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Igor Varfolomeev's site about lute and guitar music


Touching hand to
strings of the lute

A Brief History
of the instrument



Attributed to an associate of Leonado da Vinci (c1500) National Gallery. London


France Hals. Two singing boy. 1625. State Art Collection. Kassel, Germany

Caravaggio. Lute Player. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.1595


Bartolomeo Passerotti. Portrait of a Man Playing a Lute. 1576
Lute music story
Touching hand to strings of the lute
Translated by Google Translate

Modern studies of world music contains many examples of how a misinterpretation of certain historical facts generates many errors and, ultimately, distorts the truth.

One of them - the perception of the lute as a historical stage in the development of the beloved and popular instrument - the guitar. From this perspective, the lute ("royal" tool "instrument of His Majesty") often characterize it as "the mother of a guitar". Thus its role is much diminished, and the lute seems only certain atavism fulfilled its historical mission and going back centuries.

The purpose of this article to provide readers with some of the most reliable information about the history of formation and development of the lute.

Lute as a musical instrument does not lose its independent value and continues to live a full life, has a number of fans and followers and has rich features and the performing repertoire. In modern musical culture lute firmly holds its own particular niche. In most European countries it is still often heard in concert halls, fundamentally studied in music schools, where class is taught lute, or (at least) early music, familiar to both professionals and amateurs the widest range of music fans. There is a logical explanation. Lute instrument purely European, and all the lute repertoire music, natural and understandable for the perception of Europeans.

Unfortunately, in Russia for several reasons lute become a kind of exclusive, the understanding of which is accessible only aesthetes. Most musicians (and, oddly enough, even guitarists!) In our country have little or no idea about the true nature of the lute and performing opportunities.

According to archaeological data, the appearance of ancient lutes can be attributed to IV II millennium BC This is a relatively late period in the history of plucked instruments. Tools of this initial period can be classified on the main design features - that lute with long or short neck. They probably originated in the area of Mesopotamia, and then gradually spread to the west and east. This is the main difference remains in force throughout the history of the formation of the lute family of instruments in different nations.

Historical predecessor of the European lute was Arabic oud ('ud "rod") and originally barbat ("plectrum"). At Lute "Barbat" as sounding deck tensioned parchment. (Lute "Barbat" from Persia later became purely Arab tool). Lute "beats" was a wooden deck, hence the name: «'ud» twig tree.

Instrument penetrated the continent during the time of the Moorish conquest of Spain (711 - 1492 years) and the Crusades, from the 10th century. The medieval images of the time beats the shape was similar to the oud, common in the East and now, but, unlike the European instruments, it had no frets. Transferring removed in Europe required a number of some (and later larger) transformations that made purely Arabic tool "beats" the most important part of the European musical culture - a lute.

In ancient Greek literature, as well as in numerous treatises and prefaces to collections of lute music of the Renaissance and Baroque lute by the word "Testudo" («testudo» - "turtle"). So called lyre recalling of Hermes, who made the first lyre tortoiseshell, and then placed it on the sky as the constellation - sign for poets and musicians. The word "Testudo" penetrated into new languages. Unknown translator verses of Horace addressed to the lyre, lute replaces the lyre, (note the authors. - Later this ode set to music by John Blow and sounds like a hymn lute). The role of poetic and musical symbol that in ancient literature played the lyre, the new European literature replaced lute. In different countries, the word "lute" sounded in various intonations (Arabic - 'ud, vers. - Laud, fr. - Luth, it. - Laute, um. - Lauto-Liuto-Leuto, Engl. - Lute, Russian name comes from the Polish - Lutnia). Throughout history, the existence of a lute in Europe is constantly changing its structure to meet the needs that dictate musical tastes of a particular time. Surviving instruments earliest examples date from the early 16th century. What happened with the lute before, we can reconstruct only by painting pictures and descriptions extant.

It is known that in the early lutes, like the oud, used Kyshkovo string pulls couples. Body dimensions (and Scale respectively) were different to cover the entire range of the music of the time. Paired strings (or as they are called "choruses") was four. In the 15th century. add a fifth choir. Height system was different. The most common interval systems considered quart with major third between the third and fourth string, but also be aware of other configuration options.

