Acquiring a lute have the right to be a considerable challenge in itself as (unlike the guitar) lutes space not often discovered in regional music shops. If, by chance, you do take place upon one, they space usually poor quality factory-made lutes that are much more of a gimmick 보다 a significant musical instrument. This often way that one need to be all set to purchase tools from skilled luthiers everywhere the world. As most luthiers will market a range of instruments, it is essential that one has actually an understanding of the layout of lute the will ideal suit one’s playing.

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A. Types of Lute

Throughout the early-to mid-16th century, lutes were most generally strung v 5 courses and also a single treble string. This is defined as at an early stage as 1511 through Sebastien Virdung in Musica Getutscht:I advise, therefore, the you take it up a lute with eleven strings, the is found virtually everywhere....First girlfriend must understand that the eleven strings are distributed among six courses, constantly two strings for each course, v the sole exception of the sixth course which normally has only a solitary string” <1>

Each course was comprised of either: two unison strings or (in the bass register) two strings pitched one octave apart. Historically motivated coursed lutes have a wonderfully rich and full-bodied texture while the octave (bass) courses include clarity come what would certainly otherwise be a rather muddy texture.

As late Renaissance and early Baroque lutenists were experimenting with more complicated and adventurous develops of harmony, there to be a solid desire come see rise in the harmonic ability of the lute. The six-course lute didn’t offer the harmonic adaptability needed to do fugues or continuo, for this reason gradually an ext and much more strings were (quite literally) added to Renaissance lutes. Lot to the dismay of historians, countless 6 food Renaissance lutes to be ‘cannabilised’ in the 17th century, fitted with extension pieces and brand-new peg boxes to hold more strings.

Towards the end of the 16th century, it to be not unusual for lutes to it is in strung through ten or even eleven courses, and by the at an early stage 17th century lutes were built with upwards of fourteen courses (referred to as arciliuto (arch lutes) or theorboed lutes) and tuned in G, F or D-minor. Due to their enhanced volume and also harmonic range, the arch lute or theorboed lute ended up being the favoured solo tool of Baroque lutenists.

Unfortunately, to play all the repertoire from the beforehand Renaissance come the late Baroque, one would need a “minimum of a dozen instruments in order to deal with with all of the different tunings and also different types of tools to right the style of music the you"re playing.”<2> because that a touring musician, this is about as impractical as it is financially burdening.

As a result, countless lutenists will pick the instrument that ideal satisfies the format of arsenal they space performing. Because that some, a desire for finish historical accuracy method early 16th century music have the right to only be play on a replica 6 food alto lute. However, come an amateur lutenist, it seems a luxury (in irradiate of the extensive repertory of lute music created for instruments of seven or more courses) to border oneself to an instrument of only six courses. However, in doing so, details subtle characteristics and physical characteristics (of the six-course lute) will certainly compliment the repertory in a way that perhaps later on lutes perform not. An example of this is provided by Paul Odette, that notes “the at an early stage lute has octave strings in the bass, and also so, in the instance of a six-note chord, you shed three the the voices if you shot to use a late 16th century lute.” <3> Likewise, If one chooses to play beforehand Renaissance music ~ above a ten-course lute, the extra diapasons will carry out a sorry (or possibly unsympathetic) resonance the was no necessarily wanted by lutenists of the at an early stage 16th-century.

Another an extremely important factor to consider is that playing music created for the 7 and 8 food lute ~ above a 9 or 10 food lute is considerably more complicated and difficult, due to the bespeak and number of the base strings. In plenty of 7 course pieces, the 7th course (usually short D or F) is used typically as both an open string and as a fretted string. Composers composing for the 7 food lute will certainly voice chords and jump in between the sixth and 7th process in a method that takes benefit of the fact that they space adjacent strings. That is far more tedious ~ above a 10 food lute because there room two base strings in between the sixth and and also what would typically be the 7th ( but is now the 9th) course. One can experiment with various ordering/tunings the the bass strings to assist this issue, yet it is definitely worth considering if one is mostly wanting to play music for the 6 and 7 course lute. It seems tempting come buy a 10 food lute as a ‘jack of all trades’ instrument that have the right to play almost all of the collection for the alto G lute, but these are several of the inevitable draw backs of such a convenience.

