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Thread: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

  1. #1

    Default Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    I am a seriously lousy oud player, but so inspired by others. Some very important oud players came from Constantinople and Smyrna. Marko Melkon (Alemsherian) and Agapios Tomboulis (Hagop Stambulyan) immediately coming to mind. Armenians, Greeks and Turks lived together for centuries and played the same music.

    I heard a tsifteteli (belly dance) when I played the first few notes of this. In my mind, I was with the oud of John Berberian and Haig Yazdjian that I listened to so often, growing up. And yes, some Hüsker Dü and diatonic Epirote found it’s way into this as well... What a musical trainwreck!


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  3. #2

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    I thought I’d write some of the rules that I’ve just recently learned (from the Cafe, thanks again guys) and given myself to keep focused.

    One tune and setting at a time, the other different settings come afterwards.
    Don’t move to another tune until at least I can play the first one with a metronome slowly, and cleanly, no stopping, all the way through -I can always come back to it, sometimes by ear, but I have to have the mainstructure firm.
    One tuning, eg. tuning in fifths is a pain with larger scale lengths, I mean physically demanding, but SO much easier to play different exotic scales by ear.

    I’ve no idea how the Oud would be tuned in order to play a popular repertoire from that (huge) region, but I’d tune it in fifths. Otherwise I get scattered.
    Exotic tunings are really beautiful I know but...

    Do you have a pdf with tab of your favourite tune in your repertoire? Or a favourites YouTube playlist?
    Tabs of the main exotic scales written down in a repertoire book??
    Good luck, Apollonia and thanks for your interesting posts.

  4. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    I am a little confused. Is the OP playing this music on oud or on mandolin?

    In any case, you can read a ten year old thread on the subject here.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post

    I’ve no idea how the Oud would be tuned in order to play a popular repertoire from that (huge) region, but I’d tune it in fifths..
    Ouds are not tuned in 5ths anywhere.

    One common tuning for the Armenian oud and related Turkish and Greek styles would often be, low to high,

    E A B E A D, that is tuned in 4ths with a whole step between strings 4 and 5.

    Typically Arabic players use a larger scale length oud tuned often to C F A D G C, etc.

    So the main playing strings on an oud are in 4ths.

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Thanks David, oh that’s actually quite cool, a bit like a guitar with an alternating 1,5 bass, sixth string to the fourth string. And then four top strings in regular fourths.
    They have them here in Lyon, France and look pretty. Not sure about the quality though...

    http://www.pick-et-boch.com/fr/abmam..._principal.php
    http://www.pick-et-boch.com/fr/oud-d...nel-n3966.html

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    I am sorry for the confusion, I embedded a video in my post yestreday when I was on the go. But it did not post! Here is my piece:

    My YouTube channel. My tabs and video lessons on Ultimate Guitar and GuitarTabsExplorer.

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    I’ve no idea how the Oud would be tuned in order to play a popular repertoire from that (huge) region, but I’d tune it in fifths. Otherwise I get scattered.
    Exotic tunings are really beautiful I know but...

    Do you have a pdf with tab of your favourite tune in your repertoire? Or a favourites YouTube playlist?
    Tabs of the main exotic scales written down in a repertoire book??
    Good luck, Apollonia and thanks for your interesting posts.
    Thank you, Simon!

    For oud tunings, there are many. From bass to treble: EABead might be considered standard by many on Turkish and Greek oud. I also know C#F#BEAd, BF#BEAd. DABEAd is also popular and even DGBEAd. This is all five pairs with a single drone string. Arabic oud is typically tuned a whole tone lower. CFADGc, DGADGc and CEADGc. FADGCf is seven string high Iraqi tuning. In Egypt, it used to be the practice to have five string pairs and no drone, I don't know if that is still practiced.. Armenian oud is like Turkish and Greek. I can show you tons and tons of videos of this some day, a friend of mine in Athens is one of the most respected modern oud luthiers and puts them into various tunings.

    I can demonstrate the Greek dromos system using our scales. They are based on the Turkish makam, but equally tempered for bouzouki, guitar, mandolin and piano. Dromos translates to road and that's the name for the scales, or modes, if you will. For the microtonal Turkish makam and the quarter tonal Arabic maqam, you need to be able to read sheet music. I can upload those, but... You know. Not useful for mandolin. The Persian dastgah system is related, but not my expertise at all, by the way.

