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Monday, 22 February 2016


The lute is a pear-shaped stringed instrument of ancient Arabian origin. It is descended from the Persian and Arabian Oud, The instrument was brought to Spain by the Moors and spread widely throughout Europe during the time of the Crusades. By the 14th century a standardized instrument had emerged.

The earliest substantial repertory of independent idiomatic instrumental music was for the lute, starting just before 1500.

Originally it had four strings that were played with a plectrum like its Oriental original. About the mid-15th century, paired strings were introduced, providing increased resonance.

During the latter half of the 15th century, the technique was established of striking the strings with the fingers instead of with the plectrum. By the end of the century the lute had acquired additional strings - as many as seven courses were not uncommon.

During the Renaissance, bigger lutes were designed.  One new kind of lute made in this period was the theorbo. Another kind was the archlute.

The lute was the premier solo instrument of the sixteenth century, but continued to accompany singers as well.The lute song was developed by the lute composers of Spain, England, and France, who customarily sang their songs to their own lute accompaniment.

Nicholas Lanier, 1613

The first book of lute songs ever printed was by a Spanish composer, Don Luis Milán in 1536,

Until the latter part of the 17th century, lute strings were made of gut, though reference to silk strings can be found. Thereafter the use of covered wire strings became prevalent.

Over the course of the Baroque era the lute was increasingly relegated to the continuo accompaniment, and was eventually superseded in that role by keyboard instruments.

The lute almost fell out of use after 1800, but enjoyed a revival with the awakening of interest in historical music around 1900 and throughout the century.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia, Comptons Encyclopedia

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