The Oud

I started playing the Oud this past June. The instrument was given to me by a dear friend who bought it in Egypt at the beginning of a 3 week trip. It had been sitting in my living room for several years before the right events coincided to allow me to start playing it. One key event was Folklife this spring, which I attended on a whim. That afternoon, I saw a local Middle Eastern band perform that I really enjoyed. A few weeks later, I contacted their Oud player, who graciously agreed to help me string up my Oud and teach me the basics of playing it. Never did I expect to find an Oud teacher so close to where I live! After 16 lessons, I already know how to play 6 Arabic folk songs. Over the years, I’ve played piano, guitar, cello, and banjo, and I can say that the Oud is the most enjoyable for me to play. The large resonator, combined with the fretless fingerboard allow a very wide range of expression.

Although I can read music, I’m finding that I make much faster progress when I learn the melodies by ear. Sheet music might be good as a reference point, but it’s better to sear the music into my brain first, then work on the nuances later. After years of struggling to memorize piano and guitar tunes, it surprises me to be memorizing these songs so quickly.

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