Originally performed on the lute music plectrum (like the oud). Tool was perceived as a purely melodic, but during the 15th century. navigated to the finger technique. At this time, the basis of the repertoire are transcriptions of polyphonic sacred music, which is caused by the emergence of a growing interest in polyphony. Recording music is transferred to the tablature (Latin Tabulatura from Tabula board, painting, drawing) on the digital (or literal) sign notation. Known three basic types of tablature German, French and Italian.


earliest description of the construction of a lute dates back to 15th century. Basic proportions and details have remained unchanged to this day. The housings are made from thin strips of wood (usually maple), glued to the pear-shaped semi-dome, neck and pegbox located almost at right angles with respect to the housing. Was imposed on the neck required number of frets, thin deck was made of spruce. Directly into her cut curved outlet. Design Lute was unusually light (at Mensur 60-65 cm, weight does not exceed 300-400 Lute c.).

Renaissance lutes of various sizes were constructed by analogy with the registers of the human voice. For example, German sources describe tools seven octave registers small lute, small soprano, soprano, alto, tenor, bass and bass octave. In Italy, England, France, used mainly lutes were three registers: small, medium and large, varying in height by a quart, and a large one octave lower than the average. Average lute and viola corresponded built Gcfadg or ADgbea. In nominal terms, these notes were not necessarily the notes of the present system. But it is precisely for this system published lutes main lute repertoire as solo pieces and vocal accompaniment.

Difficulty of manufacture consisted of strings is that they should be equally smooth and dense in diameter along their entire length. Only in the 16th century. New technologies make it possible to more accurately calibrated string. Production of such Kyshkovo (or, as we call them, "core") strings was very time-consuming process. Valued for their manufacture wires only young bulls, especially if they have been grown in Spain.

Eventually added to the lute 6th and 7th choirs. But with the expansion of the range of the bass lute problem of pitch. The timbre of the lute and without different indistinct first harmonic sound thickest string even at the exact structure had a vague sound that hurt the perception of bass line in polyphonic music. Therefore, in each of the bass instead of the second choir unison bass octave includes a thin string.

Advances in the technology of string opened new possibilities of expanding the range of bass lute. Were added 7,8,9 and 10 choirs who tuned diatonically but could be reconstructed depending on the key. In the 17th century. 10 gaining universal acceptance Horn lute.


The first information about the famous master creators lutes are 16. Several German families from the area of Germany (near Augsburg) founded in Italy two famous schools making plucked instruments. First - in Bologna, where he worked L.Maler, G.Frey etc., then - a large family Tiffenbruker in neighboring Venice and Padua. Lute by these masters in the 17-18 centuries and nowadays considered unsurpassed.


I want to remind you that almost all of the tools of the time were the privilege of nobility, secular terms. Lute was court tool, and if the body was called the "King of Instruments", the lute rightly considered a "tool of all kings". Learn to play music on it for the aristocracy was not difficult, but to set up (especially mnogohornuyu lute), required skill and keen hearing.

Anecdote that "lutenist who plays the lute forty years, thirty of them spent on setting, while the other ten plays deranged instrument" is unfounded. Enough to imagine life at the time: great castles and palaces, open fire fireplaces, drafts, heat, humidity, etc. Cores made of natural material, so overreacting to climate change, the exact system sometimes is really a problem. (prim.avt. - I had to play for real gut strings and I confess that the feeling of authenticity - an indescribable, but it is a very expensive pleasure and extremely impractical).

During setup, the lute usually tempered. It would seem wrong at first glance expansion or contraction of certain intervals, created as a result of the exact system. To change the tone varied tonalities needed bass and perform in a certain temperament fret. Navyaznye frets could move in the right direction. (Not the case interest composers and music theorists of those times to the question of temperament. They tried to solve the problem conceptually precise intonation of the lute - based natural Pythagorean intervals. Example, the famous "lute lessons" book or Dzh.Daulenda L. de Milan vihuela).

With the expansion of the range of the bass neck lute gradually lengthened, respectively, and increased the number of frets. If the early lutes were seven of them, then over time - from 9 to 12 (9 and 3 navyaznyh glued on deck). Thus the range of a single string expanded to a full octave. Such expansion also created a likelihood of violations of the exact system that has served as an additional impetus to the assertion of equal temperament. (Similar processes occurred with all stringed instruments, including harpsichord).


