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OUTI (OUD): One of the Greek Folk instruments

Updated on February 2, 2013

The mystical sound of the oud, like an invisible companion, leads me secretly to the fascinating world of the Thousand and One nights. Dreams and visions of palaces with interior patios; water fountains streaming among orange trees full of fragrant blossoms. The sun rays penetrate the walls from tiny windows carved with exquisite arabesques and blend with the scent of insense. A call to an internal world of prayer and daydream. The soul is uplifted, beyond joy or sorrow, raising on the magic carpet of music to the divine gardens of the spirit.



Originating in the deep Orient, the Arabic peninsula, as its name declares (al-oud) this mystical instrument came to Greece from Asia Minor, after the catastrophe of Smyrni, in 1922. It brought the reminiscence of a glorified past of the Greek population in that area. It is now considered as one of the greek folk instruments



The outi has a large, pear shape sound box, a short broad arm without movable frets, its head almost at right angles to the arm, with tuning keys at the sides. Its soundbox is a little larger than that of the lute.The soundbox is made on a wooden frame, onto the top of which a triangular piece of wood ("dakos") made of lime, or other soft wood is temporarily screwd. This piece of wood remains inside the soundbox as a support. Later on in the process, a runnel is carved into this, into which the arm is fitted. Thin sheets of wood (always an odd number of them) called "doughes" are fitted onto the "dakos" and then the rest are attached alternately left and right in a fishbone pattern. For the soundbox, only hard woods such as ebony, palisander, maple, beech, rosewood, mahogany, walnut or cypress are used. The arm is made in one piece and is fitted into the groove carved into the section of the "dakos" situated at the top of the soundbox. The arm must fit perfectly and be firmly glued into place. The more the two sections form a solid entity, the better the instrument will be and it will not warp.

Nowadays the arm is not always made in one piece, but of pieces of different types of wood, stuck together. The lid is made of white wood, such as pine or fir, which must be free of knots or other imperfections.


The outi is played with a plectrum of cow's horn, tortoiseshell or, as is usual today, of plastic. It has five double identically tuned strings and one single string. It is tuned in fourths and one tone, forming four tetrachords and one tone. The strings used to be made of gut wrapped in silk thread, but nowadays classical guitar strings are used. In the old days a single string used to be added underneath the highest double string, known as the "bam". This string has now been transferred to a position above the fifth double string.



The eternal theme of emigration, of departure from beloved ones is expressed in a touching way, coming out of the heart of the interpreters and of the instrument itself. The sea as the media of departure, is being cursed upon, in this song. What instrument will curse the air, the media of departure of contemporary emigrants?


My source of information has been:

- the book "GREEK FOLK INSTRUMENTS" by Fivos Anogianakis, publisher "MELISSA"

- the CDs "GREEK FOLK INSTRUMENTS" by Petros Tabouris


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    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Lovely lens and informative! love listening to the Greek music.

    • sponias lm profile image

      sponias lm 7 years ago

      Very interesting lens about the traditional Greek music, and its basic instrument!

    • YsisHb profile image

      YsisHb 7 years ago

      @jptanabe: By the way! The song "The sea" is an old Cretan song

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Lovely! Never heard of the Oud or Outi before, but I love the sound of Greek music.