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ArmoOudist
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[*] posted on 2-13-2021 at 10:03 AM
Any Advice on Warmups?


Any advice on warm ups for oud? Can I just carry over guitar warm ups, or are there unique things for the oud that would be especially helpful?
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dusepo
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[*] posted on 2-14-2021 at 04:13 AM


I usually play an improv/taksim which includes whichever techniques I'm currently working on to warm up.



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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 2-14-2021 at 07:01 AM


For most students, it's a good idea to warm up for a few minutes just focused on right hand picking movement, developing a big sound while staying completely relaxed. Since this aspect of playing needs to be 100% automatic and intuitive and is a necessary foundation for everything else to sound good, it's a good idea to spend time on it every time you pick up the oud. It also can get neglected by students who want to get right to the more "exciting" aspect of playing tunes, so if you do it first thing you will get in the habit of spending time on it.

It's also a kind of meditative practice, which I personally think is a nice way to begin each encounter with the oud.

Otherwise, my warmups are just fragments of whatever I happen to be working on. I usually try to cover a little of everything as a kind of re-centering myself on the oud. One thing that is a big deal on the oud but not on the guitar is intonation, so I always include some intonation and position/shifting in my warmup. Especially since some of my ouds are different scales than others, it's helpful to reacquaint myself exactly where the notes are on the particular oud I'm playing.

Another good warmup is centering your dynamic range: play throught the entire dynamic range from as soft as possible to as loud as possible and back, so you are accurately assessing where the midpoint "mezzo forte" point is that should be your default intensity and also developing fine control over your sound and dynamics. I try to do as many gradations as possible, to see if I can get a slow crescendo/decrescendo where each note is an nearly imperceptible change from the previous note.








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ArmoOudist
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[*] posted on 2-14-2021 at 10:39 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Brian Prunka  
For most students, it's a good idea to warm up for a few minutes just focused on right hand picking movement, developing a big sound while staying completely relaxed. Since this aspect of playing needs to be 100% automatic and intuitive and is a necessary foundation for everything else to sound good, it's a good idea to spend time on it every time you pick up the oud. It also can get neglected by students who want to get right to the more "exciting" aspect of playing tunes, so if you do it first thing you will get in the habit of spending time on it.

It's also a kind of meditative practice, which I personally think is a nice way to begin each encounter with the oud.



That first one sounds especially useful. My biggest problem right now is picking up speed and agility and not being so tense.
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[*] posted on 2-14-2021 at 01:50 PM


Quote: Originally posted by ArmoOudist  

My biggest problem right now is picking up speed and agility and not being so tense.


Ha, you and everyone else!



A useful idea I keep coming back to is the "mastery pyramid." I've developed this idea little bit over the years, but the original concept is one I picked up from the jazz pianist Kenny Werner.
I've been working with this for such a long time I really don't recall what was his original idea and what is my own, but here's how I think about it:


Imagine a pyramid with four sides (tetrahedron), with a triangle as the base. The points of the base are
a) Speed
b) Accuracy
c) Relaxation

The top point is mastery.

As you learn anything new in music, you will begin with a single point at the base:
You can play fast and sacrifice relaxation and accuracy (fast/tense/sloppy)
You can play accurately, but sacrifice relaxation and speed (accurate/tense/slow)
You can play relaxed, but sacrifice speed and accuracy (relaxed/slow/sloppy)

If you work through these, you can get to each side of the pyramid, doing 2 at a time:
You can play fast and relaxed but sacrifice accuracy (fast/relaxed/sloppy)
You can play relaxed and accurate but sacrifice speed (relaxed/accurate/slow)
You can play fast and accurate but sacrifice relaxation (fast/accurate/tense)

If you work through these three, you eventually get to the point of mastery where you can be fast, accurate, and relaxed all at the same time.

As you work on these, you can gradually try to converge them.

For example:
Working on fast/relaxed/sloppy, you start out sloppy but try to gradually increase your accuracy while maintaining the same speed and level of relaxation.

