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The oud (Arabic: ?)[1][2][3] is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument (a chordophone in the Hornbostel-Sachs classification of instruments) with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses, commonly used in Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Arabian, Jewish, Persian, Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, North African (Chaabi, Classical, and Spanish Andalusian), Somali, and various other forms of Middle Eastern and North African music.

In the first centuries of (pre-Islamic) Arabian civilisation, the oud had 4 courses (one string per course - double-strings came later) only, tuned in successive fourths. These were called (for the lowest in pitch) the Bamm, then came (higher to highest in pitch) the Mathn?, the Mathlath and the Z?r. A fifth string (highest in pitch, lowest in its positioning in relation to other strings), called d ("sharp"), was sometimes added for theoretical purposes, generally to complement the double octave.

In Pre-Islamic Arabia and Mesopotamia, oud for instance, used to consist of 3 strings only, with a small musical box and a long neck without any keys. But during the Islamic era the musical box was enlarged, another string was added (the number became 4), and the keys base (Bunjuk) was added. Historical sources indicate that Ziryab, has added a fifth string to the Oud. [4]

The Modern tuning preserves the ancient succession of fourths, with adjunctions (lowest or highest courses) which may be tuned differently following regional or personal preferences.

The first mention of an actual fifth string is by 11th-century musician, singer and author Ab?-l-?asan Mu?ammad ibn al-?asan ibn a-?-?an in his compendium on music w? al-Fun?n wa Salwat al-Ma?z?n.

The first known complete description of the '?d and its construction is found in the epistle Ris?la f?-l-Lun wa-n-Nagham by 9th-century Philosopher of the Arabs Ya?q?b ibn Isq al-Kind?.[5] Kind?'s description stands thus:

"[and the] length [of the '?d] will be: thirty-six joint fingers - with good thick fingers - and the total will amount to three ashb?r.[Notes 1] And its width: fifteen fingers. And its depth seven and a half fingers. And the measurement of the width of the bridge with the remainder behind: six fingers. Remains the length of the strings: thirty fingers and on these strings take place the division and the partition, because it is the sounding [or "the speaking"] length. This is why the width must be [of] fifteen fingers as it is the half of this length. Similarly for the depth, seven fingers and a half and this is the half of the width and the quarter of the length [of the strings]. And the neck must be one third of the length [of the speaking strings] and it is: ten fingers. Remains the vibrating body: twenty fingers. And that the back (soundbox) be well rounded and its "thinning"(khar?) [must be done] towards the neck, as if it had been a round body drawn with a compass which was cut in two in order to extract two '?ds".[6]

The first description of the "modern" oud is by ibn a-?-?an. It is very similar to the construction of modern lutes, and to the construction of Western lutes.[7] The modern oud is most likely derived from the Persian barbat, which, in turn, probably stems from the Indian lute-type v?n?. Similar instruments have been used in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia for thousands of years, including from Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa, the Caucasus, and the Levant; there may even be prehistoric antecedents of the lute.[8] The oud, as a fundamental difference with the western lute, has no frets and a smaller neck. It is the direct ancestor of the European lute.[9] The oldest surviving oud is thought to be in Brussels, at the Museum of Musical Instruments.[10]

Names and etymology

The Arabic: ? (al-d or oud) literally denotes a thin piece of wood similar to the shape of a straw. It may refer to the wooden plectrum traditionally used for playing the oud, to the thin strips of wood used for the back, or to the wooden soundboard that distinguished it from similar instruments with skin-faced bodies.[11] Henry George Farmer considers the similitude between al-d and al-?awda ("the return" - of bliss).[12]

