The Renaissance Lute Beginner Page

I've made this web page to gather together the various tips and pieces of information I've accumulated as a beginning lutenist. If you're considering learning to play the lute, recently purchased a lute, or are just getting started, you'll hopefully find something useful here.

Other lute pages at this web site:

- Lute beginner music and exercises: free tablature downloads to learn by.

- how to replace your lute frets: directions on tying new gut frets.

- lute pickup FAQ: inside or outside the lute? What kind of pickup?

- How to improve a bargain lute: tips for the lutenist on a tight budget.

- Lute related web sites

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General Advice:

1) Buy Fronimo: Fronimo is an excellent program for reading and creating lute tablature, as well as playing the piece via MIDI. For the beginner, it is extremely helpful to be able to play along with a piece of music, and any sound card's built in synthesizer will do a good enough job to practice with. Click here for information about beginner lute music and exercises I've put into Fronimo, that you can download and use for free. Click here to download an evaluation version of Fronimo v2.1. All features are available, except for saving files, so you can play and practice with the tablature files above. Note that while the $150 registration fee is somewhat high for shareware, the software is very well written, a first rate job, and well worth the cost.

lute.sf2
If you have a sound blaster card that download samples, you can use the above lute sample to play your fronimo files. (sample courtesy of http://www.pythagorean.org/lute/)

2) Buy some introductory lute books: Highly recommended is Poulton's "A tutor for renaissance lute". It's hard to find, but is available through amazon.co.uk or through the Boulder Early Music Shop. Buy several books: there's something to be learned from each book!

3) Consider installing a strap: you can go to a lute builder (or possibly a violin shop) and have them install a strap button on your lute, next to your bridge. Many lutenists I've spoken to have told me that they're very happy they added a strap, as it makes playing more comfortable. I was going to install a strap button myself, but was discouraged from doing so by another lutenist, by reason that the lute body is very thin, and it is difficult to attach something to it without damaging the body.

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The Bargain Lute

I own a renaissance 8 course (15 string) lute made in Pakistan and sold in America by www.mid-east.com. These lutes are available new for about $450, or in the $350 range on EBay. Considering that lutes regularly start at $1800, these are a great way for the beginner lutenist on a tight budget to get started. Note that another way to get started is to contact your local lute society, and ask around if someone has a hand-me-down instrument they're not currently using, that you could borrow. Most lutenists outgrow their original instruments, but often don't sell their outgrown instruments.


This is a picture of my lute from the manufacturer's web site. A short lute instruction book is included, which is enough to get you started.


And here is a photograph of my lute as it actually looks in my house after all my adjustments (note the no-longer overlapping nut, Nylgut strings, gut frets and mounted pickup).

Unfortunately, when the lute arrives it will be mostly untunable and unplayable. It will need a bit of adjustment before being usable: don't get discouraged! With the help of some friends I was able to make my lute into a very workable beginner model. Click here to read about what I did to improve the bargain lute.

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Many Thanks To



Ed Martin, who gave me my first lute lesson (and taught a day-long seminar in Berkeley) and has been quite helpful to me by email.

Michael Peterson, the Bay Area's lute evangelist, who first volunteered to give me a 2 hour introduction to the lute, recruited me for Ed Martin's all-day lute seminar, and then taught me how to tie gut frets.

. . .

Other Lute pages at this site:

- Lute beginner music and exercises: free tablature downloads to learn by.

- how to replace your lute frets: directions on tying new gut frets.

- lute pickup FAQ: inside or outside the lute?

- How to improve a bargain lute: tips for the lutenist on a tight budget.

- Lute related web sites