Working on fast/accurate/tense, you will start out tense but will try to gradually decrease tension and increase relaxation

Working on relaxed/accurate/slow, you will try to maintain the same relaxation but gradually increase the speed

etc.

You can also work on one side of the pyramid for a bit then switch to another side (10 minutes of fast/relaxed/sloppy then 10 minutes of fast/accurate/tense then 10 minutes of relaxed/accurate/slow). Switching back and forth helps you iron out different difficulties.

One caveat: try to minimize time on the fast/accurate/tense side. This is one that people naturally gravitate towards too much, and this results in a habit of tension that can be hard to undo. It's good to explore it a litte bit as a kind of "reality check" as you improve but don't hang out there.

Image attached (as if an bird's eye view of the pyramid, with the peak in the center)

mastery-pyramid.jpg - 73kB





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[*] posted on 2-14-2021 at 04:45 PM


wow....this is...really helpful, and honestly, sort of what I've been doing. I find recordings on YouTube and slow them down. I play along with them, slowly learning by ear. Eventually, I speed it up.
Thank you so much! This is such a good practice philosophy!
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[*] posted on 2-19-2021 at 04:58 PM


That's a great approach, Brian - Thank you for sharing!

I learned something similar growing up, but I honestly can't remember what the context was or if it was even music related.

As for warmups, I try to spend at least 5 minutes just going up on g and down on c as seen in the first couple of minutes of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN0e1WhJjJA

Navid also covers it in his lessons (with credits to Shaheen).

I noticed differences after only a week or two of doing this, to be honest - My improvements came after I set a 5 minute timer and played only that exercise the entire time.

Now, the trick is sticking to it and being disciplined. That is a problem for me as I usually play at the end of a long day and all I want to do is try to play along with a song or something in my head. It's something I need to start doing again as I've definitely plateaued since I stopped.

The other exercise I try to do is another 5 minutes of "down-up-down-down" on whatever maqam I happen to be playing with recently (the next section of the video). I love that rhythm generally.
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[*] posted on 2-20-2021 at 03:57 PM


Tried some of that exercise today. Hopefully it helps!
My main technique problems (that I'm picking up on myself are)
-too much tension
-not keeping my fingers close enough to the neck
-I also think my left hand stuff needs a bit of work, particularly my vibrato
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[*] posted on 2-20-2021 at 04:35 PM


Quote: Originally posted by ArmoOudist  
Tried some of that exercise today. Hopefully it helps!
My main technique problems (that I'm picking up on myself are)
-too much tension
-not keeping my fingers close enough to the neck
-I also think my left hand stuff needs a bit of work, particularly my vibrato


I have similar issues with tension. After watching that Shaheen video I do always try to make a conscious effort to keep my fingers close to the neck, though.

I haven't even attempted vibrato yet. I see people do it so effortlessly and naturally and it just feels like something I'll have to save until I can play without thinking about everything else. At the same time, I can tell that it's missing from my sound.
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[*] posted on 2-20-2021 at 05:52 PM


Vibrato is still something I'm still getting the hang of. TBH, I don't even think I'm really doing it right.
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[*] posted on 2-21-2021 at 08:00 AM


In order to develop vibrato, you need to have a very very light tough in your left hand. You can't play vibrato (or much of anything fast) if you have the neck in a death grip. You should be able to take your left hand thumb off the neck without having much or any impact on your playing, that's how little pressure you need. Your arm also needs to be relaxed and loose. Imagine shaking a box of matches. Make sure your elbow is not stuck tight to your body.




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[*] posted on 2-21-2021 at 08:20 AM


Quote: Originally posted by roddie  

I haven't even attempted vibrato yet. I see people do it so effortlessly and naturally and it just feels like something I'll have to save until I can play without thinking about everything else. At the same time, I can tell that it's missing from my sound.


Just a general bit of practice advice: there's nothing you need to "save" to work on later when you're more advanced. Even though you are correct that vibrato will likely not become fluid and natural until other aspects of your playing also become second nature, the sooner you begin the process of learning it and integrating it the better.

