Comparison of Guitar and Oud

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Musical instruments can be referred to like anything that can produce sound; they are used in some communities globally. Musical instruments can be employed as symbols of cultural uniqueness and also in special occasions such as; marriage and rights of passage ceremonies. Also, they are widely used for some purposes including entertainment in many parts of the world .guitar and oud is among the most commonly used musical instruments both conventionally, African and western setting chiefly for entertainment (Silver 345). Although the guitar is mostly associated with western countries, the oud which is its progenitor has been operative mostly in Spanish and Arab nations. Both oud and guitar can be classified by their origin, appearance, size, and sound produced and use. This paper seeks to outline the similarities and deceptive differences between the oud and guitar both in the ancient and the recent society.

Comparisons of the guitar and Oud

According to Sachs-Hornbostel systems, both guitar and oud are chordophones. This is because sound production is by vibration of one or many strings depending on how the strings are connected to the sound compartment which is mainly made of wood or plastic. The physical form of guitar bears a resemblance to that of oud regarding outward profile and the constituents used in coming up with the device(Silver 345). Similarly, both guitar and oud are categorized as string instruments of the same origin made of wood, comprising of a projecting neck holding the strings in position to allow easier pulling and strumming during a playing of the instrument.  When playing both of the instruments, one needs to pluck the strings devoted to the neck using one hand while fretting with the other hand at the same time. By doing this, the sound is effectively created, bringing about melodies that are appealing to the listener.

Guitar to be the same as oud produces sound by the same mechanism. Whereby, conversion of the dynamism from the vibration of the strings into the air after plucking of the instruments. The oud and the tradition guitar produce sound by the auditory or acoustic means. When the instruments are plucked, sound waves initiated from the threads go through the frame of the instrument, leading to sound generation(Silver 345). Employment of soundboard not only in a guitar but also oud empowers the string’s sound sensations to be more reinforced. So as to create sound originating from the strings. In both oud and guitar, the strings are plucked by the use of a finger. Alternatively, a plectrum can also be used. The string’s strength, tension, flexibility, quantity, and stretch have a great impact on the sound generated by the guitar as well as the oud. Finally, in the society, the guitar and the oud are both used for entertainment.


The oud is the oldest as compared to the guitar which is the most recent musical string instrument.   The oud was referred as “wood” and is divided into three types namely; Arabian oud, Turkish oud, and the Persian barbat. It was developed from a Persian instrument known as the Barbat. Therefore, it’s of the Central Asian origin (Silver 346). Guitar, on the other hand, originated from Spain in the early 1600’s, derived from a Latin word guitarra. However, many theories have been said concerning its evolution. It is comprised of acoustic and electric types of guitars enabling it to produce varying tunes and melodies.

Differences arise regarding the appearance of both the guitar and oud. While the neck of the guitar is long and fretted, the Oud’s neck is short and fretless (Wang and Ohya 187).  Oud is frequently defined as  “ short-necked” , the lute type musical instrument consisting of numerous strings in groups of 5 or 6 courses. However, the guitar is a fretted tool with extended, flat woodened or plastic box, and a flattened back having sides that are curved (Silver 346). To differ from the guitar, the oud has pear-shaped rounded body vaulted just before the back. Whereas, the body of the guitar is not evaluated in the direction of the back. Regarding the number of strings. The guitar has 6-12 strings depending on whether it is acoustic or electrical guitar. In contrast, oud has 11 to 13 strings and can be more. Moreover, the oud is often made of light wooden materials and therefore a light framework, on the other hand,  the guitar requires a durable and resilient framework thus hardwoods are very essential in making it.

A sound produced by both the guitar and oud is due to the different tones arising from the strings.  Although the guitar and oud produce an acoustic sound, the oud has its distinctive sound created due to the many strings paired in doubles resulting in a  two and a half octave ranged oud. It is through this that the oud can produce a very profound, somber and high-quality tone. In contrast, the guitar can produce a wide range of notes (high or low pitched tones). Its fret and the varying sizes greatly influence the difference in harmonics in the guitar, tune modification from deep bass to high –pitched sounds is predominantly dependent on the mass, length and the type of the strings used. Normally, single-note melodies sound produced by the oud is due to the repeated ‘micro-tones’ usage.  The guitar can be played using various styles including; finger style( classical music) or the plectrum ( pluck) for other styles. Oud, on the other hand, is played with a feather. These constitute the difference in sound produced by the instruments.