    I would be doing this in another thread. Since you probably won't be playing microtonally, this might be a very sweet idea. I know I use the same scales on mandolin that I use on bouzouki and guitar. So do the Cretan mandolin players I know. You don't need to use alternate tunings like I do. But you do need to be vaguely familiar with the music theory behind it. The mandolin plays this music well tuned in fifths, no worries.

    There is an excellent book by a man called Haralambos Pagiatis, titled Laikoi Dromoi ("popular roads", or better translated as the scales used in common Greek music). The Greek version is regarded as a haily grail, but the bilingual version is about a fifth of the length and just butchered. But it does have sheet music, an eight string bouzouki tab (plays the same as six string, as he is only using the treble strings. CFAd on eight string, DAd on six string bouzouki), a guitar tab and a piano graphic. I could upload this PDF any time, too. I am just not sure of the usefulness of that on the Mandolin Cafe. So writing out the scales and chords might be more sensible. I will teach you and everybody this, no problem. Just let me know if there is demand.

    There is a singular Greek tab site at the moment, aimed at six and eight string bouzouki. But in order to use it, you would need to know how to read and write Greek and also how to fill in the blanks, musically speaking. The ornamentations, all the trills and hammer ons, are often not notated in the tab. As far as sheet music is concerned, there is quite a bit. I cannot fluently read it, though, so I cannot comment on the quality of what's available.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I am a little confused. Is the OP playing this music on oud or on mandolin?

    In any case, you can read a ten year old thread on the subject here.
    That's a nice thread. Thanks for bringing it up. And again, sorry for the confusion, see the video in the post above. I suck very majorly at oud and minorly at mandolin ;-)
    My YouTube channel. My tabs and video lessons on Ultimate Guitar and GuitarTabsExplorer.

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  14. #8
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollonia93 View Post
    For oud tunings, there are many. From bass to treble: EABead might be considered standard by many on Turkish and Greek oud. I also know C#F#BEAd, BF#BEAd. DABEAd is also popular and even DGBEAd. This is all five pairs with a single drone string. Arabic oud is typically tuned a whole tone lower. CFADGc, DGADGc and CEADGc. FADGCf is seven string high Iraqi tuning. In Egypt, it used to be the practice to have five string pairs and no drone,
    .....
    Great post, thank you.

    All those oud tunings are correct, and often a player will change the lowest courses depending on what they are playing.

    I'd love to see anything you upload, thanks in advance.

    P.S. is that a Sakis mandolin?

  15. #9

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    No David, a Perlgold eastern German from the 1970s. Converted to lefthanded. Sakis (Matsikas) mandolins have a longer scale length, I believe. That is very nice for Greek style playing, actually.

    Some of my favorite recordings to illustrate this Armenian oud style. If you are an Armenian oudi, and this applies both to the Ottoman era and the Armenian Americans, you probably play Greek and Turkish dances alongside the Armenian songs, it's that simple. And they sing both languages perfectly, too. Our traditions are intertwined. First, two old recordings from the early 20th century.

    Marko Melkon (Alemsherian)


    Agapios Tomboulis (Hagop Stambulyan)



    They both were heavily involved in rembetiko music in both Asia Minor and then later Greece. I will post some more examples later today, but something more modern.
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  17. #10

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    As mentioned, the std oud tunings (and feel of playing oud) is much more guitar-like than mandolin-like, or other 5ths-tuned.. Those with guitar experience may find greater affinity - providing one can adapt to fretless instruments.

  18. #11

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Many thanks again Apollonia, this music’s great!
    So Marko was like the Doc Watson of the Oud.

    Couldn’t find Wiki on Melkon just this:
    Marko Melkon, whose original name was Melkon Alemsherian, was born in Izmir, then known as Smyrna, Turkey on May 2, 1895 to Armenia parents.

    At seventeen, he was supposed to fulfill his (Turkish) military service however, he left to go to Athens, Greece where he played his oud, a lute-like instrument. There he played in taverns and coffee houses. Being from Izmir, he spoke and sang Greek fluently. In 1921, he left for the United States together with his musician friend, Achilles Poulos. He immediately found employment playing in coffee houses and soon found himself able to help his parents leave Turkey immediately after the Turkish war of Independence. By playing in cabarets in Boston and other cities of the East Coast, Melkon became quite famous.


