All About Oud Instrument

all about oud instrument

A musical instrument with a large belly, a short and curved handle, a beam and a plectrum. Its curved back is made of 19 or 21 boards in the shape of a circle. The body is hollow. In the middle of the front section called the chest, there are two small cavities on the sides called "roses".

Oud instrument (written as “ud” in Turkish) is the ancestor of the European lute, name of which derives from “al-ud”. It is not a native Turkish instrument but it has been played in Anatolia for at least five centuries. Besides, in the history, the oud has been played by several civilizations in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Iran, Arabia. Accordingly, there are several types of ouds besides Turkish oud. The oud instrument occupies a great place in Turkish Art Music, Turkish urban music (in fasil orchestras) and in arabesk music. Oud has been known from the documents and oral tradition as the king, sultan or emir of musical instruments.


History of Oud

In some sources, it is said that Farabi invented the oud, but long before Farabi, there are oud and similar instruments in miniatures and reliefs. The main reason why Farabi is perceived as an inventor is that he is a musician who has mastered the oud and the tuning system he brought to the oud. Farabi, who was one of those who gave the most comprehensive information about the oud in his period, added the 5th string to the oud, which was a 4-string instrument until that time. About the oud, Ibn Sina (980/1037) from Farabi says in his book Kitabu'ş Şifa that it is one of the most famous instruments. Tells technical information such as chords and pitches with figures. While musical instruments were mentioned in the Ikhwan-i Safa tracts in the 10th century, it was stated that the most beautiful of these was the oud. 

The frets on the handle of the oud, preserved in the Farabi period, were abandoned towards the end of the 10th century. The oud was previously played with a wooden plectrum. The famous Andalusian musician Ziryab (11th century) replaced it with a plectrum made of eagle feather. Today, plectrums made of flexible plastic are generally used.

The oud instrument made its way to Europe through Spain. In the 13th century, the crusaders brought it back to Europe, and in time, it became the lute. That’s why lute takes its name after the oud (‘le ut’ in old French), but it’s been added different features from oud, like frets. 

The oud, also which became the center of attention in the Ottoman palace in the 15th century, gained an irreplaceable value that the public began to use in classical Turkish music in the 19th century.



Oud instrument has a large soundbox connected to a short neck. The instrument has a pear-shaped body which is a deep, striped bowl made from lightweight wood. The wood should be light because the bowl is supposed to reverberate when it is struck. The soundboard, the front part of the body, contains one or two, sometimes three sound holes. These sound holes may be oval or they can be ornamented depending on the lands they are played on. There is a piece of fish-skin or leather between the bridge and the sound hole in order to protect the belly from the strokes of the plectrum. The bowl of the oud is shaped by thin woods or ribs bent over a mold. The number of the ribs varies from 16 to 21. The tuning pegs of the oud are screwed to the pegbox.




The quality of the material used in the making of the oud is important. The more the material is diverse, the better it sounds. A high-quality oud’s face is made from spruce. The tuning pegs and fingerboard are constructed from ebony. Maple, walnut, palisander and mahogany are used for the bowl.

The oud does not have any standard size or number of strings. Yet in general, all the types of ouds have 11 gut strings that are organized in five double-courses with a sixth, single bass string. Oud is played with a plectrum. Its fretless neck allows the instrument to generate any intervals or microtones particular to the Middle Eastern music. Oud instrument is suitable for you to enjoy Turkish, Iran or Arab music by playing makams/maqamat. 



Oud is played according to two schools of performance. The first is “Ottoman” school and it accepts as principle the ornamentation of the sound, produced by delicate glissandos or the fingers and slight vibratos. The second approach is Egyptian approach, according to which the volume is amplified by firm strokes of the plectrum, which makes strings resonate. This style requires another kind of virtuosity.

There are essentially six types of oud when they are considered according to their origin. Those types of oud mostly differ in their timbre and there are small size differences between them.

Arabic oud is the most known oud instrument type and maybe the most popular because of its romantic, rich and deep sound. It is heavier and slightly bigger comparing to Turkish ouds. Turkish ouds are employed in Turkey and Greece. They have a more treble sound. Syrian oud, which is a sub-type of Arabic oud generates lots of overtones. Iraqi ouds may also be classified under Arabic ouds. Its strings are tied to the bottom of the instrument. Because of this feature, it is said that it has a floating bridge. Iranian oud, which is also called Barbat is more distinct and due to its shape, it has a bass, deep, Persian sound.

How to Play Oud


You must start with tuning, as in almost every musical instrument to play the oud instrument. The tuner and the pegs available on the oud instruments are used for the tuning process. We need to use the upper strings to tune the right strings, and the lower strings to tune the left strings.

The string names of the oud are also in order from bottom to top. In this order, the lowest string shows the G note. The note D that comes after it is the next A, the next E, then the B, and finally the A note.

