25 thoughts on “Lute”

  1. How does one best hold a lute? The guitar is conveniently shaped to sit on the lap of the player, but how does one stop the lute trying to escape?

  2. Dear Myscha,

    It is indeed a problem. Some players use a strap, others use a piece of a rubber mat between their body and the lute, which helps keep it still. They are not the easiest of instruments to hold, but don’t let that put you off playing one!

  3. Anonymous said:

    Dear Rob,

    just found your new shiny website – nicely done and very well arranged.

    I know this is not a Jukebox, but if you ever wonder which piece to record next, I for one would love to hear a (second) interpretation of Port Jean Lindsay, now on your M. Prior lute.
    Not that your first video of it isn’t overwhelmingly beautiful already, but rather because I can’t get enough of it!

    Best regards and take care,


  4. Cheers, Teja. It is indeed a beautiful piece. I’ll return to it someday, for sure.


  5. Anonymous said:

    Great! Looking forward to it.

    Furthermore I was wondering about something else. I share your opinion about short scale guitars with all their benefits. Yet I was wondering, if, regarding vihuela pieces, you actually prefer them over a “real” vihuela, and if so, why?


    • Good question. First of all, I enjoy playing the vihuela. It looks different, has a different feel, and I think it helps me get closer to what the composer had in mind. On the other hand, vihuela music can sound great on small guitars with gut strings – great but different.

      I’m not sure which I prefer most, which is quite an admission, considering the price difference…I was genuinely surprised that vihuela music could sound so good on a cheap guitar with good-quality gut strings. And judging by all the emails I’ve had on the subject, I am not alone 🙂

  6. Beautiful playing 🙂

  7. John W. Pierce said:

    Hi Rob,
    As usual, wonderful playing. 🙂

    Quite a long time ago I ran across a reference to a note in an early-to-mid 17th century lute book where the instructor advised his student to not play behind her head or do other things tavern players did to get more money. I’m fairly certain the young lady was English rather than Scottish. Unfortunately, I either didn’t write down the reference or, more likely, have managed to lose it. Do you by chance remember having ever seen such a comment in any of the early lute books? This isn’t of any real importance. It’s just one of those little things that seems to surface with annoying frequency as I get older and sends me on fruitless searches through old notes, computer files, Google searches, etc.

    • John, sorry for the delay in responding. I’ve heard of this in connection with the baroque guitar, not the lute. But I can’t remember the source. It’s a good story, anyway. Nothing is new…

  8. John Downing said:

    In her lute book (1660 – 1672) Miss Mary Burwell writes in the 16th Chapter ‘Concerning Errors and Abuses that are committed sbout the Lute’ that ‘It is a disgrace for the lute to play Country dances, Songs or Courantes of Violins as likewise to play Tricks with ones Lute to play behind the back etc. The Lute is a noble Instrument not made for Debaucheries, Ranting or playing in the Streets, to give serenades to Signora Isabella”

    Perhaps this is the reference in question?

  9. John Downing said:

    Burwell also writes that lutes should not be played in taverns or to make people dance or to accompany song!

    I should have added that a full facsimile ‘The Burwell Lute Tutor’ was published by Boethius Press in 1974 (now out of print?). However, a full transcription of the manuscript by Thurston Dart appeared in the Galpin Society Journal Vol. 11, 1958. This article may be viewed on line by registering with JSTOR as a MyJSTOR member. This allows the reading of three articles a month from Journals such as the Galpin Society free of charge. Registration is also free.

  10. John Downing said:

    Correction – as a MyJSTOR member of JSTOR one can read, on line, up to 6 articles per month not 3. There have been a number of lute related articles published in the Galpin Society Journal over the years all now available for free viewing as a MyJSTOR member.
    The transcription by Thurston Dart of the original manuscript by Burwell covers most but not all of the manuscript in modernised English. Apparently Dart for some reason transcribes the musical examples a fifth higher than originally intended.

  11. John W. Pierce said:

    John Downing, thank you very much. That is exactly the reference (ill-remembered though it was). And thank you, also, for the JSTOR reference. A Google search revealed that scribd.com has what appears to be the same transcription, and a couple of copies of the facsimile edition are for sale in the $100 (US) range. By the way, Mary Burwell married Colonel Robert Walpole, had 19 children (nine of whom lived past infancy), and was the mother of Sir Robert Walpole (unofficially the first English prime minister), and of Mary Walpole who married Charles Townshend (another very important early-to-mid-18th century political figure).

  12. John Downing said:

    My pleasure.
    Burwell – although English – her instructions for the 11 course ”French’ lute should also be appropriatel for the Scottish lute of the time period (?) – a consequence of the old established political connection between Scotland and France (the ‘Auld Alliance’). As a child I remember my Scottish grand mother using words of French origin such as ‘jujube’ (candy or sweet confection) and ‘pallyas’ (straw bedding – ‘paille’ French for straw), for example – that do not appear in the old Norman French vocabulary that strongly influenced the English language.

    • There are many French words in Scots. My wife writes Scots language dictionaries, and did her PhD thesis on the first large-scale Scots dictionary by Dr John Jamieson in the early 19th Century. A very interesting area of research. Most of the non-Scottish pieces in the Scottish lute manuscripts are French, some Dutch, and only a few English.

  13. Daniël Climan said:

    Dear Rob, i newly discovered your website. You refreshed my earlier dream to play the lute. Thanks for that and the beautiful music you share so warmly. You make me, a 62 year old guitarplayer (classical music, flamenco and some jazz) take the step to dive into the fascinating world of lute playing. So i decided to buy your lute book on melbay. But i could not find it. Is it out of print Maybe? Thanks for your work,
    (excuses for my crappy english, i am flemish).

  14. Eric Phillips said:

    Hi Rob,

    I’m an intermediate level classical guitarist, and recently, my wife and kids surprised me by giving me an 8-course Renaissance lute (a Roosebeck). It has always been a dream of mine to play lute. I’d love to take lessons, but that is just not a possibility right now. I notice you have a book called “Introduction to Lute”. Is that what you recommend I get started with, or is there something better for me as a guitarist? Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Eric Phillips

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