orig. Iraq, Egypt The oud is a wooden string instrument with close ties to the European lute. Its oldest known pictorial record dates back 5,000 years to southern Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq.
Although there are structural variations, the instrument is typically characterized by eleven strings and a bowl-shaped wooden back that allows for maximum resonance and tonal complexity. The neck does not have frets, making the oud a particularly expressive instrument and conducive to improvisation. It is played by plucking or strumming the strings with a plectrum (pick).