In addition, you can reach our chord article about oud instrument tuning by clicking on the link "how to tune the oud".

The most significant detail you should pay attention to when using a plectrum is that you should hold it parallel to the strings of the oud. Also, while playing the oud, you should direct your wrist with up and down movements. These wrist movements that you will do while playing the oud are substantial. The movements that you would have difficulty with at first will become elegant movements that you will get used to and keep under control.

Plectrum of Oud Instrument

The plectrum of Oud instrument, which was made from the wing of a young and male eagle that used to be deposited in olive oil for a long time, is today replaced by a flexible and robust quality plastic material, which is 11–13 cm in length, 6 mm in width, 0.6-0.8 mm in wall thickness, and slightly tapered plectrums whose ends are rounded parabolic and polished with felt are used (Plectrums made of thin plastic bag handles or yoghurt container lids are not available for quality instruments and performers.) In addition, medium-flexible plectrums made of plastic material called İ-20, which are manufactured today, are also preferred.

In addition, the degree of hardness and flexibility of the plectrum may vary according to the habits of the performer. It would not be appropriate to set a standard or condition in this regard. Because while some great performers preferred hard plectrums, some performers preferred softer and flexible plectrums.

You can also like: How To Tune A Turkish Oud | Learn Oud Tuning | Oud Lesson

The Structure of Oud

Oud instrument as well as Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and in all Arab countries, including Algeria, Armenia, Iran and used in large-bodied, short-necked stringed instrument. It is also known as “barbat” in Iran. There is no structural difference from that used in other countries of the oud lute used in Turkey.

The body of the Arabian ouds is usually slightly larger, and the breasts often have only one large hole instead of two small holes. In both Turkish and Arabic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek ouds, these circular chest holes are decorated with roses. Oud has preserved its present structure for nearly a thousand years with exception of a few minor changes.


The Structure of Oud

20 large crescent-shaped wooden slices form the large pear body of the instrument that fills the human lap. The short, flat handle is attached to the body through a wedge. The width of the handle, which narrows towards the screw, is about four fingers wide at the junction of the body. The auger, which makes an angle of about 45 ° with the handle, draws an indistinct S and the augers enter it from the side. Five wires other than Bam wire are double. The bottom two pairs are made from the line, while today they are made of fishing line.

Other wires are silver or copper wound on silk. Each wire exits the wire wedge directly adhered to the chest, wraps around its own auger by overcoming the head sill at the junction of the handle.


oud instrument

The chest of the oud is a uniform fibrous sheet of spruce wood, about 1 mm thick. Slats that support the chest from below are called "balconies". The layout of the balconies is closely related to the sonority of the instrument.

In the past, winding wires were used as wire, beams, silk inside and silver wire outside. Today, nylon wires have taken the sweat of the beam wires. Oud was used to play with chicken and eagle wings. Some masters used it in plectrums made of hard leather or cherry bark. Today, plastic plectrums are used.



There are many different ways to tune the oud instrument. The differences found vary according to the traditions of the place where the oud instrument was produced.

Among those playing the oud in the Arabic tradition, a common older pattern of tuning the strings is (low pitch to high): D2 G2 A2 D3 G3 C4 on single string courses or D2, G2 G2, A2 A2, D3 D3, G3 G3, C4 C4 for a course of two strings.

In the Turkish tradition, the "Bolahenk" tuning, is common in general, (low pitch to high): C#2 F#2 B2 E3 A3 D4 on instruments with single string courses or C#2, F#2 F#2, B2 B2, E3 E3, A3 A3, D4 D4 on instruments with courses of two strings. The C2 and F2 are actually tuned 1/4 of a tone higher than a normal c or f in the Bolahenk system.

Many current Arabic players use this tuning: C2 F2 A2 D3 G3 C4 on the standard tuning instruments, and some use a higher pitch tuning, F A D G C F


  • Hiram baeza alemán

    Es muy relevante saver la historia y ritmos del oud principalmente porq se me a pedido aserle un grabado a,mano y me llena de satisfacción poder aser este trabajo para tan fina personar.

  • Hiram baeza alemán

    Es muy relevante saver la historia y ritmos del oud principalmente porq se me a pedido aserle un grabado a,mano y me llena de satisfacción poder aser este trabajo para tan fina personar.

  • Hiram baeza alemán

    Es muy relevante saver la historia y ritmos del oud principalmente porq se me a pedido aserle un grabado a,mano y me llena de satisfacción poder aser este trabajo para tan fina personar.

  • Earl Heaven

    I’m fascinated by the oud, even by the rich middle eastern/Turkish/Spanish rhythmicy bassie & romantic sound that can take your mind to different places-different realms.
    I’m studying classical guitar but I’d love to learn about the oud one day.

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