Oud learning diary I

04/10/2015 § Leave a comment

I want to begin this first entry with a note I made over in another personal journal last month. This note reflects on what I feel needs to be improved at the beginning of this second year of my ethnomusicology degree:

And that’s really the crux for this second year. The purpose for this diary entry is to focus on what – at this point – I feel makes someone succeed or fail at an instrument. I suppose it’s the same that that makes a person succeed or fail at anything – self-belief and persistence. I will highlight the things I feel I need to improve before the second year begins:

Sight reading 
Improving technique of the upper oud part, i.e. positions 5 onwards [fa]
Playing in an ensemble should be forthcoming this year. Definitely from term 2 onwards in order to gain experience.
More live performances from term 2 onwards.
Practice should be between two and three hours every day. Ideally three.
Master the oud, don’t let it master you.

Of course the use of the word ‘master’ here is open to some ambiguity. It is not possible to master the instrument in one academic year and turn into Munir Bashir or Simon Shaheen – but making serious headway – yes. So these are principles which should be followed up on. This note also emphasises an important point regarding psychology and that persistence and belief in one’s abilities are vital to long-term success.

Even though this is the end of first week of term my institute have not communicated anything to me regarding the Performance element, but I am treating this as a diary entry for the first week nevertheless. The format of these diary entries I expect to develop, so this one may be slightly vague in comparison to later additions.

Since last October I have been having monthly lessons with E Emam which have highlighted the main points for improvement. These are:

Improvement for sight reading
Improving technique of the upper oud part, i.e. positions 5 onwards [fa]
Learning to play slower and practice each piece at ~50-70bpm

There has also been a focus on developing a personal repertoire. The pieces learned have been, in order:

Longa Shaharazad – Abdel Wihad Bilal
Longa Yorgo
Samai Hijaz Kar Kurd – Munir Bashir
Huzzam Samai – Haydar
Flying Birds – Munir Bashir

At the time of writing I am concentrating on the latter two pieces which are helping to develop the issues I am experiencing playing on the upper neck of the oud. At times this can be incredibly difficult and somewhat frustrating since the micromillimetric differences are harder to pin down with exactitude. In Flying Birds the cadence that is causing most difficulty is the following in bars 7 and 8:


And it seems that even experienced players have issues playing it with microtonal accurately:

To my ears, Bashir himself does not even hit the mi head on [0.49]:

There seems to be a little gap between theory and practice here. Nevertheless this transition from sol-fa-mi is causing me the most issues and needs to be consistently practised. Improvement of this section should come from using a fingering of 4-2-1 rather than 4-3-1 which is what I was originally doing.

Until my formal lessons recommence the Haydar and Bashir pieces will be practised. I will also transcribe both in an effort to improve my theoretical learning.


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