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  20. #12

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Yes, that's the story. And Agapios played with Roza Eskenazy, one of the earliest and most famous rembetiko singers. They wrote many songs with the violinist Dimitris Semsis. And Agapios was also renown for playing a relatively rare instrument called ahenk. The principle was like a cümbüs, were you have an oud neck, but the body is different. It was round, like a cümbüs or banjo, but an entirely wooden construction, not metal.

    Now to a different time period. I think these three are the Armenian American oud phenomena. John Berberian first, no words. The master of Armenian, Greek and Turkish oud music.



    John Bilezikjian



    Richard Hagopian

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  22. #13
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    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    The biggest problem which I've encountered with trying to play oud music is that the mandolin is a fretted instrument and the oud isn't.

    I once started a thread wondering if there were any fretless mandolins around but I don't remember it came up with much.

    In Sweden they have developed a method of microtonal frets on mandolas, which seems to be quite effective in playing Swedish music.
    Here are a couple of threads which discuss the subject:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...crotonal+frets
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...crotonal+frets

    It's not Armenian music, but it does address similar issues of not being able to play notes which are essentially in between what we can play on our fretted instruments.
    Last edited by Dagger Gordon; Jun-27-2019 at 2:27am.
    David A. Gordon

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  24. #14

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    I did try to learn the fiddle at one stage but for various reasons stopped. On the good side what happened was that while I was practicing on the fiddle, my finger positioning for mando REALLY improved. I also began listening more to the tone of the mandolin.
    If most of the playing on the Oud is at the first position and you can get tablature for it, and especially if you already play guitar then it could be fun to do. It would probably improve listening skills and rhythm too.

    I’m wondering, there’s probably tab about with sort of exercises to learn certain scales using impro over popular songs.
    Last edited by atsunrise; Jun-27-2019 at 3:43am.

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    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    I did try to learn the fiddle at one stage but for various reasons stopped. On the good side what happened was that while I was practicing on the fiddle, my finger positioning for mando REALLY improved. I also began listening more to the tone of the mandolin.
    If most of the playing on the Oud is at the first position and you can get tablature for it, and especially if you already play guitar then it could be fun to do. It would probably improve listening skills and rhythm too.

    I’m wondering, there’s probably tab about with sort of exercises to learn certain scales using impro over popular songs.
    Not tab, but an interesting video.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKdlT5EK9-8
    David A. Gordon

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  28. #16

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    If most of the playing on the Oud is at the first position and you can get tablature for it, and especially if you already play guitar then it could be fun to do. It would probably improve listening skills and rhythm too.

    I’m wondering, there’s probably tab about with sort of exercises to learn certain scales using impro over popular songs.
    I suppose one reason why I've never seen "tab" for any fretless instrument is because it would be impractical; how would one know that one's fingers were placed properly?

    Of course, you may try marking the fingerboard..?

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  30. #17

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    I suppose one reason why I've never seen "tab" for any fretless instrument is because it would be impractical; how would one know that one's fingers were placed properly?

    Of course, you may try marking the fingerboard..?
    I agree it would be quite difficult to work something out.
    There’s a HUGE dropout rate for learning to play music so if TAB is helpful for a certain group of people then why not. Just small changes in a system can sometimes double the number of people who succeed. Even having some sort of white watercolor marker for the fretboard. Whatever it takes. And then double harmonic, now there’s a scale!
    Imagine reading the tab for 100 Oud riffs. You’d have to hear it first or at the same time with vids ‘á la Mandolessons’ to get the quarter notes and the rhythm, but it doesn’t seems as inaccessible as all that.

    The Middle Eastern music for Oud that I’ve heard so far seems a (little) bit like Bluegrass banjo with a lot of percussive riffs, slight variations and VERY complicated timing (10/8? )
    -most of this would probably make someone a better mandolinist

  31. #18

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Thanks David here’s another on 6/8 time


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  33. #19

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Here is what I listened to in my younger years, a more modern period oud playing.

    Haig Yazdjian, who went from Syria to live in Greece and is a very esteemed artist there who brings Armenian folk closer to people.



    Ara Dinkjian, who is of the newer American generation and played with many Greek musicians, too.