Whilst this may seem an too many pedantic discussion, i am confident the after play Da Milano or Narvaez ~ above a six-course lute, one will discover it rather unsatisfying come play the same music on a lute indigenous the turn of the 16th century (just together a guitarist will certainly likely discover it unsatisfying to play Dowland on the guitar after experiencing it on the lute). Likewise, if one wishes to acquisition a theorboed or archlute lute (to play the beforehand Baroque repertoire) one will discover that the wide frets and the distance between the process makes early Renaissance music considerably an ext fatiguing and demanding for both hands. In some cases, the stretches have the right to be so severe that one is compelled to sacrifice the complete value of certain notes as the plan fingering is just not possible.

Whilst these distinctions are without doubt idealistic, i aim just to illustrate the fact that one demands to take it special treatment to select the lute that finest suits the repertoire for i m sorry one has actually a natural affinity. As there is an practically overwhelming selection of lutes available to contemporary players, begin with the collection one loves, and also find the end what lute will best serve that repertoire. (If friend still can’t decide, an 8 food lute is probably the ideal all rounder.)

The Lute family Explained:

Instruments in bold room common/good choices for all roundedness. Note: Course method a collection of 2 strings - (A modern-day 12 wire acoustic guitar could likewise be called a 6 course guitar.) many lutes have actually a single top (highest pitch) string but this is still described as the 1st course. Diapason refers come a base string listed below the common 6 course register. Girlfriend should have the ability to fret this strings down to a short C (depending ~ above the lute) however at the very least down come a short D or 9th course top top a 10 course lute and certainly all the Diapasons ~ above a 7, 8 or 9 food lute.

6 food lute - an excellent for many of the quintessentially English lute manuscripts and any Vihuela music (Luis Milan, Narvaez, early Italian arsenal such as Da Milano & huge portions of the traditional repertory the english lute music in the Holmes, Folger, Cosens and Robinson lute books). Tuning: GDAFCG

7 food lute - every one of the above, plus piece needing a short D OR short F (Most of the conventional repertory that English lute music in the of Holmes, Folger, Cosens and also Robinson lute books. Tuning: GDAFCG + (either F or D) Diapason.

8 course lute - every one of the above, plus the capability to have actually both a short F and also D diapason (or any type of two the the notes D, Eb, F or (depending on range length) C ) - A lifetimes precious of arsenal - but an extra string come worry around in 7 food music and not enough strings because that 10 course music. Common Tuning: GDAFCG+ (F and also D) Diapasons.

9 food lute - all of over plus song needing a low E/Eb or C (or any type of three the the note F, E/Eb, D or C)- 7 course repertoire deserve to be also more complicated to play as result of bass cable jumps. Typical Tuning: GDAFCG + (F, Eb, & D) or (F, D, C) Diapasons

10 course lute - every one of above, plus a diationic scale down come C in the diapasons. An extremely versatile for lot of the French repertoire, the pavans that Daniel Bacheler, later on Italian collection such together Piccinini or Zamboni and an ext contrapuntal/fugal works. Good for continuo playing however makes 7 food repertoire considerably more complex to play together the low D is now a 2 diapason jump away from 6th course. Broader frets make early 6 course music harder to play (due come stretches), these instruments give more clarity in between voices yet less upper partial resonance and ‘shimmer’. Standard tuning GDAFCG + (F/F#, E/Eb, D, C) Diapasons

11 -13 food - Usually refers to theorboed lutes particularly in D-minor tuning. These tools are suitable to lot of the beforehand Scottish manuscripts , Weiss, and later baroque composers such together Bach. (Note: tools tuned in D-minor can’t play the renaissance G lute arsenal without far-ranging retuning or re-ordering of almost all of the strings.) FDAFDA + (G,F,E,D,C,B,A) Diapasons.