Oud means "from wood" and "stick" in Arabic.[13][14] Multiple theories have been proposed for the origin of the Arabic name. A music scholar by the name of Eckhard Neubauer, suggested that oud may be an Arabic borrowing from the Persian word r?d or r?d, which meant string.[15][16] Another researcher, archaeomusicologist Richard J. Dumbrill, suggests that rud came from the Sanskrit rudr? (, meaning "string instrument") and transferred to Arabic (a Semitic language) through a Semitic language.[17] However, another theory according to Semitic language scholars, is that the Arabic ?oud is derived from Syriac ?oud-a, meaning "wooden stick" and "burning wood"--cognate to Biblical Hebrew ', referring to a stick used to stir logs in a fire.[18][19]

Names for the instrument in different languages include Arabic: ? d or ?oud (Arabic pronunciation: [?u(:)d, ?u:d], plural: a?w?d), Armenian: , Syriac: ?d, Greek: ? oúti, Hebrew: ?? ud, Persian: ?? barbat (although the barbat is a different lute instrument), Turkish: ud or ut,[20]Azeri: ud, and Somali: cuud or kaban.


Musical instruments from pre-history

Gandhara banquet with lute player
Hellenistic banquet scene from the 1st century AD, Hadda, Gandhara. Short-necked, 2-string lute held by player, far right.
Egyptian long lutes, c. 1350 B.C.
Egyptian lute players with long-necked lutes. Fresco from the tomb of Nebamun, a nobleman in the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt (c. 1350 BC).

The complete history of the development of the lute family is not fully compiled at this date, but archaeomusicologists have worked to piece together a lute family history. The highly influential organologist Curt Sachs distinguished between the "long-necked lute" (Langhalslaute) and the short-necked variety: both were chordophones with a neck as distinguished from harps and psalteries. Smith and others argue the long-necked variety should not be called lute at all because it existed for at least a millennium before the appearance of the short-necked instrument that eventually evolved into what is now known the lute. The long-necked variety also was never called a lute before the twentieth century.[]

Musicologist Richard Dumbrill today uses the word more categorically to discuss instruments that existed millennia before the term "lute" was coined.[] Dumbrill documented more than 3000 years of iconographic evidence for the lutes in Mesopotamia, in his book The Archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East. According to Dumbrill, the lute family included instruments in Mesopotamia prior to 3000 BC.[21] He points to a cylinder seal as evidence; dating from c. 3100 BC or earlier (now in the possession of the British Museum); the seal depicts on one side what is thought to be a woman playing a stick "lute".[21][22] Like Sachs, Dumbrill saw length as distinguishing lutes, dividing the Mesopotamian lutes into a long variety and a short.[23] His book does not cover the shorter instruments that became the European lute, beyond showing examples of shorter lutes in the ancient world.[] He focuses on the longer lutes of Mesopotamia, and similar types of related necked chordophones that developed throughout ancient world: Greek, Egyptian (in the Middle Kingdom), Elamites, Hittite, Roman, Bulgar, Turkic, Indian, Chinese, Armenian/Cilician, Canaanite/Phoenician, Israelite/Judean, and various other cultures. He names among the long lutes, the pandura and the tanbur[24]

The line of short lutes was further developed to the east of Mesopotamia, in Bactria and Gandhara, into a short, almond-shaped lute.[11][25][26]

Likely origin isn't proven origin, however, and there is a history of short lutes in the Near East, Mesopotamia, dating as far back as 5000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent.[] Archeologists have found evidence of oud-like instruments in the Mesopotamian city of Ur dating back to more than 4000 years ago.[] The Mesopotamian lute arrived in Egypt and was already widespread there around 1700 BC.[] Archeology suggests that the Egyptians developed an early short-neck lute.[] The Near Eastern lute would go through many developments in the Hellenistic period. The lute was a major instrument in the Bronze Age Levant, in Canaanite, Israelite, Judean, and Egyptian cultures.[27]

Theory from religious and philosophical beliefs

According to Ab? lib al-Mufaal (a-n-Na?aw? al-Lughaw?) ibn Salma (9th century), who himself refers to Hish?m ibn al-Kull?, the oud was invented by Lamech, the descendant of Adam and Cain.[28] Another hypothetical attribution says that its inventor was Mani.[9] Ibn a-?-?an adds two possible mythical origins: the first involves the Devil, who would have lured the "People of David" into exchanging (at least part of) their instruments with the oud. He writes himself that this version is not credible. The second version attributes, as in many other cultures influenced by Greek philosophy, the invention of the oud to "Philosophers".[5]