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  35. #20

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Good discussion going on. I don't think the microtones are really the deciding factor, if you don't know how to play the scales at all. After all, if you play Turkish or Greek music equally tempered (on guitar, bass, mandolin, bouzouki, piano, etc) what is left is still the same music that sounds every bit as familiar to some and every bit as foreign to others. The system just adapted to it. You lose the microtones and have to make up for that with heavy ornamentation, like in bouzouki playing. Like I mentioned previously, I never learned Western music theory and so I wouldn't be comfortable to say that that is the limiting factor, but I think that microtonality can be made up for. I mean, you only have two choices. You play the notes, or you don't. And every oud player will tell you that the lavta (lute of Constantinople) for example is an "incomplete" instrument and can never be as expressive as the oud. Not because the Turks turn it in fifths and the Greeks turn it modally/open and not because it's longer scale length gives a bassier sound. But because it has microtonal frets. It should be able to play every note you could play on a fretless neck and yet many players argue that it can never be the same.

    On a related note, a friend of mine who studied classical Boehm clarinet and trumpet says the tonality in general is just very different from Western music and that's why most musicians cannot play it without studying it first. I showed him the same songs played on different instruments. For example, once on classical guitar, so equally tempered, and once on baglama saz, so with quarter tones at least (and micro tones too, should the player elect to move the nylon frets in that manner). And he said while the microtones will just sound "off" to most Westerners, musicians will actually find the different modes and meters used to be the roadblocks. Whether you play it on oud or guitar made no difference to him.

    I for example have a quarter tone on my bouzouki where I often play it. It was installed with all the other frets when it was built. But a non permanent solution for us mandoheads especially could be something like Tolga and Haris demonstrate here:



    You can do this with double sided tape under the fret or with transparent or milky tape (I don't know what it's called in English) over the fret. Any residue should be easily cleaned off again. I was given the tip to sand down or pull out the teeth from the underside of the frets, by the way.

    If you look him up, Tolga offers his views on fretless vs microtonal fretted guitars on Youtube.



    Contrasting sound and playing technique of microtonal frets and fretless:

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  37. #21

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Ya, there are some maqam that make lesser use of "microtones" and are closer to Western major-minor/12tet tonality. You can play straight maj/min on it if you want..

    Imo, what makes the oud most expressive - rather than use of more 'pitches' that can be, to some degree, compensated/emulated by fretted instruments - is its capacity of contour; all of the subtle vocal-like inflections, the ability to shape its sound, that can be accomplished on the fretless fingerboard. It's this quality of the oud - to emulate vocal inflection - that makes the instrument superlative in a lyrical sense, much like the violin, etc. Indeed, its capacities are (comparatively) limited harmonically; its lyrical expressiveness is its essence.

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  39. #22

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Btw, at the risk of getting further off-topic, this element (of "note" expressiveness) in the music is a potent aspect, for me. I find it in other forms such as the hardingfele music I study. The often used descending modulation of a note, for example - generally unavailable on fretted strings. I suppose it's why I gravitate to the guzheng after the harp: tuned pentatonic but utilizing a continuous/unlimited microtonal range. Prior to the age of polyphony, lyricism in music was more prevalent. I'm greatly compelled by these older forms.

    *and of course, why tab is less practical, and oral/aural transmission more efficacious.

  40. #23

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    One of my favorite sources for enjoying old/early forms: Hesperion ensemble https://youtu.be/zsFUln0y1wA

    Many of their recordings - delving into the occident/orient nexus - feature oud in various flavours.

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  42. #24
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    One of my favorite sources for enjoying old/early forms: Hesperion ensemble https://youtu.be/zsFUln0y1wA
    Yes, Hesperion Ensemble is also one of my favorites. Another more contemporary musician is Ross Daly.

    Here is an Armenian oud player that deserves more notice.

    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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  44. #25

    Default Re: Armenian mandolin idea, inspired by oud

    My entree to oud music was from the Spanish-Arabic, flamenco side, through classical/fl guitar. Being a vestige of rock music, I liked the big, resonant sound of the big ouds. (I'm a drummer ) . Sometimes sounds a lot like Indian raga. Romani. Music of al andalus.. https://youtu.be/m7cTg_OkNuE

    (Wish I could figure out posting utubes with my phone)

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