About Ouds

About the Oud

The Sharqi Oud (Oriental short-necked lute) is one of the most famous instruments in various regions of the world. We also make other types of ouds, including historic body shapes.

Below is an explanation of the most important differentiating features and concepts. Maghreb (North Africa) was popular until the 30’s and later became known as the Andalusian Oud (Arabic, Tunisian, Raml and Kuita)

The differences of Oud proportions

The point at which the body and the neck meet on the Arabic Oud and Kuita is 5/3, whereas the Sharqi Oud is 3/2. The various tunings in the Arabic world and other countries.

The Sharqi Oud has, at most, 11 or 12 tuning pegs, although there are some with 13.

for 13 peg form                                        Classic 11 peg form.

Left: Classic 11 peg form

Right: Order of strings for 13 peg form 6-Qarar dukah: (D2), 5-Qarar-Busalik (E2) or Yakah (G2),
4-Ushayran (La2), 3-Dukah (d3), 2-Nawa (g3) and 1-Kardan (c4),
0-Jawab Jaharka: (f5) In between there are ouds with 13 tuning pegs. Lower (direction the arrow points) Higher Below are both tunings for the 11 or 12 string oud:


In the Maghreb Region the Andalusian oud has four doubled strings: Dhil/Raghul, Hsin, Maya, Ramal.

The strings are not organized by ascending pitch.

For example: The first interval is tuned one 6th higher (IV: Sol (G)- III: mi (E)), one fifth lower and one forth higher (II: la (A)- I: re (D)) . .
Moroccan musicians use 3 other tunings:

  • One note higher (Sayid Noqta): la (a), Fis (f#), si(b), mi(e)

  • Three notes higher (Muthallith): do(c), la(a), ré(d), sol(g)
  • One note higher than Muthallith : ré(d), si(b), mi(e), la(a)


Classical Sharqi ouds and Andalusian ouds have what is known as a “fixed” bridge ( an immobile bridge adhered to the face of the instrument, similar to a guitar bridge). Only Iraqi models are built with a “floating” bridge (a movable bridge which is not affixed to the body with glue, similar to a bridge of a violin). The name comes the first Iraqi oud maker to implement this design, Mohamed Fadel.


The Sharqi Oud (Oriental lute) typically has one big and 2 smaller circular or oval shaped sound holes. Occasionally they are built with only one large sound hole.

The Arabic oud has one large and two mid-sized, circular sound holes. The Kuitra’s rosette is unique, in that it is almost always carved with a flower vase or tree of life pattern.


The scale length determines the intervals and overtone. The body size and the total length of the instrument affects its tone. The smaller the scale length (and body), the less overtones (brighter tone). The bigger the scale length, the more overtones (darker tone). The respective body size in this case differ by only a few centimeters. However, the physical height and arm length of the player should be taken into consideration when purchasing an oud.

The typical scale length for our Sharqi are:

  • 58.5cm / common in Turkish and Iraqi ouds
  • 60cm / common in Syria and Lebanon
  • 61.5cm / common in Egypt

Arabic-Andalusian Music

Arabic-Andalusian music (الطرب الأندلسي) (also called Ala al-Andaloussi in Morocco, al Moussiqa in Andalusia, Gharnâti, Sana, Chaabi or Malouf in Algeria, Malouf in Tunisia and Libya) is a classical music genre in Maghreb. The music differs from that in the Middle East (or Mashreq) and Egypt.

In the 18th century Abou El Hassan Ali Ben Nafiq, also known as Ziyrab, laid the foundations for the form called nubat/nubah. These consist of the poetic forms such as Muwassah or Zagal. The nubat form a basis of the “Cantigas de Santa Maria von Alfonso X”, the king of Castile, the flamenco and the troubadours. This music also influenced contemporary Western music, especially with the works of Camile Saint-Saëns, through its contacts with Algerian musicians such as Mohamed Sfindja.

Arabic-Andalusian music developed in Spain and established the formation of three major schools in Maghreb.

  • Grenada Tlemcen and Oran, Algeria Nedromaen / Rabat and Salé, Oujda, Tanger, Tetouan, Morocco-Safi
  • Cordoba and Valencia Algier, Bejaia, Cherchell, Blida and Kolea in Algeria / Fes and Meknes in Morocco Kuitra is the main plucked string Instrument here.
  • Sevilla Constantine and Annaba, Algeria / Tripolis Kairouan and Testour in Tunesia) The our was used here as the Main plucked string instrument.

