Arabic Oud Tuning

Traditional Six Course Oud Tuning

The most commonly used tuning among Arabic oudists. From the highest pitch course (aka first string):

C4, G3, D3, A2, E2 or F2, C2.

Some teachers (and oud method books) recommend that beginners tune strings 5 and 6 be tuned to G2 and D2 respectively. This practice is probably harmless, though quite useless..

Alternative Six Course Oud Tuning #1

Some oudists tune all their strings a semitone or even a whole tone lower than than the traditional six string oud tuning. Indeed, this tuning produces a nicer resonance on some ouds. Many Nahhat ouds, for example, give a richer tone when tuned a semitone or a whole tone lower. This is impractical if playing in an ensemble unless everyone tunes down. (transposing introduces situations where no open strings are in the scale making the oud sound dull).

Alternative Six Course Oud Tuning #2

Some oudists tune their ouds a perfect forth higher. From the highest pitched course:

F4, C4, G3, D3, Bb2, F2.

Naturally this expands the range of the oud in the upper registers to E6 or more while it narrows the lower range to F2. Too many respectable oud players choose this tuning for anyone to discard this tuning. It is simply a different aesthetic choice that favors the higher registers.

Two cautionary remarks here: Special (thinner) strings should be used for the first course (F4). And the F2 course is a two string course, as opposed to the one string course C2 string in traditional tuning.

Seven Course Ouds

To have the bass string while still having the high F4 string some oudists get seven course ouds.

These ouds are tuned:

F4, C4, G3, D3, A2, F2, C2.

Turkish Oud Tuning

Turkish ouds are tuned a whole tone higher compared to the traditional Arabic tuning:

D4, A3, E3, B2, G2 or F#2, D2 or C#2 or B1.

We do not know of major Turkish oudists that use seven course ouds or alternative tuning systems.