Derek plays a number of stringed and percussion instruments from around the world, especially the oud, saz, Brazilian drums, body music and voice. He has also collaborated with other artists to widen the palette of sounds available. The following sections introduce and explain all of the instruments heard within Derek's music.
Oud is the Arabic word for "wood", and is sometimes transliterated as ud, 'ud, a'oud, etc. It is a fretless plucked lute found throughout North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Greece, Armenia, and beyond. It is an extremely close relative of the Persian barbat. Generally, ouds have 11 or 12 strings, 5 unison pairs for the top choruses, and either a single string or another unison pair for the bass note. Oud strings are always unison pairs (unlike a 12-string guitar, saz, or yali tambur where some of the choruses are unison and others are octave pairs), even on the cümbüs oud, the modern Turkish banjo version of the oud (always 12 strings).
Normally, Turkish ouds are slightly smaller, and tend to be tuned higher (with the D below a guitar's E as the lowest pitch), while Arabic ouds are larger and tend to be tuned a whole step down (with the C of a cello as the lowest open string). However, there are a wide set of oud tunings in use around the world, including Turkish ouds tuned to the B below a cello. To over-simplify a complicated topic, most oud tunings are primarily based on the interval of a perfect 4th (like a bass or most of the strings on a guitar).
Derek's first oud is a wonderful Turkish wooden oud that was hand-picked by David Brown at Lark in the Morning, given to him as a birthday gift by his mother and brother Matt in 1997. In the summer of 1999, Derek traveled to Cairo and purchased his 2nd oud, a beautiful Egyptian oud. Around 2001, Matt brought Derek his first cümbüs, a cümbüs oud with a green formica fingerboard. Sincere thanks to both Matt and also David Bergeaud for additional ouds that were used in some of Derek's recording sessions.
In Turkish, saz actually means "instrument". More specifically, it refers to a family of medium to long-necked plucked, fretted lutes. These instruments, and ones just like them, are found in Turkey, through Kurdistan, Central Asia, relatives are found in Afghanistan, and beyond. There are two main variables: the body (either wood or cümbüs metal banjo) and the size (small: cura, medium: baglama, large: devan).
The frets on a saz are tied on, so to properly play in tune, you must first tune the strings, then the frets (possibly adjusting the bridge), on the instrument. There are also many "extra" frets that are not found on a guitar, mandolin or other equal-tempered fretted instrument. These additional frets allow playing intervals such as a "neutral" 3rd, neither major nor minor, and other microtonal intervals found in music throughout Turkey, the Arab world, Iran, and beyond.
Derek mostly plays the wooden cura saz and the cümbüs baglama saz, although he's looking for a nice wooden baglama.
Yali or yayli means "bowed" and the yali tambur truly sings when properly bowed. On the debut album all you hear is the cümbüs (banjo) yali tambur plucked like a large devan saz. This is a very long-necked version of the saz, with sometimes 3 or 4 additional frets between each of the diatonic frets along the neck. In makam theory of Turkish classical music they go very deep into microtonality, dividing each whole tone into 9 commas. The wealth of frets on the yali tambur allows for precise tuning and playing of different maqamat (roughly, modes), where you must distinguish between a 4 comma vs. 6 comma neutral 3rd, for example.