STRINGING AND TUNINGS

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    There are two basic categories of ouds, Turkish and Arabic.  Of course there are variations of each, which not only change from country to country, but from one oud maker to another.  On this site we will focus more on Ottoman music and the Turkish oud, but I will list some common Arabic tunings as well.  Stringing tips are found at the bottom of the page.

Turkish style ouds:

     Usually the body is smaller, more shallow, and not as long as a typical Arabic oud.  These ouds are used most in Turkish, Armenian, and Greek music.  The luthier most often credited with the modification of the Arabic oud to the Turkish style we know today was Manolis Venios, a Greek luthier living in Constantinople (Istanbul) at the turn of the 20th century.

     Eleven strings are common, in five pairs with one single 'drone string' or 'bam teli.'  In the past they commonly had only ten strings in pairs of five.  Some common tunings from lowest string to highest string:

E A B e a d  (capital letter = lower/bass note)

C# F# B e a d

B F# B e a d

D A B e a d

D G B e a d

     The highest four pair of strings are usually tuned B E A D, while the two lowest courses (the 'drone strings') are tuned according the makam and/or key you are playing in, the nature of the piece you are playing, and/or your personal preference.  If you decide to experiment with different tunings always make sure you are not putting too much tension on the neck and face.  Check with an oud maker/luthier whenever you are not sure.

Arabic style ouds:

     There are several types of Arabic ouds, usually country-specific.  Generally they are larger than Turkish style ouds and tuned a whole step lower.  Many Arabic ouds also continue to have only five pairs of strings.  The major categories are the Syrian, Egyptian, and Iraqi ouds, though there are others that are not listed here or closely resemble other types (such as Moroccan, Lebanese, etc.)  Please realize that these categories are made everywhere, and are used for a general understanding of an oud 'style.'

     The Syrian oud often has eleven strings and some common tunings are:

C F A d g c

D G A d g c

C E A d g c

F A d g c f  (usually all double courses with this tuning - 12 strings)

     Egyptian ouds usually differ most from Syrian ouds not in tuning, but in their general tone.  Often though you will find Egyptian players using only five pairs of strings, in effect removing the lowest 'drone string' from the first three tunings above:

F A d g c

G A d g c

E A d g c

     When the Egyptian oud is used with six courses,  it can bes as seen above in the Syrian oud tunings.

     Iraqi style ouds are often called 'Bachir' ouds because they are rightly attributed to the famous brothers Jameel and Munir Bachir, who were huge forces in creating a new school of oud playing and oud making.  These are completey different in that they have floating bridges and the strings attach at the base of the oud, not on the bridge.  They often have seven or eight courses (13-15 individual strings).  Also, the length of these ouds is usually closer to the Turkish design, though in other respects they do not really resemble Turkish ouds.

Some tunings:

C D g c f F  (note the bass F 'drone string' under the most treble string pair)

F C D g c f

String to peg for Turkish oud

Turkish string to peg diagram

#1 corresponds to the string in the pair that is furthest to the right on the bridge with the oud facing you (or closest to the floor as you play).  #2 corresponds to the string in each pair that is furthest to the left of the bridge (or closest to you while playing).

Get in touch if this doesn't make sense.

You should always wind the peg 'up' towards the end of the pegbox when tightening, and 'down' towards the oud's body when loosening.

How to best string your instrument when you need to change the strings:

~ Note, it is usually best to change all the strings together, to ensure an even tone quality across the whole instrument.

THE STRINGING ORDER AT THE BRIDGE

For a typical Turkish tuning:

It is recommended that you string your oud with this order at the bridge, to help prevent your strings from getting tangled in the pegbox.

**Suggested stringing order at the bridge taken from the Oud Method by Kyriakos Kalaitzidis, with some slight modifications by me.

String to peg for Arabic oud

Arabic string to peg diagram

#1 corresponds to the string in the pair that is furthest to the right on the bridge with the oud facing you (or closest to the floor as you play).  #2 corresponds to the string in each pair that is furthest to the left of the bridge (or closest to you while playing).

Get in touch if this doesn't make sense.

You should always wind the peg 'up' towards the end of the pegbox when tightening, and 'down' towards the oud's body when loosening.

How to best string your instrument when you need to change the strings:

~ Note, it is usually best to change all the strings together, to ensure an even tone quality across the whole instrument.

THE STRINGING ORDER AT THE BRIDGE

For a typical Arabic tuning:

It is recommended that you string your oud with this order at the bridge, to help prevent your strings from getting tangled in the pegbox.

**Suggested stringing order at the bridge taken from the Oud Method by Kyriakos Kalaitzidis, with some slight modifications by me.

Copyright Mavrothi T. Kontanis. All rights reserved 2008