By Mark D.
How to Choose a Good Quality Oud
So you’re thinking about buying an oud – that’s great! Music can be a beautiful and intensely satisfying pursuit, and the oud is a particularly beautiful instrument.
A good oud will last a lifetime, too. So just as if you were buying a piano, or a car, you’ll want to know the important things to keep in mind when you’re doing your research and getting prepared to make the big decision.
An oud is a precision-crafted instrument made to exacting standards of quality – or at least, it should be. Good craftsmanship affects every part of the oud and is the prime determinant of how long your oud will continue to give expression to your music.
Check that when the strings are stretched tightly to tune, the neck doesn’t warp or bend. Check that the clearance of the strings above the neck (this clearance is called the action) is high enough to avoid buzzing strings, but low enough to enable quick, precise fingerwork. Do the tuning pegs fit snugly in their holes? Does the soundboard dip in the middle, or have ripples? Are all the joints tightly secure?
You’ll also want to consider the materials used in the construction of your oud. Different types of timber serve different purposes: some are best used in mechanical or cabinet components: ebony and rosewood fingerboards are common, for instance. Other types of wood are better suited to producing sound: spruce is frequently used in the soundboard.
Likewise, consider your choice of strings – an Iraqi oud is not built to handle the pressures of Turkish oud strings, for instance. Are you likely to use non-standard tunings often? Do you like the steel and/or nylon sound, or would you be better to spend a little more for some more traditional silk or gut strings?
There is no right answer to these questions, and you nobody will know which oud is best for you but you. Plan ahead – you’re going to be a much better player by the time you’ve exhausted this oud, if you ever do.
Try as many different instruments as you can! Learn what you like and why, and when you’re ready to make a purchase you’ll have a much better idea of what it is that you’re really looking for – and be better prepared to make a choice that brings you many years of musical education and enjoyment.