Central Asia and India

One theory is that the oud originated from the Persian instrument called a barbat (Persian ) or barbud, a lute indicated by Marcel-Dubois to be of likely Central Asian origin, with the earliest depictions found dating back to the 1st century b.c.[11] It could also have been a development of Northern India, which came north to Central Asia with the Kushan Empire.[11] The earliest image of the barbat dates back to the 1st century BC from ancient northern Bactria,[11] while a more "clear cut" depiction of the barbat from Gandhara sculpture dates to the 2nd-4th centuries AD.[11] The name itself meant short-necked lute in Pahlavi, the language of the Sasanian Empire, through which the instrument came west from Central Asia to the Middle East, adopted by the Persians.[11][29] The barbat (possibly known as mizhar, kir?n, or muwatter, all skin topped versions) was used by some Arabs in the sixth century.[30] At the end of the 6th century, a wood topped version of the Persian-styled instrument was constructed by al Nadr, called "?d", and introduced from Iraq to Mecca.[30] This Persian-style instrument was being played there in the seventh century.[30] Sometime in the seventh century it was modified or "perfected" by Mansour Zalzal, and the two instruments (barbat and "?d shabb?t") were used side by side into the 10th century, and possibly longer.[30] The two instruments have been confused by modern scholars looking for examples, and some of the ouds identified may possibly be barbats.[30] Examples of this cited in the Encyclopedia of Islam include a lute in the Cantigas de Santa Maria and the frontispiece from The Life and Times of Ali Ibn ISA by Harold Bowen.[30]

The oldest pictorial record of a short-necked lute-type v?n? around the 1st to 3rd centuries AD.[5][31] The site of origin of the oud seems to be India or Central Asia.[32] The ancestor of the oud, the barbat was in use in pre-Islamic Persia. Since the Safavid period, and perhaps because of the name shift from barbat to oud, the instrument gradually lost favor with musicians.[33] The Turkic peoples had a similar instrument called the kopuz.[34] 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.[35][verification needed]

Syrian musicians in Aleppo with an oud, circa 1915.
An oud being played


Zenne oud by Jo Dusepo.
Oud Arbi by Jo Dusepo

Arabian oud, Turkish oud, and Persian barbat

Salar Ayoubi.jpg
An oud tuned in the common "open strings" form

Modern-day ouds fall into three categories: Arabian, Turkish, and Persian, the latter also being known locally as a barbat.[] This distinction is not based solely on geography since Turkish ouds can also be found in Greece and occasionally other parts of the Mediterranean,[] whereas Arabian ouds can be found in various locations all over the Arab world.[] The Arabian ouds, such as the Iraqi oud, Egyptian oud and Syrian oud, are normally grouped under the term 'Arabian oud' because of their similarities, although local differences may occur, notably with the Iraqi oud.[36] However, all these categories are very recent, and do not do justice to the variety of ouds made in the 19th century, and also today.[37]

Arabian ouds are normally larger than their Turkish and Persian counterparts, producing a fuller, deeper sound, whereas the sound of the Turkish oud is more taut and shrill, not least because the Turkish oud is usually (and partly) tuned one whole step higher than the Arabian.[38] Turkish ouds tend to be more lightly constructed than Arabian with an unfinished sound board, lower string action and with string courses placed closer together. Arabian ouds have a scale length of between 61 cm and 62 cm in comparison to the 58.5 cm scale length for Turkish. There exists also a variety of electro-acoustic and electric ouds.[39]

The Cümbü? is a Turkish instrument that started as a hybrid of the oud and the banjo.[]

Zenne oud

The Zenne oud, often translated as a women's oud or female oud is a smaller version of the oud designed for those with smaller hands and fingers.[] It usually has a scale length of 54-56cm, instead of the 60-62cm of the Arabic oud, and the 57-59cm of the Turkish oud.[]

Oud arbi & Oud ramal

The oud arbi is a North African variant of the oud with a longer neck and only 4 courses.[]

See also


  1. ^ The shibr (singular of ashb?r) is a measurement unit which equals roughly 18-24 cm, depending on the hand. It equates to the measured length between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the auricular finger when stretched flat and in opposite directions. The shibr otherwise measures 12 fingers (36:3): a 'full' finger should be about 2 cm in width.