14+ course - These room usually dubbed archlutes or theorboed lutes in G (not come be confused with theorbos in A, or theorboed lutes in D-minor) with the bass ranging down come an F one octave below the 7th course. Archlutes are great continuo and also solo instruments that room perfect for lot of the later Italian repertoire such together Piccinini and Zamboni (these pieces often complete with a short G to cadence in G major). Archlutes are terrific for continuo but not advisable for beginners due to size, string spacing and complexities the the bass register. They frequently have really long neck to facilitate the it is registered of the bass strings. Common tuning: GDAFCG + Fret-able (F, Eb, D, C) Diapasons +Non fret-able (B,A,G,F) Diapasons. Make sure you find one with a pegbox for courses (not solitary strings) together they space wonderful solo instruments.

14-19 wire A Lute (theorbo) - You deserve to usually spot the difference between a theorbo and an archlute since a theorbo has fifty percent as many pegs and is single strung. Theorbos are basically a single strung archlute tuned a ton higher. The most distinctive feature of a theorbo is the re-entrant tuning, meaning the height two strings space pitched one octave listed below normal pitch. They are usually the wanted continuo tool for most lutenists and also an available instrument because that guitarists due to the single stringing - one can still use nails. They are designed to be the loudest tool of the lute household as they require to compete with singers and ensembles. Castle are recognized for having very long neck come facilitate the low base registers. Note: that is near on difficult to play any of the standard solo repertoire for the Alto G lute top top the theorbo as result of the re-entrant tuning. Generally Tuned: AEBGDA + (G,F,E,D,C,B,A,G,F,E,D,C,B) Diapasons.

B. Strings

Traditionally, the ideal lute strings were made of lamb’s gut, and also as a lutenist it to be imperative that one had the ability to discern the difference between a true and also a false string. Lute players went to an excellent lengths to uncover the freshest and also best sound strings, purchasing castle from specific string machines at particular times of the year. To test the quality of a gut string, Mace suggests:

you discover it smooth and complimentary from knots, try its strength, by taking it in ~ one finish in both hands, pulling that so hard, till girlfriend perceive that strong, or rotten; and also if it be a right great strong string, that will plenty of times endanger the cutting into your flesh, quite then it will break.<4>

Sadly, most modern-day lutenists will never need such skills as the arts of making fine gut strings has actually been all yet lost. Whilst contemporary gut strings room still accessible for period instruments, castle are extremely susceptible to transforms in humidity and also are therefore impractical to use once travelling. However, if the relative humidity and temperature of the climate have the right to be loosely maintained, climate gut strings have actually the potential to respond in a an ext predictable way.

A common different to gut strings are fabricated strings such as nylon, fluorocarbon (PVF) or Nylgut. Whilst nylon and also PVF strings are far better equipped to deal with humidity changes and also less vulnerable to breaking, lock sustain much longer 보다 gut strings, and are usually substantially louder (especially in the lower register). These qualities seem to align rather well v the aesthetic of contemporary guitar playing, whereby (to project in big concert halls) luthiers go to an excellent lengths to boost the sustain and also volume of their instruments. Yet to numerous lutenists, the added bass and also overall sustain that is typical of nylon and particular PVF strings is a significant setback the significantly changes the character of the lute. This approach makes a lot more sense as soon as one considers the original performance aesthetic the Renaissance lutenists.

The lute was considered a dignified and delicate instrument, “used frequently at the going to bed the the kings of France.”<5> follow to The Burwell Lute Tutor a good lutenist have to “play neatly and in a small room or to please a little company (the lute not being fit to play in a hall prior to a multitude that people; there the violin is many fit.)”<6> It seems that the volumetric restrictions of the lute to be not just recognised, yet celebrated by Renaissance lutenists. Once one approaches the conflict on strings native this perspective, boosted resonance and volume is not necessarily preferable over a richer or much more articulate sound. Or, together the Burwell Lute Tutor puts it, “like come a breakable stomach, a great bit and well seasoned doth more good than a good piece that beef and a great deal of other meat.”<7> As explained by Andrea Damiani in his Method because that Renaissance Lute:

Gut strings in the bass definitely do no vibrate as lengthy as nylon strings, however they do have their very own characteristics, such as the attack taking on a much more vocal quality. Furthermore, much less resonance makes the contrapuntal line an ext pure and also transparent.<8>

However, the great dilemma dealing with lutenists the the 21st century is that modern nylon strings room “not satisfactory substitutes …. they"re the only substitutes we have actually if we desire to pat in tune in the modern-day life that a touring musician.”<9>

