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The Best Ways to Play and Tune the Oud

posted on: Apr 18, 2018

By: Ramy Adly/Arab America Contributing Writer
How do you play the Oud?  Here are some tips to get the best out of your Oud. For those who practice or perform on stage. Improve your skill set from these useful tips we recommend to our students.

The Best Way to Practice on the Oud

The perfect way to practice playing the Oud is to assume a straight sitting position on an armless chair with a straight backrest. While playing on the Oud, be sure to use the footstool. Do not practice for more than three hours at a stretch without using the footstool to keep your back posture straight.

 The Right Position for Playing the Oud

Place your left leg slightly behind the line on the heels of your right foot.  You should always maintain this position while playing on stage with your right hand holding the Oud. The left hand has nothing to do with keeping the Oud straight. Rather, the Oud should be held with the right hand only.

 Playing the Oud with the Wrong Posture

This is a poor posture for handling the Oud. If you are seated wrongly and not straight while playing the Oud, you will feel uncomfortable and your hand will not be appropriately positioned relative to the fingerboard. Note from the picture shown above that, the right foot is placed on a footstool. If your right leg is not placed that way, you will lose balance while playing on the Oud.

Holding the Neck of the Oud

You should compare holding the neck of the Oud to holding an apple with your left hand. You should hold the fingerboard in the following way. With your thumb held straight, the tip of your fingers should play with the surface of the fingerboard, underneath the nails. It is very important to keep your left hand stretched forward on the fingerboard.

 Holding the Pic of the Oud

You should hold the pic in between your index finger and your thumb, the other three fingers have nothing to do with your Pic, which is called the “Resha.” Hold the Resha as seen in the picture.

Practicing the Oud in Front of A Mirror

Every entertainment venue I have been to for practice has a mirror as a constant feature. This helps players to look at themselves in the mirror while they practice. Practicing in front of a mirror helps you to have a glimpse of the positions of the left and right hands, how you are actually seating, and how the audience will see you during a performance. It also boosts your confidence by helping to overcome stage fright.

 The Parts of the Oud 

• The Strings Base: This is the first part on the left side of the Oud model shown in this picture. The string base is made of wood to hold the strings from the bottom of the Oud.  The strings Base is useful for holding the strings in position.

• Strings: The conventional Ouds nowadays have 11 strings; five in unison and one a single string.

• The Bridge: The second component on the left side of the Oud is the bridge. It is actually the part over which the strings pass to help vibrate the sounds by the strings or transmission to the sound box.

• Sound Hole: The third part is the sound hole; the sound hole of the Oud represses the sounds and projects them out of the Oud box. 

• The Face of the Oud: A good Oud has a thin wooden face. By principle, the thinner the face of the Oud, the better the quality of the sound produced. The sound quality is measured by how delightful and open the sound is. Thus, it is very important for the Oud makers to apply great care when designing the face of the Oud.

• The Neck or Fingerboard: The fingerboard is a fretless component of the Oud. As shown in the picture, there are no frets on the fingerboard. That is what makes the Oud an Oud. This is the one major difference between the Oud and the Guitar. The reason for this is to enable the player to produce a monochromatic range of sounds on an open frequency without any limitation.

Tuning the Oud Instrument

Egyptians, Syrians and other Arab countries tune the Oud from the top in the following order:

E – A – D – G – C – F.

The Iraqis usually tune the Oud differently from the top thus:

F – C – D – G – C – F.

The Turkish tune the Oud as follows:

C# – F# – B. – E – A – D

Below, is the best sequence of tuning the Oud to cover more than 95% of the songs and compositions played on the Oud. This tuning is highly accurate and recommended for all regions including the Egyptian and Iraqi schools of Oud. Most students are advised to tune their Ouds using the following sequence:

F – A – D – G – C – F


Based in Washington DC, Ramy Adly is a master of the oud. Grounded in the main Arab classical styles in his native Egypt, Adly incorporates jazz, embracing fusion with musicians worldwide. His innovative online curriculum, School of Oud, enables students to learn the instrument utilizing online technology. For more information click here.