Oud learning diary IX – maqamat

13/12/2015 § Leave a comment

When I was younger I never understood why musicians always had to practice scales. I’ll be honest about it, it is the least interesting aspect of learning the instrument so far. But the more I do it, the more I realise that it is a fundamental skill. Not only does it help me memorise, quite quickly, the different note names on the fingerboard but it also is very useful for transposition and getting to know the feel of the maqams.

At the moment I am concentrating on Nahawand, Ajam and Hijaz. These on their own are quite hard to learn in semitones from sol to sol – going up in one maqam is one thing, but them going down in another is quite hard. I don’t think that there is any magic way of learning how to do it, no mnemonics or formula, it may be just a case of putting the necessary times in.

There is one kind of formula that will help though. I have noticed that it is definitely helpful if I split the maqamat into ajnas in my head. Knowing the intervals of the first jins on the way up helps with getting confused – so when we are going down I must remember the second jins. So the ajnas go like this:

Nahawand: 4-2-4

Ajam: 4-4-2


These can be very useful for remembering on the way up. The second jins are:

Nahawand: 4-2-4-4

Ajam: 4-4-4-2

Hijaz: 4-2-4-4

So overall the maqamat go:

Nahawand: 4-2-4-4-2-6-2 / 4-2-4-4-2-4-4

Ajam: 4-4-2-4-4-4-2

Hijaz: 2-6-2-4-2-4-4

[Addition 15/12 – counting only the semitones is very useful in remembering the order. So notes 2 to 3 and 5 to 6 for Nahawand, 3 to 4 and 7 to 8 for Ajam and 5 to 6 for Hijaz.]

Now of course on the way down, these ajnas will be reversed.

The second point to note is that certain patterns are repeated. If I am going to remember things by patterns are well, it’s important to note that there are not twelve patterns to remember but six [technically five and a half since patterns on sol/do/fa are not identical but very similar. The repetitions on the patterns are thus:


As I say I don’t think there is any other magic way of expediting the process. It is purely time spent that will cede the results. However, the intervals and the ajnas must be remembers also. At this point I have a good knowledge of nahawand and ajam, hijaz needs more work. I will persevere over the next week till I am ‘tested’ by Ehsan next Saturday.

Final point to note for this entry about thumb positions – I spoke to Ehsan about this, we agreed that what was natural was best. I don’t think changing positions at this point is that beneficial purely because I noticed it was causing me to think too much rather and divert my concentrating from fingering and the progressions of the pieces I am learning. As long as pressure is not being exerted on the thumb, and it is just resting on the neck of the oud, it seems to be acceptable.


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