On the various other hand, over there is a compromise in between gut and also synthetic nylon called Nylgut. This strings have actually been developed by Aquila Corde Armoniche and also posses a very similar decay and also tonal characteristic come gut. Castle are easily accessible in a matte finish (NNG) or highly polished (NGE). NNG strings are much more analogous come true gut and give the fingertips of the ideal hand more purchase on the course. The NGE strings create less string noise (and are far better suited for recording) however are much more slippery and also hence can be harder to grip through the ideal hand. Aquila additionally make a mix of different bass strings the mimic the sound and feel of timeless twisted gut such as the copper loaded red strings (CD). Return Nylgut strings carry out not posses the same tonal attributes as gut strings, castle are one of the closest thing we have that allows lutenists to enjoy the benefits of the increased reliability and also longevity of synthetic strings. Ultimately, together is the situation with the guitar, the ‘ideal’ cable will differ from instrument to instrument and it is only through trial and error that one can discover the equipment that ideal suits one’s instrument and ear.

C. Frets and Temperament

1. Frets

During the 16th–17th century, lutenists were meant to know how to collection up your instrument v movable gut frets. Together a guitarist, supplied to fixed metal frets, this means one is currently in regulate of the action, temperament, and intonation that the instrument. As the gut frets stay out, new ones must be tied to the neck of the lute, arranged in sequential gauges and tuned to an proper temperament. Follow to Mace, “if the lug less 보다 nine , the is also short, and also if more, the is also long; thus nine is esteemed the finest number because that a true sized neck.”<10> there are number of variations that a noose knot that are supplied to tie a gut fret, but the most vital thing is the means the worry is stretched into position. Mace instructs:

Take the fret (thus far fastened) and also draw that so nearby (by both ends) as you have the right to well, come stiffen it come the neck; then, (holding both ends fast in her left hand) with your ideal hand and left, pressure it under so low (towards c. D. E. F..) as you can; then put it increase again come the nut, where you will discover it much too vast or slack; therefore take the ends, (in every hand one) and draw that stiff and also close again…Thus do it three or four times, it spins at critical you discover it stiff and also close again.<11>

What Mace is trying to say, in a rather unclear manner, is the one can make use of the natural taper the the lute’s neck (that widens as it will the ship of the lute) by at first tying the fret close come the seed (or previously tied fret) and then (once the is fastened as tight together it have the right to be) slide it up right into position. This will automatically stretch the fret in place and also can be repeated (as Mace suggests) come draw any slack the end of the fret. It is necessary that the frets sit totally flush against the fingerboard, as any raised sections (especially at the top and also bottom sheet of the fingerboard) will certainly dull the sound the the strings.

The frets need to be i ordered it so that the fret with the thickest gauge is closest to the nut. The very first fret (as it requirements to be significantly thicker than the nine fret) deserve to be a diapason indigenous a theorbo or viola da gamba and also the next fret should be fastened v the exact same gauge, or v an incrementally smaller gauge string. Quite than needing nine different sized frets, the is feasible to fret a lute with 4 or five different gauges the gut string, as long as the basic fret gauge is diminished in a action wise manner until the last worry is reached. This will median that, in places, two or also three of the exact same gut string deserve to be used to tie sequential frets. The exact positioning of the frets identify the temperament and tuning that chords and also intervals. Whilst Dowland (in his writing A selection of Lute Lessons) explains his fairly methodical and also scientific method to tuning the frets, The Burwell Lute Tutor esteems that “the best method to location them is by the ear, singing the gamut .”<12> Likewise, The Burwell Lute Tutor instructs the player as follows:

Strike an open string and sing ‘ut’ ; then<,> skipping one fret and laying the finger ~ above c of any string<,> friend shall sing ‘Re’. Climate skip a worry again and stop in e; it will certainly sing ‘Mi.’<13>

Mace seconds the importance of tuning by ear, describing the “the best means is to place your frets as you tune up your lute, by your ear, follow to unisons, 3ds, 5ths, and also 8ths”.<14> Mace goes on come instruct together follows:

First , track it therefore well as you deserve to open, (without frets) making all agreeing strings accord, in their number of concords; and when you space so satisfied, climate attempt the addressing of her frets to their certain places, and also not before…and the an ext exact your lute is strung, the much more readily will your frets uncover their places, and consequently your company of tuning the easier.<15>

Whilst this may seem a productive task, movable frets gave Renaissance lutenists the capacity to sweeten specific keys, chords, or intervals.