  1. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=o54eAAAAMAAJ&q=oud+arabic+origin+word+instrument&dq=oud+arabic+origin+word+instrument&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ1-i2meXZAhVD1IMKHdCkB50Q6AEILTAB
  2. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=DdEMAQAAMAAJ&q=oud+arabic+origin+word+instrument&dq=oud+arabic+origin+word+instrument&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ1-i2meXZAhVD1IMKHdCkB50Q6AEIQzAG
  3. ^ https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/oud
  4. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=neYsAQAAIAAJ&q=oud+word+origin&dq=oud+word+origin&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiG1570r-XZAhUK0oMKHftjCG0Q6AEISjAG
  5. ^ a b c Beyhom, Amine (2010). Théories de l'échelle et pratiques mélodiques chez les Arabes - Volume 1 : L'échelle générale et les genres - Tome 1 : Théories gréco-arabes de Kind? (IXe siècle) à s? (XIIIe siècle). Paris: Geuthner. ISBN 978-2-7053-3840-4. 
  6. ^ Beyhom, Amine (2011). Paper for "The Oud from its Sumerian Origins to Modern Times", ICONEA Conference 2011 - 1-3 December 2011. "Two persistent misapprehensions about the d" (PDF). ICONEA 2011: 81-110 (85). 
  7. ^ Mottola, R.M. (Summer-Fall 2008). "Constructing the Middle Eastern Oud with Peter Kyvelos". American Lutherie (94, 95). 
  8. ^ 1947-, Dumbrill, Richard J. (Richard Jean), (2005). The archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East. Victoria, B.C.: Trafford. p. 308. ISBN 9781412055383. OCLC 62430171. 
  9. ^ a b Poché, Christian (2007). "d". The New Grove. 26: 26 - via Oxford Music Online. (oud; pl.?d?n). Short-necked plucked lute of the Arab world, the direct ancestor of the European lute, whose name derives from al-d ("the lute"). Known both from documentation and through oral tradition, it is considered the king, sultan or emir of musical instruments, "the most perfect of those invented by the philosophers" (Ikhw?n al-Saf: Rasil [Letters] (1957), i, 202). It is the principal instrument of the Arab world, Somalia and Djibouti, and is of secondary importance in Turkey (ut, a spelling used in the past but now superseded by ud), Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan (ud). It plays a lesser role in Greece (outi), where it has given rise to a long-necked model (laouto); the latter is used in rustic and folk contexts, while the d retains pre-eminently educated and urban associations. In eastern Africa it is known as udi; in recent decades it has also appeared in Mauritania and Tajikistan. [...] The emergence of the d on the stage of history is an equally complex matter. Two authors of the end of the 14th century (Ab? al-Fid?, or Abulfedae, and Ab? al-Wal?d ibn Shihn?h) place it in the reign of the Sassanid King Sh[?]p?r I (241-72). Ibn Shihn?h added that the development of the d was linked to the spread of Manicheism, and its invention to Manes himself, a plausible theory because the disciples of Manes encouraged musical accompaniments to their religious offices. Reaching China, their apostolate left traces of relations between West and East, seen in a short-necked lute similar to the d (Grünwedel, 1912). But the movement's centre was in southern Iraq, whence the d was to spread towards the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century. However, the texts mentioning the introduction to Mecca of the short-necked lute as the d were all written in the 9th and 10th centuries. The d spread to the West by way of Andalusia 
