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Oud Print E-mail
OudThe oud (Arabic: عود ʿūd; Somali: Kaban; Persian: بربط barbat; Turkish: ud or ut; Greek: ούτι; Armenian: ուդ, Azeri: ud) is a pear-shaped, stringed instrument similar to a lute used in traditional Middle Eastern music and East African music. Name

The words "lute" and "oud" are both derived from Arabic العود (al-ʿūd, literally "the wood").Gianfranco Lotti suggests that the "wood" appellation originally carried derogatory connotations, because of proscriptions of all instrumental music in early Islam.
The prefix al- (meaning "the") in al-ʿūd was discarded by the Turks who then transformed the word ʿūd (consisting of the Arabic letters ʿayn-wāw-dāl) into ud because the sound represented by the Arabic letter ʿayn is not present in the Turkish language.

The oud was most likely introduced to Western Europe by the Arabs who established the Umayyad Caliphate of Al-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula beginning in the year 711 AD. Oud-like instruments such as the Ancient Greek Pandoura and the Roman Pandura likely made their way to the Iberian Peninsula much earlier than the oud. However, it was the royal houses of Al-Andalus that cultivated the environment which raised the level of oud playing to greater heights and boosted the popularity of the instrument. The most famous oud player of Al-Andalus was Zyriab. He established the first music conservatory in Spain, enhanced playing technique and added a fifth course to the instrument. The European version of this instrument came to be known as the lute - luth in French, laute in German, liuto in Italian, luit in Dutch, (all beginning with the letter "L") and alaud in Spanish. The word "luthier" meaning stringed instrument maker is also derived from the French luth. Unlike the oud the Europen lute utilized frets (usually tied gut).


According to Farabi, the oud was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. The legend tells that the grieving Lamech hung the body of his dead son from a tree. The first oud was inspired by the shape of his son's bleached skeleton.

The oldest pictorial record of a lute dates back to the Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia - Iraq -Nasria city nowadays, over 5000 years ago on a cylinder seal acquired by Dr. Dominique Collon and currently housed at the British Museum. The image depicts a female crouching with her instruments upon a boat, playing right-handed. This instrument appears many times throughout Mesopotamian history and again in ancient Egypt from the 18th dynasty onwards in long and short-neck varieties. One may see such examples at the Metropolitan Museums of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and the British Museum on clay tablets and papyrus paper. This instrument and its close relatives have been a part of the music of each of the ancient civilizations that have existed in the Mediterranean and the Middle East regions, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.

The ancient Turkic peoples had a similar instrument called the kopuz. This instrument was thought to have magical powers and was brought to wars and used in military bands. This is noted in the Göktürk monument inscriptions, the military band was later used by other Turkic state's armies and later by Europeans. According to Musicolog Çinuçen Tanrıkorur today's oud was derived from the kopuz by Turks near Central Asia and additional strings were added by them. Today's oud is totally different than the old proto-types and the Turkish oud is different than Arabic oud in playing style and shape. In Greece and Armenia musicians especially use the Turkish ouds and tunings.

This oud is made by the famous Syrian luthier the late Abdo Naht born in 1863, (Abdo George Nahat was the second of the (Akhwan al Nahat, or Nahat brothers) who sepecialsed in oud making and between them they have made the most valued ouds ever for their quality and sound. (information accuired from where more information in relation to the Nahat brothers and their work can be found.)

Also the writing on the rossette is the names of the Arabic maqams not the Turkish keys (its very important to point this one out), and in the middle section of the rossette called shamsa or gmaria in Arabic, it reads "Abdo Nahat & Son Elias" other information such as the owner of the oud are undesputed.

 Defining features

    * Lack of Frets: The oud, unlike many other plucked stringed instruments, does not have a fretted neck. This allows the player to be more expressive by using slides and vibrato. It also makes it possible to play the microtones of the Maqam System. This development is relatively recent, as ouds still had frets ca. AD 1100, and they gradually lost them by AD 1300, mirroring the general development of Near-Eastern music which abandoned harmony in favor of melismatics.
    * Strings: With some exceptions, the modern oud has eleven strings. Ten of these strings are paired together in courses of two. The eleventh, lowest string remains single. There are many different tuning systems for the oud which are outlined below. The ancient oud had only four courses - five by the 9th century. The strings are generally lighter to play than the modern classical guitar.
    * Pegbox: The pegbox of the oud is bent back at a 45-90° angle from the neck of the instrument.
    * Body: The oud's body has a staved, bowl-like back resembling the outside of half a watermelon, unlike the flat back of a guitar. This bowl allows the oud to resonate and have a more complex tone.
    * Sound-holes: The oud generally has one to three sound-holes.

