what you are doing and need to be made aware so you can correct it. This requires observation and commentary by a teacher.




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