The specific exercises that you need to do in order to progress will vary, of course — the vibrato or tremolo exercises I would prescribe to a beginner are very different from the ones that I would give to a more advanced student, and why you need exercises that match your level and difficulties. People struggle with different aspects of technique, even though two people might both struggle with tremolo, for example, the reasons why are often completely different and require different exercises to correct. This is one reason it is usually tough to learn on your own and it is helpful to have a teacher. An experienced teacher can often quickly diagnose your "symptoms" and knows the remedy.

A good practice habit (related to what I posted earlier regarding mastery) is to play the same passage (whether an exercise, or a piece of repertoire, or just a phrase) several times but with your focus on different areas of technique. For example, suppose you are playing a short phrase on bayati.

Play 5 times, focusing on intonation, then
Play 5 times, focusing on keeping your fingers close to the neck, then
Play 5 times, focusing on a good, relaxed pick stroke, then
Play 5 times, focusing on lightening up the pressure in your left hand, then
Play 5 times, focusing on adding vibrato to the 3rd, then
Play 5 times, focusing on adding ornaments to the 2nd,
etc.

Keep your focus in one place through the 5 times (if you're working on right hand, don't lose focus if you play an out of tune note and start working on intonation again—that's for later). Shifting focus back and forth between different problems ensures you will not fix any of them.

Also, one thing I notice students often don't understand is that "play 5 times" means play 5 times in a row correctly. So if it takes you 4 tries to get it right, you have now played it "1 time".





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[*] posted on 2-21-2021 at 10:13 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Brian Prunka  

A good practice habit (related to what I posted earlier regarding mastery) is to play the same passage (whether an exercise, or a piece of repertoire, or just a phrase) several times but with your focus on different areas of technique. For example, suppose you are playing a short phrase on bayati.

Play 5 times, focusing on intonation, then
Play 5 times, focusing on keeping your fingers close to the neck, then
Play 5 times, focusing on a good, relaxed pick stroke, then
Play 5 times, focusing on lightening up the pressure in your left hand, then
Play 5 times, focusing on adding vibrato to the 3rd, then
Play 5 times, focusing on adding ornaments to the 2nd,
etc.


Great advice, Brian - It all makes sense and is super helpful, thank you!!

I had to press "pause" on my lessons because work was ramping up and I have been working on some career-related certifications, so I knew that I wouldn't have much time to devote to quality practice (not including just playing along with pieces for therapy). I need to get back into it after the Spring.

Your comment about not "saving" techniques for later also makes perfect sense. I'll try to build-in some time just for vibrato.

My hesitation in trying it of course is that from now on with every exercise and every song I'll be sitting here ahead of every note thinking "oh crap, vibrato." :D
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[*] posted on 2-21-2021 at 12:43 PM


For warm-ups this is less about technique and more about architecture, but one thing I do sometimes is pick a maqam to warm up in and do all my regular technical stuff within the context of that maqam and that one only. If I do that for more than one day, the second or third day I will develop the makam through modulations, but less as a taxim and more as doing technical stuff but in the new iterations. If I go through to five days this way I will then do LESS technical stuff the fifth day and get into actual taxim, almost as a reward. I got this idea from my piano practice. It was very helpful to pick a key (usually one that was not common for me like B, or Gb) and try to play stuff in just that key for a week or even longer (if I could stand it).

The other idea is of developing a daily practice but also have that practice (sometimes) be part of a larger arc over the course of days. I was in a band with a guy and one thing he said stuck with me. He would try to pace his solos out, not just over a night (it was sort of a jazz format so he'd be spotlighted now and then), but even over the course of days if we'd be playing days in a row.

While I find it almost zen-like to do the same thing each day, making it part of a larger arc gives shape and development to my practice.
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[*] posted on 2-24-2021 at 01:10 AM


Hello ArmoOudist

I invite you to watch my tutorials on my channel youtube. 2 videos. About 12 exercices per video. Level easy and medium.
Dosage: 1 time every morning ;)

Level easy
https://youtu.be/xVT4JETuWu4

Level medium
https://youtu.be/PurikVDEZ68

sbd oud warm up players.JPG - 45kB




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