  10. ^ "Alexandria to Brussels, 1839". oudmigrations. Retrieved . 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g During, Jean (1988-12-15). "Encyclopaedia Iranica - Barbat". Iranicaonline.org. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ Farmer, Henry George (1939). "The Structure of the Arabian and Persian Lute in the Middle Ages". JRAS: 41-51 (49). 
  13. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=_88190O7gG8C&pg=PT126&dq=OUD+MEANS+WOOD+ARABIC&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiB8KfO293ZAhUL6oMKHXW2CHEQ6AEIMTAC#v=onepage&q=OUD%20MEANS%20WOOD%20ARABIC&f=false
  14. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=WsNP3bAH_3MC&pg=PA98&dq=OUD+MEANS+WOOD+ARABIC&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiB8KfO293ZAhUL6oMKHXW2CHEQ6AEILDAB#v=onepage&q=OUD%20MEANS%20WOOD%20ARABIC&f=false
  15. ^ Douglas Alton Smith. A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance. p. 9. Lute Society of America (LSA), 2002. ISBN 0-9714071-0-X.
  16. ^ "Asian Music Tribal Music of India, 32, 1, Fall, 2000/ Winter, 2001". Utexas.edu. Retrieved . [full ]
  17. ^ Dumbrill, Richard J. (1998). The Archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East. London: Tadema Press. p. 319. 
  18. ^ http://www.assyrianlanguages.org/sureth/dosearch.php?searchkey=17090&language=id
  19. ^ "Strong's Hebrew: 181. ? (ud) -- a brand, firebrand". biblehub.com. Retrieved . 
  20. ^ Güncel Türkçe Sözlük'te Söz Arama Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine. (in Turkish)
  21. ^ a b Dumbrill 1998, p. 321
  22. ^ https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1447477&partId=1&people=24615&peoA=24615-3-17&page=1 British Museum, Cylinder Seal, Culture/period Uruk, Date 3100BC (circa1), Museum number 41632.
  23. ^ Dumbrill 1998, p. 310
  24. ^ Dumbrill, Richard J. (2005). The Archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing. pp. 319-320. ISBN 1-4120-5538-5. The long-necked lute in the OED is orthographed as tambura; tambora, tamera, tumboora; tambur(a) and tanpoora. We have an Arabic Õunbur; Persian tanbur; Armenian pandir; Georgian panturi. and a Serbo-Croat tamburitza. The Greeks called it pandura; panduros; phanduros; panduris or pandurion. The Latin is pandura. It is attested as a Nubian instrument in the third century BC. The earliest literary allusion to lutes in Greece comes from Anaxilas in his play The Lyre-maker as 'trichordos'... According to Pollux, the trichordon (sic) was Assyrian and they gave it the name pandoura...These instruments survive today in the form of the various Arabian tunbar... 
  25. ^ Kasidah. "Pakistan, Swat Valley, Gandhara region Lute Player; From a group of Five Celestial Musicians, 4th-5th century Sculpture; Stone, Gray schist, 10 1/8 x 4 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (25.7 x 12.1 x 6.4 cm)". Pinterest.com. Retrieved 2015.  Musician playing a 4th-to-5th-Century lute, excavated in Gandhara, and part of a Los Angeles County Art Museum collection of Five Celestial Musicians
  26. ^ "Bracket with two musicians 100s, Pakistan, Gandhara, probably Butkara in Swat, Kushan Period (1st century-320)". The Cleveland Museum of Art. Retrieved 2015. 
  27. ^ 1929-2013., Braun, Joachim, (2002). Music in ancient Israel/Palestine : archaeological, written, and comparative sources. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans. pp. 85-86. ISBN 9780802844774. OCLC 47117875. 
  28. ^ ibn Salma, Ab? lib al-Mufaal (a-n-Na?aw? al-Lughaw?) (1984). Kit?b al-Mal?h? wa Asmih? min Qibal al-M?s?q?. Cairo - Egypt: Al-Hay'a al-Mi?riyya al-mma li-l-Kit?b. pp. 13-14. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? [...] ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? : ?  
