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How many strings do various types of ouds (Arab, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Greek, Persia, etc.) have and how are they usually tuned (with pitch reference or not) to what absolute or relative pitches?

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An unauthoritative answer based on observing my friends who do play: Greek and Arabic ouds generally have 11 strings in 5 pairs + 1 (though I was told there are some with 13 strings), the pairs are often tuned one octave apart (though sometimes in unison?). My friends always carry a tuning fork at A-440, but I am not sure whether that is because they like to play in small ensembles and it is more convenient then to tune to a reference. (I don't play the instrument myself, so I don't know the usual tuning. But I remember seeing alternative tunings used sometimes for certain songs.) –  Willie Wong Sep 12 '11 at 23:46

2 Answers 2

http://www.oudcafe.com/stringing_and_tuning.htm seem to have good answers for this one.

excerpts: "There are two basic categories of ouds, Turkish and Arabic ... variations ... change from country to country ... from one oud maker to another ... Turkish, Armenian, and Greek ... E A B e a d | C# F# B e a d | B F# B e a d | D A B e a d | D G B e a d ... Arabic style ... categories are the Syrian, Egyptian, and Iraqi ... Syrian ... 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 ... Egyptian ... Often ... using only five pairs of strings, in effect ... F A d g c | G A d g c | E A d g c ... Iraqi ... tunings ... C D g c f F ... F C D g c f"

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An oud usually has 10, 11 or 13 strings, in six or seven 'courses'. A course is a grouping of strings. The lowest is usually a single string, and the rest are doubled. For a 5 string oud, it is tuned GADGC, C being the lowest and the other 4 pairs of strings are tuned in unision in the same octave. A six course oud, or 11 string, is tuned to DGADGC, with the single low D string an octave down from the third-course D. I couldn't find the tuning for the 13 string oud, which leads me to believe that that isn't a very popular kind.

As for the tunings again, the Syrian oud typically has 11 strings, and can use the following tunings:C F A d g c, D G A d g c, C E A d g c, F A d g c f. An Egyptian oud basically has the same tuning, except it is usually a 10-string oud, removing the lowest drone string. If it is an 11 string, you would use the same tunings as a Syrian oud. The persian oud (aka a lute, 5 course) is usually tuned to G A d g c (like most 5 string ouds). Keep in mind that for every lute/oud there are multiple tunings, and for every type (Persian, Iraqi, ETC) there are different tunings.. They are all pretty similar, and you might be able to find one that works on them all, but I don't have that much knowledge in all of the different kinds.

To answer the question simply, one set "type" of oud (Egyptian, Persian, ETC.) can differ in the number of strings and the tuning to each, so the question is pretty broad. I would answer the most common type of tuning, but I'm afraid that I don't know the answer.

If this isn't 100% correct I apologize, but I hope this helps

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Thanks to your info, I find it much easier to locate more info about the instrument on the web. شكرا –  user1217 Sep 18 '11 at 21:10

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