Musical instruments have different roles that they play in the society, for various functions and activities. The guitar and the oud were also played in the communities that used them for various occasions and purposes. The oud has a great significance in the Arabian culture and also employed in Syria, Iraq, Arabia, Persia, America, Turkey, Spain, Middle East and North Africa(Silver 347).  The oud can be played in solo and boardroom can also be used in certain happenings that carry societal or communal implication. In cultures of Arabia and North Africa. Additionally, the oud has been of great impact in accompanying vocal folk music traditionally. The Oud’s lengthy solo note tunes make it a more perfect and effective musical instrument for “makam-based’ music, which is the most known and familiar genre of music in the Arab cultures. Also, the oud can be used for entertainment on special occasions such as weddings and other cultural ceremonies.

The guitar, to be different from the oud is of pronounced importance in America and Europe string instrument.  The guitar is chiefly used in the modern society, due to its ability to produce some melodies it perfectly suits its purpose as an entertainment device. Acoustic guitar historically was  developed in the pre-historic Europe as an instrument for use in entertainment. Also, in the latest times, more guitars such as acoustic guitars have been designed including electronic guitar for purposes of entertainment(Wang and Ohya 187).

 The setting of the oud and guitar differ in several ways as illustrated below.  First, the two and a half octave range setting of the oud gives room for a more deep and somber melody, which is more often found in the Arabic orchestras. It is this through this setting that drives the oud to be played in both a single tone and a solo together with a voice. The delicate voice of the oud can be easily being interfered or gotten rid of completely by playing it in solo. Most significantly, playing oud in solo categorizes the setting, improvisation, creativeness, and composure of Turkish music and Arabic classical. Correspondingly, Classical configurations characterize the playing of the oud ( single note and a voice), setting. Classical compositions are also likely to be elaborative, long and with more attractive solo melodies mainly for the romantic poetry. Such setting can be outlined and identified from vocalists for example Said Mikewi(Egypt).

However, the European and American setting is to a greater extent associated with the guitar. The uncountable genres of music that are characterized by different chorals and vocals, such as, classical and jazz music is brought about by the guitar, therefore, finding it's used in the recent society.  Secondly, guitar setting can outfit a variety of particular genres of music due to the ability of the string to adjust and the capability of the fret (Wang and Ohya188). This allows the guitar to be used widely in the music industry for recreational and entertainment purposes.


In summing up, the guitar and the oud are musical instruments and have a   long-term contribution to cultural progression in both the African and western setting. The instruments are both chordophones as per the Sachs-Hornbostel classification and were used traditionally for various purposes. The oud is the oldest and the forefather of the guitar thus leading to their similarities in a way or another. The similarities and differences of ought and guitar are mainly based on their appearance, setting, sound, the role they play in the society and their origin. More developments are still being carried out on the musical instruments. Therefore, there is need for more research on the similarities and differences between the oud and guitar to make them more effective in the music industry .despite, the fact is that the appearance of the guitar may be closely related to the one of oud, differences are many as compared to the similarities.

Work Cited

Faherty, Michael, and Neil L. Aaronson. "Acoustical Differences Between Treble Guitar Strings Of Different Tension (I.E., Gauge).." The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 128.4 (2014): 2449-2449.

Silver, Hilary. "Divided Cities In The Middle East." City & Community 9.4 (2013): 345-357.

Wang, Zhao, and Jun Ohya. "Detecting And Tracking The Guitar Neck Towards The Actualization Of A Guitar Teaching-Aid System." The Abstracts of the international conference on advanced mechatronics : toward evolutionary fusion of IT and mechatronics : ICAM 2015.6.0 (2015): 187-188.

October 05, 2023


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