 Regional types

The following are the general regional characteristics of oud types in which both the shape and the tuning most commonly differ:

    * Arabic ouds:

        * Syrian ouds: Slightly larger, slightly longer neck, lower in pitch.
        * Iraqi (Munir Bashir type) ouds: Generally similar in size to the Syrian oud but with a floating bridge which focuses the mid-range frequencies and gives the instrument a more guitar-like sound. This kind of oud was developed by the Iraqi oud virtuoso Munir Bechir.
        * Egyptian ouds: Similar to Syrian and Iraqi ouds but with a more pear shaped body. Slightly different tone. Egyptians commonly string only the lower courses up to 'g'. Egyptian Ouds tend to be very ornate and highly decorated.

    * Turkish| Greek style ouds ("ud,ούτι") (Includes instruments found in Armenia and Greece): Slightly smaller in size, slightly shorter neck, higher in pitch, brighter timbre. It's known as outi in Greece and was used by early Greek musicians.
    * Barbat (Persian Oud): smaller than Arabic ouds with different tuning and higher tone. Similar to Turkish ouds but slightly smaller.
    * Oud Qadim: an archaic type of oud from North Africa, now out of use.

Although the Greek instruments Laouto and Lavta appear to look much like an oud, they are very different in playing style and origin, deriving from Byzantine lutes. The laouto is mainly a chordal instrument, with occasional melodic use in Cretan music. Both are always fretted (unlike the oud).

 Plectrum (pick)

The plectrum (pick) for the oud is usually a little more than the length of an index-finger. Arabic players refer to it as a reeshe or risha, while Turkish players refer to it as a mızrap. Traditionally it is made from an eagle's feather or tortoise shell, however, plastic picks are much more commonly found today, and are considered just as effective and much cheaper. Oud players take the quality of their plectrums very seriously, often making their own out of other plastic objects, and taking great care to sand down any sharp edges in order to achieve the best sound possible.

 Oud tunings

There are many different tuning options for the oud. All tunings are presented from the lowest course/single string to the highest course. The following tunings are from Lark in the Morning and Oud Cafe:

 Arabic oud tunings

    * E A D G C ,Five Strings (Syria and Lebanon) - by Eduardo Haddad Ribeiro
    * G A D G C F
    * D G A D G C
    * C F A D G C ,This is the most commonly used tuning.
    * C E A D G C
    * F A D G C F
    * B E A D G C F ,Seven strings oud tuning.

 Turkish oud ("ud") and Cümbüş tunings

    * Old Turkish Classical Tuning: E A B E A D or D A B E A D
    * Turkish\Armenian\Greek Style Tuning Variant: C# F# B E A D or B F# B E A D
    * Greek\Armenian Style Tuning: E A B E A D or D A B E A D
    * Standard Cümbüş Tuning: D E A D G C

 List of famous oud players

In Iran:

    * Hossein Behroozinia (1962-)
    * Arsalan Kamkar (1960-)
    * Mansour Nariman (1938-)
    * Mohammad Delnavazi (1954-)
    * Mohammad Firoozi (1957-)
    * Ahad Goharzadeh (1958-?)
    * Jamal Jahanshad (1948-)
    * Yousef Kamoosi (1902-1987)
    * Mohammad Khansarian (1948-)
    * Hasan Manoochehri (1934-)
    * Shahram Mirjalali (1959-)
    * Akbar Mohseni (1911-1995)
    * Abdulvahab Shahidi (1921-)
    * Nasrollah Zarrinpanjeh (1906-1982)

In United States

    * Ahmed Abdul-Malik (United States/Sudan)
    * Sandy Bull (United States)
    * Rachid Halihal (United States/Morocco)
    * Naji Hilal (United States/Lebanon)
    * Basil Samara (United States/Lebanon)
    * George Wakim (United States)
    * Scott Wilson (United States)

    of Armenian descent:

        * John Berberian
        * Richard Hagopian
        * Roupen Altiparmakian (United States/Greece) (born in Adana, Turkey)
        * John Bilezikjian
        * Ara Dinkjian
        * Charles "Chick" Ganimian
        * Marty Kentigian
        * George Mgrdichian
        * Marko Melkon (Melkon Alemsharian) (born in Izmir, Turkey)
        * Harry Minassian

