The Oud/Ud

The Ud (or oud) is one of the most popular instruments in Middle Eastern music. Ud literally means 'twig', 'flexible rod' or 'aromatic stick', and by inference 'piece of wood'. The Ud is known as the outi in Greece and as the barbat in Iran. The European lute is a descendant of the oud, from which it takes its name (al-oud).

The instrument musically and technically evolved during the Islamic period in Spain (711-1492) and gained its current characteristic appearance.The Ud has a deep, pear-shaped body; a fingerboard; a relatively short neck and somewhat less acutely bent-back peg box. Also modern Uds are fretless and are not completely standardized in size or number of strings. The strings (generally made of nylon or gut) of the contemporary 'ud are twisted, or spirally reinforced. They are plucked with a plectrum (risha, 'quill') made of an eagle's feather and held between thumb and index finger; a shell or plastic plectrum may be used instead.
The quality of material used in the making of the 'ud is extremely varied; the more the diversity, the better it sounds. The Baghdad lute maker Hanna Hajji al-'Awwad (1862-1942) used 18,325 pieces to make a single 'ud.


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