Algerian School

There are 16 Noubat (including 4 unfinished): Al-dhîl – Mjenba – Al-hussayn – Raml Al-mâya – Ramal – Ghrîb – Zîdân – Rasd – Mazmûm – Sîkâ – Rasd Al-Dhîl – Mâya (Ghribet Hassine – Araq – Djarka – Mûal).
Poetic forms still used: Muwashshah – Zadjal – Msaddar- Shugl (popular sung poem) – Barwal (in Constantine) – Melhoun- El Wahrani (Malhun-Variant)

Libyan School

The Nougat consit of 8 Parts: two Msaddar / two Murakaz / two Barwal / Khafif / Khatm. Sie consisting of a steady tempo whose name differs depending on the speed of the musical movement.

Moroccoan School

The Moroccan Nuba are a collection of songs consisting of 26 different diatonic modes (Mawwal being the only one without microtones). The 4 most important (Maya-Al Dhil / Mazmum / Zidan). There are only 11 Noubat : Raml al-mâya – Isbahân – Al-mâya – Rasd al-dhîl – Al-istihlâl – Rasd – Gharîbat al-husayn – Al-hijâz al-kabîr – Al-hijâz al-mashriqî – ‘Irâq ‘ajam – ‘Ushshâq. The poetic forms are the following: Muwashshah – Zajal – Shugl -Barwal.

Tunisian School

Compiled in the 18th century by Rachid Bey, it was incorporated into the 20th century by the Rachidia. The modes are based on some Ottoman micro-intervals. 13 Noubat: Dhîl – ‘Irâq – Sîkâ – Hsîn – Rast – Raml al-mâya – Nawâ – Asba‘ayn – Rast al-dhîl – Ramal – Isbahân – Mazmûm – Mâya . Poetic Forms: Nashîd – Istihlâl – ‘Amal – Muharrak – Muwashshah – Zajal – Barwal – Shugl.

Music Instruments

The instruments that would appear in an typical Arabic-Andalusian music ensemble (Takht) are:

  • Riq or Tar: Arabic Tambourine which is the master of all the instruments because it gives the musicians the rhythmic foundation.
  • Naqarat: A small drum played with sticks
  • Darbuka: A goblet or chalice shaped drum made from olive wood or ceramic with a drum head made out of goat or fish skin.
  • Arbi Oud and Kouitra: The predecessor to the lute
    Raba or Rabec: An Arabic violin sometimes replaced in performance by the modern violin
  • الناي: Ney: A open flute/end blown flute with six or seven holes
  • Qanun or Kanoun: A zither with many strings.

Kuitra Quwaytara

In the English language, the Kuitra is known under the name ‚Qitara‘ oder ‚Kwetra‘. The Grove dictionary notes various spellings: Quwaytara, Kuwaitara, Kūwaytara, Kuwīthra, Kuwitra, Kwītra. A note in the book „Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente der Musikhochschule Berlin, 1922“ (“Collection of older musical instruments in the University of Music in Berlin, 1922”) 2412. QITARA: Short-necked lute with cross bars and spade shaped pegs; nine chips of beech with whalebone veins; a large rose in the shape of the (playing cards suit) spade is set in the cedar soundboard; the fir neck is fretless and the pegbox bent at an obtuse angle; the vertebrae themselves follow a spade dome form. Raw work. H(85) 45, B30,5, T15cm (Arabisches N.W Afrika).]

According to my research, before the 18th century, there were three sizes for the Kuitra. The Octave, with a soundboard length from 20,3 cm to 21, 2cm, the Seventh, with a soundboard between 27,5 cm and 32cm and the Sixth: from 36,6 cm to 43cm.


The Rosette, as described by Rouanet, is a Moorish design that nearly always depicts a flower vase or the tree of life. It is plausible that they have a symbolic relationship to the four temperaments (see. Photo. Below right: musical epistle, National Library of Tunis.)

This type of drawing is also found in the “Istitutioni Harmoniche de Zarlino”, which was published in Venice in the year 1558, to describe the relationship between the Maqamat.left photo: sketches, G. Zarlino, Le Istitutioni Harmoniche Appresso Francesco Senese, 1562, s. 11, University of Strasburg Library

Right photo: Diagram. Connections between various areas of arabic music and the four temperaments, published in the music-manuscript of the National Library of Tunesia.

The bridge comes in three forms: as horns, in the form of a snake, or a mustach. (Jules Rouanet)

Tuning the Kuitra

The Kuitra has eight strings (4 Chorus and Unisono) which are plucked with a Plectrum (made from an eagle feather) held in the right hand between thumb and forefinger. Three fingers of the left hand are used to press the tone on the unfretted fingerboard, in other words, the order of the strings doesn’t follow the ascending order of the notes: successive intervals are rising sixths (IV: Sol – III: mi), a descending quint and finally an ascending fourth: (II: la – I: re) that starts one tone higher.