The oud is a short-necked, pear-shaped instrument of the lute family, which includes balalaikas, bouzoukis, ukuleles, mandolins, guitars and many other instruments. The oud is of ancient origin (possibly going back as long as 5000 years ago and then more recently through the Persian version known as the Barbat). It has gone through many transformations until it has reached its present form with (usually) 11 gut or nylon strings.
It is commonly used in Egyptian, Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Arabian, Jewish, Persian, Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, North African (Chaabi, Classical, and Spanish Andalusian), Somali, and various other forms of Middle Eastern and North African music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oud
The oud is the direct predecessor of the European lute. Unfretted and usually played with a plectrum (pick), the oud is capable of projecting a very evocative voice.
The brilliant Nubian musician Hamza El Din taught many and had a particularly haunting way of taking advantage of the personality of the oud to make his music.
Many players who adopt oud today are already familiar with other instruments, such as violin, guitar or mandolin - for them, adding oud to their repertoire is refreshing – the unfretted fingerboard makes it easier to play Middle Eastern music which contains notes that are between the pitches of typical European influenced music (half sharps and half flats).
Today, because of the quiet nature of the instrument and the difficulty amplifying it with microphone, some players have adopted electrified versions of the oud, some of which are very fine instruments with a good traditional sound but easier to keep in tune and to amplify.
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