I’ve been back from my holiday for less than a week and already there are plenty of things to keep me occupied (besides the dayjob). Bands are reconvening so my chances of playing the bass regularly, and not just on my own, are increasing. There was even a gig mooted, but it didn’t quite materialise. My oud is getting played a little every few days too. It would get more attention but there simply isn’t enough time.
The oud is throwing up some fascinating musical issues that have never occurred to me before.
A slipping tuning peg: All the basses I own have machine heads that stay, pretty much, put. At least they do during a song. One bass, a very cheap one from many decades ago, used to unwind during a piece of music. The oud isn’t doing that but one string has suddenly unwound itself from a high G to a low C in a fraction of a second. The tuning pegs resemble violin or cello pegs so I’m seeking advice from friends who play those.
The other issue with the oud is tuning in general. A bass is easy. You either use an electronic tuner or (as I tend to do in the trio) you ask the pianist to play an E and then you tune relative to that. The oud has five courses of two strings each (so ten strings) and no frets. Tuning correctly to a digital tuner sort of works but then you end up with each string being perfectly tuned and an instrument that doesn’t sound right. This is much more an instrument that needs to be tuned by ear, or to the needs of whatever other instruments you’re playing with.
Likewise, tuning each pair of strings in unison (the same note) doesn’t work is they exactly the same. Two strings precisely tuned to the same note have less impact when played together. Two strings tuned almost to the same note sounds better but you have to get that micro-interval between them just right or it sounds like you just couldn’t be bothered to tune them at all.
All this is pre-occupying me before I have truly got to grips with left hand placement (i.e. fingering the notes in the right place) and right hand technique. The right hand technique involves me using the oud version of a plectrum, which is not in any way a plectrum that a guitarist would recognise, not that I have ever used plectrums. As you can see, the fun is endless. Expect a lot of posts about this fascinating instrument and my blundering attempts to get to grips with it.
In other news I have a had a chance to listen to the CD version of Lee Fletcher’s album, ‘Faith in Worthless Things’. This deserves, and will get, a proper review but the short version would have to read, “This is a brilliant album. Buy it now!”