Definition: The oud is one of the oldest stringed instruments in the world, and likely originated in Southern Mesopotamia (what is now Iraq). As with anything so old, the oud's origins are steeped in legend, but it definitely dates back to at least 3000 BCE, at which point it began to appear in works of art and on decorative functional items. The popularity of the oud spread throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean and Northern African regions, as well as into Central Asia, and the oud, and its regional variants, went on to become the primary stringed instrument of the Classical world. Most modern Western stringed instruments (including the lute, guitar and mandolin) are descendants of the oud. The oud has existed in its "modern" form for well over five hundred years. It is characterized by a round-backed body with either one or three holes, and a headstock/pegbox that is bent back from the neck. Ouds are fretless, allowing the musicians to bend and slide notes, and add vibrato. As for strings, most ouds have eleven (though regional variations exist). Five are tuned in pairs (much like a mandolin) with the lowest toned string remaining single.
Pronunciation: Oood... rhymes with food.
Alternate Spellings: Ud, Aoud
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