Medieval Lute

Name: Medieval Lute.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Period:
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe & Europe.

Description: No lute has survived from medieval Europe. The instrument is well documented in numerous manuscript illustrations, paintings, drawings and sculptures from the period. The medieval lute is attested to have developed from the Arabic oud, which was present in Moorish Spain as early as the 9th century. The lute appears in many iconographic sources from throughout the Medieval period, often in the hands of angels when depicted in religious sources or on cathedral reliefs, or in the hands of male or female players in secular settings.

It is known that by the end of the period lutenists are mentioned in association with royal courts throughout Europe. The use of the medieval lute amongst other social classes is less clear. It is depicted being played as both a solo instrument and in combination with one or a few other instruments. No repertoire specific to the lute survives from this period, and this suggests that well-known melodies were performed extemporaneously on the instrument often in support of singing.

During subsequent centuries it spread to other parts of Medieval Europe including Germany where, by the early 15th century. Frets were added to the fingerboard. The neck was shortened from earlier forms of the instrument, and the acute bend of the pegbox became common. This lute design continued to evolve during the Renaissance period. During which a greater number of strings were added. Changes to the width of the neck to accommodate these additional courses were made, and the lute began to be constructed in a wider range of more standardized sizes.

Citations: Bibliography: Ian Harwood and Diana Poulton 1984 Lute, 3-7, NGDMI v2: 553-575 ; Keith Polk 1992 German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, patrons and Performance Practice © Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ; Douglas Smith, Douglas Alton 2002 ; A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance. [Lexington, VA?]: Lute Society of America ; Crawford Young 2000 Lute, Gittern, & Citole, in Ross W. Duffin, ed., The Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press ; Websites:

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