Oud learning diary XV

21/02/2016 § Leave a comment

I’ve been working with the Bayat piece over the last couple of weeks and things are going much better, in fact I’ve almost been working on it exclusively. In spite of the fact that I said in the previous entry that it was an easy piece, I am not finding it too easy. The reason for this is twofold – firstly because the rhythms in the second and third hanna are quite unusual and secondly because it flits in and out of using quartertones within the same maqam. This makes it quite hard to remember where the ‘correct’ quartertones should be.

This means that I am still having a little problem learning the piece with total accuracy. The ‘feel’ of the piece is not coming that naturally. The fourth hanna is by far the simplest and presents no problems though, with its unusual [for me at this stage anyway] change into 6/8. Interestingly enough I have noticed a trend with this piece, in that each hanna of the piece is five bars. Not all samais seem to be five bars [judging by the huzzam piece by Haydar] but they all seem to have similar lengths to the hannas. It would be good to be more versed in other styles, but clearly I should get to know a lot about the samai by the end of this academic year.

Yesterday Ehsan and I concentrated on the Bayat again, with it being nearly complete, the main issues with it can be narrowed down to two bars. In the second hanna:


And in the third:



The dotted quabers providing confusion over the rhythm. These two bars need to be straightened out before moving on. We also discussed other time signatures for samais such as 10/16 and 32/8. I asked why would anyone have time signatures such as these, to which E replied, “because the music is the most rich”. Ehsan also gave me this [rather straightforward] melody to learn and possibly improvising Iraqi style ornamentations over by next fortnight:

Oud learning diary XIV

06/02/2016 § Leave a comment

Today’s lesson concentrated all on the new Bayat piece. Due to the last couple of week’s business with other academic pursuits I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the piece, trying to do as much as possible yesterday. This taught me a valuable lesson in that it’s just not possible to learn a piece in a day. One may be able to play it with a minor degree of confidence at the end of the day, but the next day most of it will be forgotten – and even if some of the tune is known, the positions of the notes on the fingerboards won’t be. It really takes a good few weeks to know a piece thoroughly to the point where you’re not thinking about it, or at least to the point where you’re thinking about the NEXT bit when you’re playing. If you’re only thinking about the current part that you’re playing, it means you don’t have the knowledge to look ahead yet, and consequently you don’t know the piece.

That’s certainly what I found today. On attempting to play the piece today it seemed that I had forgotten a lot of it, in spite of the fact that I must have listened to the piece about five times on the way in. As Naveed says, when you can sing a piece, you know it. And I can’t sing the piece at all. Older pieces, I can do, and I would say I know them inside out [e.g. Longa Yorgo, Nihavend Longa, Huzzam as well by now].

So what problems do this new piece present? Certainly not as many as the Haydar or really must else I have learned. This is one of the easiest pieces I have been given. The only things that are difficult are the rhythms in the second and third hanna, but apart from that, the piece should be playable with a good degree of confidence in a fortnight.

The structure of the piece seems to lay in Bayat for the first and fourth hanna, and then Rast on Re for the second and third. The fourth hanna contains a 6/8 rhythm, which according to Ehsan is quite common. I’ve been used to 6/4 but 6/8 is apparently common as well.

I have noticed my ability to sight read improving. There is no difficulty in picking out do, re, sol, si in both reading a playing. It really is a slow process. In time it will improve. I have no idea but it’s true that the ‘lines’ are easier to remember than the ‘spaces. On another positive note my fear about playing high up the oud neck is really disappearing, and I have Haydar to thank for that [as well as Bashir]. The three pieces [Hussam, Flying Birds and Farahfaza samai] have done a lot to quell the concerns I have playing up there.

Playing in an ensemble is unfortunately something which is not happening at the moment. The one-three hours I have in the evenings are not really enough in order to give time to both Ehsan’s pieces and anything else for SOAS – even though I did write to EE and he hasn’t come back with any suggestions on regular workshops as yet, but then the timings are a little tricky.

Will continue with the Bayat samai in the next two weeks and pay particular attention to the rhythms of the second and third hanna. It’s still in the first stage of the learning process at this point. One thing I should also do is get to grips with the 10/8 samai thaqil rhythm and see how this works with the pieces:


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