The Luteshop Blog

Seven course lute after Venere – a case study

One problem lutemakers have is that although there is an expectation that they will make “copies” of original instruments, those original instruments have survived in a state which is very far from their original conception.  So when there are some instruments which seem to have survived in close to their original layout (number of courses, string length, and so on) we pay them special attention and tend to regard these few specimens as representative of their type and worthy of copying.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The Great Silence

Scene 1: You are in the audience in a modern concert hall. The stage is lit, the music stands are in place. When the musicians come onto the stage, the audience bursts into applause and the performers bow. The first piece of music is lively and elaborate, and at the end the audience applauds again – and the performers bow again.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it…

It might seem on the face of it to be impossible to know how people spoke 400 years ago, before the invention of sound recordings, but in fact there has been considerable research in this area and we can be pretty certain about some aspects of the way that Shakespeare or Jonson or Dowland would have pronounced their texts.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized


Message in a bottle: how to play ornaments in 16th century lute music

Listening to lute recordings of the last 50 years, it is rare to find any ornaments at all played in “pre-baroque” music.  The consensus seems to be that it wasn’t until  the 17th century that cadential trills and other kinds of ornaments became an essential part of lute playing.  When playing the beautiful polyphonic music of the early 16th century,

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized


Playing polyphony on the lute

In the previous blog I looked at historical evidence for fingering chords and some scale passages. But lute music is usually polyphonic, so how is the polyphony notated in lute tablature, and how can we best interpret it? Tablature was apparently invented at around the same time that lutenists started playing all the parts of a composition with their fingers rather than just one or two parts with a plectrum.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

All fingers and thumbs: some thoughts on left-hand fingering

Many lute players today have played the guitar before starting to play the lute, and while it was obvious that right-hand technique would have to be different for the lute, to cope with double strings, lack of nails, and possibly even “thumb-inside” – it has generally been assumed that the left hand was already well trained and needed no real consideration.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Making things, making mistakes, and perfection

Having now spent most of a lifetime making things, I reflect that I’ve been lucky to do so. In our culture we tend to distinguish people who “work with their hands” from people who “work with their brains”. Our education system has enshrined this for hundreds of years, and even now many people are fond of the idea that some children are “academic” and should go to university and study traditional subjects,

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Octave stringing: ‘irregular to the rules of music?’

If you asked a modern lute player – any time from the revival of the lute in the early 20th century to the present day – whether their bass courses were tuned in octaves, they would probably say that they were tuned in unisons because none other than the great John Dowland himself had said that tuning in octaves was “irregular to the rules of music”.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Body frets: Who needs them?

…those that be exercised in the same art, stop the strings justly … as cunningly as though they had frets.

Nowadays everybody uses tied gut frets as far as possible on the neck (usually up to the 8th fret), and wooden frets up to fret 12, but in the past it was normal to use no frets at all beyond the 8th.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Corants by John Sturt and Jacques Gaultier

The ML lute book, (c.1610-40) is a major source for the music of John Sturt (fl.1612-1625) and he may even have been the main scribe (apart from the formation of the letter “e” the writing of tablature, final flourishes and text are very similar to the scribe of Berlin 40461 who apparently signed his name at the end of this corant).  

Read more ›

Posted in Featured pieces
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Luteshop blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.