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| I hope to have some photos up soon, especially to demonstrate holding the risha (mizrab in Turkish), the plectrum used to play the 'ud.|
Holding the 'ud
Holding the 'ud is a little tricky at first; you have to learn to balance it so that it doesn't slide off your lap. Don't use pressure from your right arm to hold it, or it will end up wanting to face toward the ceiling. Rather, try to find the point where it would just start to slide off of your right leg, and cradle it in your arm so that it stays put. Note that you are not applying any pressure, just putting your arm around it in such a way that it "falls" into your arm. It is difficult to explain in words, but just remember that you want to use gravity, not work against it.
Hold out your right hand so that the palm is facing toward your left. Relax your fingers until they curl around into a backwards "C" shape. Now place your thumb perpendicular to the first joint of your index finger, making a sort of cross shape. The right edge of your thumb should just meet the crease where your index finger bends. Now place the risha between your thumb and index finger, running almost parallel to the direction of the thumb, but slightly to the left. Let your hand fall counter-clockwise, so that your palm faces the floor. That motion is what you use to pluck the string. It's important that you feel gravity moving your hand, not your muscles. You are only using your muscles to turn your hand back into position for the next stroke. Your wrist and forearm provide the primary motion. 'Ud playing is largely focused on the downstroke; don't worry about the upstrokes at first. Once you get the downstroke correctly, the upstrokes will come naturally. The risha should make about a 45o angle with the string.
Think of your thumb almost as a hook; you are hanging your hand from the neck of the 'ud. Don't hook it way over the top of the neck; just put it so that you don't have to use much effort to hold up your left arm (incidentally, this is very helpful for guitar as well). This is important so you are not overly tense, also your hand needs to move freely in order to play vibrato and many of the ornaments used in 'ud playing.
It's important to primarily consider the first (index finger) of the left hand when shifting. When shifting up, you shift to the first finger, as that is what determines position. a good fingering exercise is to play a scale up and down one string.
In this section, I periodically post practice excersises for developing oud technique.