2. Temperament

Long prior to mean tone, the an initial tempered range was the Pythagorean scale, where all of the fifths (except one) are precisely in tune.<16> However, the more in track one provides the 5ths, the worse the 3rds sound, and as a result 3rds in the Middle periods were taken into consideration less consonant. Mean-tone temperament was designed to sweeten the 3rds and temper the 5ths so that some tricks (generally those v fewer sharps or flats) sound pure and harmonious. However, mean-tone temperament produces part 5ths and also 3rds that are “wildly sharp, but these were retained in secrets which composers took care to avoid.”<17>

Unlike same temperament (a tuning mechanism designed for resolved pitch instruments such as the keyboard or modern guitar) average tone temperament to be designed for movable pitched instruments (such together the voice, viol, or lute) and also was the dominant tuning system of the 16th century.<18> In typical tone temperament “all 3rds pure and also 4ths and 5ths as nearly pure as possible.”<19> Whilst the specific positioning the the frets (in average tone temperament) varies because that every lute, by slightly adjusting the frets one will notice that some 3rds may sound sweeter and more resonant, while various other 3rds or 5ths might sound dissonant or out of tune.

Unfortunately, together each stress covers many strings, any kind of minute adjustments will concurrently favour certain strings and also compromise others. These space compromises that are on optimal of the compromises already inherent within mean-tone tuning. In various other words, that is not possible to accurately capture mean-tone temperament top top the lute unless each wire was independently fretted. The tuning the the frets is absolutely a balancing plot that deserve to be constantly adjusted (to suit certain keys) or left in an approximate ‘middle ground’ (equal temperament). Every little thing the tuning “one need to put castle come the lute v curiosity.”<20>

D. Modern-day Lutes

Whilst the resurgence of the Renaissance lute has led countless luthiers (inspired by strict historical accuracy) to make duplicates of timeless 16th century instruments, there are some equipments who have actually approached lute building from a 21st century perspective. These lutes are strung with greater tension nylon or carbon strings (not courses) and also have an action and cable spacing the is somewhere in between a traditional lute and a modern-day guitar. This allows guitarists the adaptability to use nails top top the lute, and thus the ability to beat both the guitar and also the lute with only a tiny technical adjustment. These high stress and anxiety lutes share similar physical size to timeless Renaissance lutes, but use a modern method of soundboard bracing (essentially guitar bracing) and also often have fixed steel frets. These lutes do the production of a clean, resonant sound, an ext straight-forward and more reliable (compared come the somewhat precarious tone production qualities of historical lutes). In this regard, they have actually made far-reaching advances from the lutes pioneered by the likes that Julian Bream in the 1960s, despite the evident similarities.

It is true the an historically exact lute of 10 or much more gut courses with 19 wood pegs and tied gut frets of varying thicknesses, is not exactly a helpful instrument. The has specific sound features that are distinctive and really beautiful, yet as most lutenists deserve to attest to, tuning end 20 strings, tweaking intonation, and constantly monitoring and also replacing frets can end up being a loathsome task. In fact, it has been argued by part scholars the these hindrances are responsible for the lutes at an early stage demise. Jonathan Santa Maria bouquet states:

As lutes continued to get supplementary strings, they came to be more difficult to tune and maintain. This hindrances, together with the rising popularity of violins and also keyboards, thrust the lute practically to extinction.

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However, single strung lutes execute not posses the indescribable, almost ethereal beauty beauty that have the right to only be made through a coursed lute. One who has the patience, willingness and also curiosity to learn to play a coursed lute will certainly be bonus in the long run. If but a guitarist is wanting come dabble in lute play (without compromising their an approach on the guitar) a solitary strung lute will perhaps be a much more practical instrument as one will certainly encounter far less technical difficulties before one is may be to make a to solve sound on the instrument.