The lute is a direct decendant of the Arabic oud and a not-too-distant relative of the modern guitar. It presents us with several differences such as its deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity. It is also much smaller with different numbers of strings or courses (double strings) depending on the model or period. It is played with a pick or fingers and utlises slightly different right hand technique to the classical guitar with the thumb sitting behind the fingers or ‘under’ rather than in front of or ‘over’ as in classical gutiar technique.
The lute is used in a great variety of instrumental music from the Medieval to the late Baroque eras and was the most important instrument for secular music in the Renaissance.
The repertoire from these periods is quite remarkable, in particular the great John Dowland (1563 – 1626), an English Renaissance composer, lutenist, and singer who is best known today for his melancholy songs. Lute music has many classical guitar transcriptions and with a slightly different tuning, this magnificent repertoire is playable on the modern classical guitar too.