You can hardly find a tool having such a large amount of their own kind. In the mid-17th century. English master John Rose invented the lute with a flat lower deck, and the frets and sills arranged like a fan, while putting metal strings and keeping the traditional system. He called this tool "Orfarion" (in honor of the two ancient mythical heroes Orpheus and Arion). Flat housing and metal strings were used before (on tsiternah, Pandora, kitarronah guitars and English). Dzh.Rouza invention consisted in the fact that the location of Fan frets allowed to place on one fretboard Scale standard and two longer, and with instrument remained quite compact. Metal strings were allowed to use as Orfarion fingerpicking and plektrnuyu playing technique.

Smallest lute Mandor 4 (5,6) strings was widespread in France and Italy. Small size makes it convenient solo music-making, and allow the use of a high order as the upper voices in ensembles. In his concerts for Lute French and Italian composers (eg, Vivaldi) is often implied, along with traditional, it is such a small lute, which is mainly used plektrnaya appliances. (In the future, these Mandor lute, mandolin and mandola replaced).

In 17-18 centuries have become more common great tools. This long-necked lute with the theorbo, kitarrony, arhlyutni, lutes and teorbato etc. The main advantage of such lutes was the great length of the bass strings. Use as Horn and single strings facilitated some technical problems and made those instruments in ensembles indispensable, especially in the group of basso continuo.


With experiments on designs lutes, and began experimenting with systems built them for several decades have led to the complete abandonment of the "old" Renaissance building.

The first such experiment - internal restructuring "gaming" choirs, and not the bass (eg, M3- 5-4- b3 -4 or 4-4- b3 - m3). There were about 20 proposed new system settings. Literally every famous lute composer invented his own system (some - as a system for the execution of certain works only). Such reception setting called "scordatura" and is widely used on many instruments (viols, guitars, etc.) Lute mixed retained its role over the last half century heyday of lute music, which continued despite the structural changes associated with the addition of new bass strings. Lute eventually acquired a large body, long length bass choir, which was 13 (except for the first and second single string). In total string was 24.

Only theorbo or kitarron preserved Renaissance Quart of different pitch (la, sol, or D), except that the first two strings built an octave lower.

Baroque era - the top Lute popularity due to interest her such outstanding personalities of composers and publishers, as Gautier, Dufour, Dubuis, Gallo et al (in France), I.Elinek, A.Diks, Ya.A.Lozi (in Prague), Louis de Saint-Luc (Belgian - born), and I.G.Vayhenberger Ya.Kvestenberg (in Austria). Many wonderful composers of the era (and A. Scarlatti, Handel, A.Korelli, Vivaldi, Purcell, G.F.Teleman, etc.) even if they have not been contacted for lute solo, looked upon it as an indispensable tool in its orchestral and ensemble works.

The greatest amount of music for lute solo was written in the form of sonatas, suites and partitas, includes major European dances: allemandes Courant, Sarabande, Menuet, jig, etc. By this time (17-18 centuries) as the lute solo instrument already had two primary schools and stylistic direction - in France and in Germany.

Of course, the pinnacle of lute music of this period is considered as creativity S.L.Vaysa, who wrote more than 600 plays, including more than 50 of the lute suites. His popularity among his contemporaries was enormous, and work has influenced many composers, including JS Bach and. (However, it is - the subject of a separate discussion).

Were also extraordinary works of German composers and theorists E.G.Barona and A.Falkenhagena.

On the background of the four great national schools (Italy, England, France, Germany) what happened in the lute music of other European countries, has more optional value. But a special place belongs to Spain, where in the late 15th century. after liberation from Moorish domination, the lute was ousted from use (at least officially) vihuela, for which in the 16th century. was created by an outstanding repertoire (but talk about it separately).

Late 18th and early 19th centuries became final sunset German lute school, but unlike France and Italy, where it is already almost completely fallen into disuse, Germany is the only country where the lute (in its other structural variants), albeit in a very small significance, but has retained its place hitherto.

Despite the fact that the lute yet lost its leading position, its brilliant biography allows us to confidently call it one of the most important instruments in the history of world music.