  29. ^ Blum, Stephen (20 January 2001). "Central Asia". Oxford Music Online, Grove Music Online. Retrieved 2018. The '?d (lute) is believed to be a later development of a pre-Islamic Persian instrument called barbat...[was part of] eastwards diffusion of Middle Eastern and Central Asian chordophones... the pipa, likewise derived from the barbat or from its prototype 
  30. ^ a b c d e f First Encyclopaedia of Islam: 1913-1936. Leiden: BRILL. 1993. p. 986. ISBN 90-04-09796-1. 
  31. ^ Karaikudi S., Subramanian (1985). "An introduction to the Vina". Asian Music. 16: 7-82 (10). We find representations of the niss?ri vinas in sculptures, paintings, terracotta figures, and coins in various parts of India [...]. The lute type vina [...] is represented in Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda, Pawaya (Gupta period), Ajanta paitings (300-500 A.D.) [...]. These varieties are plucked by the right hand and played by the left hand 
  32. ^ Picken, Laurence (1955). "The origin of the short lute". The Galpin Society Journal. 8: 32-42 (40). doi:10.2307/842155. With the evidence as yet available, it is reasonable to place the site of origin of the short lute in Central Asia, perhaps among Iranised Turco-Mongols, within the area of the ancient first-century kingdom of the Kusanas.[] This conclusion must not be taken to exclude the possibility that short lutes first appeared somewhat earlier and somewhat further to the West-in Parthia, for example; but at present the evidence of the Kusana reliefs is the only evidence of their existence in the first century.[] [...] The lutes of the Kusanas would seem to be the first representations of undoubted short ovoid lutes; and Fu Hsüan's essay, one of the first texts in any language devoted to a short lute, though not to an ovoid lute. 
  33. ^ Lawergren, Bo (2001). "Iran". The New Grove: 521-546 (534). 
  34. ^ Chabrier, Jean-Claude (2008). "d". Encyclopedia of Islam: 534. The ?ab?s (al-?id?jz), ?abb (?Um?n), ?anb (?a?ramawt), ?up?z or p?z (Turkey) is a very old instrument. Ewliy? ?elebi [q.v.] says that the p?z was invented by a vizier of Me?emmed II (d. 886/1481) named A?med Pas?h?a Hersek Og?h?lu. He describes it as being a hollow instrument, smaller than the s?h?as?h?t?r, and mounted with three strings (Travels, i/2, 235). On the other hand, Ibn G?h?ayb? says that the p?z r?m? had five double strings. The instrument is no longer used by the Turks, although it has survived under the name of kobza, koboz, in Poland, Russia, and the Balkans, but here it is the lute proper and not a barba? type 
  35. ^ Fuad Köprülü, Türk Edebiyat?nda ?lk Mutasavv?flar (First Sufis in Turkish Literature), Ankara University Press, Ankara 1966, pp. 207, 209.; Gazimihal; Mahmud Rag?b, Ülkelerde Kopuz ve Tezeneli Sazlar?m?z, Ankara University Press, Ankara 1975, p. 64.; Musiki Sözlü?ü (Dictionary of Music), M.E.B. ?stanbul 1961, pp. 138, 259, 260.; Curt Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments, New York 1940, p. 252.
  36. ^ "Types of Ouds : The Ultimate Oud Buyers' Guide Part 1 - Oud for Guitarists". Oud for Guitarists. 2013-09-17. Retrieved . 
  37. ^ "The journeys of Ottoman ouds". oudmigrations. 2016-03-08. Retrieved . 
  38. ^ "OUD CAFE - Stringing & Tuning". www.oudcafe.com. Retrieved . 
  39. ^ Types of oud

Further reading

  • Rebuffa, David. Il Liuto, L'Epos, (Palermo, 2012), pp. 22-34.

External links

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