Tuning The Oud and Keeping It In Tune (Part 2)

2:03 pm Music, Oud

Part 1 compared methods of tuning the oud, in terms of accuracy of results, implications on the learning process of the oud player, and discussed some practical considerations.

Whatever approach to tuning you may choose, there are things you can do to keep the oud in tune longer. This post discusses steps to take before installing new strings on the oud. Several steps taken here can affect the tunability of the oud.

Stringing the Oud

Before putting on new strings, the pegs should be cleaned to remove grime and leftover peg-compound. New peg-compound can then be applied as necessary. If the pegs are grooved or misshaped in anyway they need to be filed down slightly with fine grain sandpaper, or in some cases they might need to be replaced. New pegs should be installed by a professional unless you have the right tools (peg reamer and shaver) and the experience to do the job because damage to the pegbox can be very expensive and invasive to repair.

When installing the new strings make sure to cut them to the length necessary (usually 3 inches beyond the peg to witch they will be attached).

The strings should never touch or cross in the pegbox. Below is a diagram of a suggested stringing that makes avoiding string crossing easy:

Stringing the oud: Peg assignment

After installing the new strings, everything should be tuned a semitone higher than the final desired tuning so that the strings stretch faster. (in the common Arabic tuning that would be C# G# D# A# F# C#). Tune back down 24 hours later.

Other things that can be done to improve tunability

1- Avoid extreme temperature and humidity changes. If temperature is fluctuating (for example just turned the heat on in the room after a cold day) leave the oud in its case until the temperature is stable. Then take the oud out of the case and allow 15 minutes (or more) for the oud to adjust to the temperature before tuning.

2- Playing outdoors (those charming wedding ceremonies) can be problematic in the hours when the temperature is changing rapidly (just before noon or just before sunset). Go ahead, collect karma points for doing those.

3- Over dryness can damage the oud, cause cracks, and make tuning hard. If you live in the desert consider investing in a room humidifier.

4- Changing pitch (tuning the whole oud up or down, for example to match a recording) will take some time and retuning until the oud is stable. Changing pitch in the course of a performance, detuning, and retuning are highly undesirable. If your friend is a composer, make her detune a oud before including such directives in her new oud concerto.

5- Frequent correction of the tuning makes the oud stay in tune longer, and lose its tuning by a smaller amount. Another advantage to always checking that the oud is in tune.

6- Having a padded oud case is a good idea for traveling since it will protect the oud from temperature and humidity changes, or reduce their effect.

4 Responses
  1. Harith :

    Date: June 15, 2008 @ 8:43 am

    These are great suggestions. I found it very useful. Thanks for sharing

  2. Thomas :

    Date: November 11, 2008 @ 2:28 am

    Thanks a lot! I just bought an Oud and your advice and tuning diagram are very useful! Thamk you!

  3. ZAKAR :

    Date: November 17, 2008 @ 3:35 pm


  4. Saed :

    Date: November 17, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

    I don’t know when it will be ready. My student who volunteered to do the coding had to stop working on it and won’t be able to resume for a few months for family reasons. The specifications of the page have been ready for a few months now.


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