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Guide to Lutes

Lute : What is it?

Lutes

Lutes are string instruments with teardrop-shaped fronts, rounded backs, and 15 to 24 strings. The strings are arranged in pairs, known as courses, except for the highest-pitched string which can stand alone. Each course consists of a high-pitched and intermediate pitched string, although in some lutes the strings are tuned an octave apart. Because of the large number of strings, lutes typically have wide fretboards flushed to the top of the body and reinforced with an ebony layer.

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Types of Lutes

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Kinds of Lutes include the following:

Medieval lutes

  • Medieval lute have four to five courses and sometimes have no frets.
  • The courses are usually plucked in unison with plectrums.
  • They produce strong, warm notes with good rhythm, allowing them to be played without percussion.


Renaissance lutes


  • Renaissance lutes have six to 10 courses spanning several pitches.
  • They can be performed solo, but are more commonly used in ensembles.
  • They are tuned similarly to guitars, which makes them easier to learn for beginners.


Baroque lutes

  • Baroque lutes have 13 to 14 courses usually tuned in d-minor.
  • They are usually played in short notations, where the courses are plucked one to three times at each note.
  • They are best played in small private venues instead of large halls.

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Choosing Lutes (Buying tips)

Back shape: Choose a lute with a wide curve rather than a fully rounded back. This will make it easier for beginners to balance the lute on their lap while playing. For playing in large venues, look for a more rounded back for better resonance.

Material: Choose a lute with a high-quality spruce soundboard. Make sure the wood is light, rigid, and polished to prevent cracks and dents. Look for synthetic tuning pegs for a tighter hold on the strings.

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