In Turkey:

    * Udi Hrant Kenkulian (1901-1978) (ethnic Armenian)
    * Coşkun Sabah
    * Cinuçen Tanrıkorur (1938-2000)
    * Serif Muhiddin Targan (1892-1967)
    * Yorgo Bacanos (1900-1977) (ethnic Greek)
    * Münir Nurettin Beken
    * Ûdi Nevres Bey (1873-1937)
    * Necati Çelik
    * Mısır'lı İbrahim Efendi (1872-1933)
    * Udi Bogos Kireciyan (ethnic Armenian)
    * Yurdal Tokcan
    * Mutlu Torun

In Iraq:

    * Rahim Al Haj
    * Jamil Bashir
    * Munir Bashir (Iraq/Hungary)
    * Ahmed Mukhtar
    * Naseer Shamma

In Morocco:'

    * Tarik Banzi
    * Ahmed El Bidaoui
    * Said Chraybi
    * Driss El Maloumi
    * Armand Sabach

In Palestine:

    * Samir Joubran
    * Simon Shaheen
    * Nizar Rohana
    * Samer Totah

In Tunisia:

    * Anouar Brahem
    * Amine-Hamza M'RAIHI
    * Ali Es-Sriti
    * Khmaies Tarnen

In Lebanon:

    * Rabih Abou-Khalil
    * Marcel Khalife
    * Charbel Rouhana
    * Wadih Saffi

In Israel:

    * Yair Dalal (Israel/Iraq)
    * Taiseer Alias
    * Armond Sabah (Israel/Morocco)

In Syria:

    * Farid Al Attrach (Syria/Egypt)
    * Alsiadi (Syria/USA)
    * Afif Taian

In Greece:

    * Alekos K. Vretos (Greece)
    * Haig Yazdjian (Greece, of Armenian descent)


In Kuwait:

    * Yousif Al Mutrif (Kuwait)
    * Rashid Al Hameli (Kuwait)

In United Kingdom

    * Robin Williamson (1943-)

In Canada

    * Dikran Richard Sarookanian (of Armenian descent)


    * Gordon Grdina (Canada)
    * Hamza El Din (Egypt)
    * Ahmad Firdaus Baragbah (Jambi/Indonesia)
    * Zulkarnain Yusof (Johor/Malaysia)
    * Samir Zaki (Jordan)
    * Abadi Al Johar (Saudi Arabia)
    * Ali Bin Rogha (United Arab Emirates)
    * Ahmed Fathi (Yemen)
    * Joseph Tawadros (Australia)
    * Fouad Al-Kebsi (Yemen)

 List of famous oud makers

    * Manol (Manolis Venios)(Greek, living in Constantinople - 19th cen.)
    * Maurice Shehata (Egypt)
    * Gawharet el Fan (Egypt)
    * Salmeen (Kuwait)
    * Nahat family (Syria)
    * Necati Gurbuz (Izmir, Turkey)
    * Nahat & Sons (Syria)
    * Tasos Theodorakis (Greece)
    * Hadi Usta (Turkey)
    * Jafar Abedini (Iran)
    * Nariman Abnoosi (Iran)
    * Mohsen Ajdari (Iran)
    * Mohammad Taghi Arafti(Iran)
    * Mohammad Ashari (Iran)
    * Fathi Amin (Egypt)
    * Abdelrahman Darwish (Egypt)
    * Gamil Girges (Egypt)
    * Dimitris Rapakousios (Greek,
    * Mohammed Fadehl (Iraq)
    * Yaroub Fadhel (Iraq, making ouds in Tunisia)
    * Nazih Ghadban (Lebanon)
    * Hasan Manoochehri (Iran)
    * Fawzi Manshad (Iraq-Basra)
    * Ebrahim Ghanbari Mehr (Iran)
    * Mohammadi Brothers (Iran)
    * Khalil Mousavi (Iran)
    * Viken Najarian (California)
    * Ebrahim Suker (Syria)
    * Bahram Taherian (Iran)
    * Faruk Turunz (Turkey)
    * Mario Epstein (Idaho)
    * Onnik Karibyan (Turkey, of Armenian descent)
    * Faisal Alawy (Yemen)
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