Renewed interest in the lute in the 20th century. began long before there were the first professional artists. First lute music performed most guitarists. Undeniable merit of these musicians (such as Dzh.Brim) was that they contributed to realize the value of lute repertoire as one of the pinnacles of European musical culture. Careful study of the masters surviving instruments and the whole complex of the information contained in the descriptions of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, led to copy samples of the old masters, and then to understand the essence of the lute, to the creation of original authentic instruments. In recent decades, intensive research work unfolded, created lute society in different countries, began to publish special bulletins and magazines. Systematic study of all aspects of lute music led to the formation of a special performance style in which authentic approach is a prerequisite for high artistry.

At the end of our conversation about the lute, back to the topic, which has already been touched upon in passing at the beginning. Among modern guitarists and musicologists There is an expression - "Lute - Guitar mother", being from the perspective of genuine researchers, illiterate and even ridiculous. Of this idiom that lute otzhiv its age, produced the more viable offspring in the form of a guitar. In fact, the development of these two tools is parallel ! And the guitar has its own separate (but at the same time closely related to the lute) rich history.

GUITAR (fr.Quitare, um. Chitarra, it. Quitarre, vers. Quitarra, Engl. Quitar; eventually all the names through the medieval succession back to the ancient Greek Ki apa) - stringed lute instrument type, characterized by an 8- shaped hull and spread in Europe since the 15th century. Dimensions and build guitars for centuries underwent a dramatic change.

Contained in the current literature attempts to link the origin of the guitar with the Egyptian ("Coptic lutes"), Mesopotamian and Greek prototypes, and even with the "Saracen guitars" unfounded. Despite the similarity of names with the names of some medieval instruments ("cytology", "gittern" and "tsistra"), the actual guitar, or rather one of a plurality of ancient plucked instruments that we are on the basis of facts can be considered the first direct ancestor of the modern guitar appears, judging from images in 15., as a new tool that combines features of the vihuela and medieval gitterna (8 - shaped shallow body with a long neck, socket in the center of the upper deck, the lower octave choir in one embodiment of failure). This tool is not always and in all countries as a guitar, so below, the term "guitar" will use the conditional, and the terminology characteristic of each era will be discussed separately. By the way, what does the word "guitar", or rather its translation, nobody knows for sure.

In the 16th century. varieties guitars were known under the names: fr. quiterre, quiterne; um. chitarrino, chitarra da sette corde (ie guitar with seven strings), chitarra Napolitana; Run. quitarra de quatro ordenes (ie guitar with four choirs). This tool was quite small (in comparison with the basic "tenor" kind vihuela) size. Such a tool created by the wizard B.Diasom in 1581, at a length of 76.5 cm has a length of open strings - 55.4 cm, with five choirs. Most likely, this was an experimental tool, as the main number for that time there were four choirs. These guitars had navyaznye frets and low stand, as well as an outlet complex shapes cut out of parchment. The rear deck was either flat like vihuela or more convex. In any case, it recruited from the edges as the lute. Except for the shape of the hull, the structural characteristics were analogue lute. Intermittent operation guitars determined by the same formula as the system early lute with four or five choirs. By the way, the main thing that was common tools, despite the differences in body shapes and sizes, it was commissioned.

With sufficient accuracy can be assumed that the original and the most common style of play on the guitar was the Renaissance improvisation on themes of popular dances with reception rasqueado (Spanish), or battente (it.), ie hitting his right hand on all the strings. (Many of the collections of the time even had the title "Music for Guitar battente", from which the modern guitarists sometimes make erroneous conclusion that such a tool (battente) is a special kind of old guitar).

Early on, guitarists began to imitate the lute and viuelny polyphonic style. Recording music in the French and Italian tablature, playing technique (except for a few techniques) as well as the formulation of arms borrowed from the lute.

Pyatihorny tool soon became universal distribution in Europe under the name "guitar" or "Spanish guitar" (in modern literature also adopted the name "baroque guitar"). Story baroque guitar, especially at the initial stage, tested in numerous versions before not established its basic type Aa-dd-gg-bb-ee with octaves in the bass. Availability octave doubling bass played a special role, becoming an indirect cause of the development of the characteristic features of baroque guitar music: cost to remove one or both of the lower string bass choir, or drone, and arose with the new tool "tacks" systems, where the lower choir sounded above than average. This is the "broken" system acquires leading role in the early 17th century. For him, much of the music written by the most prominent guitar composers of his time: F.Korbetty, A.Bartolotti, L.Ronkalli, R. de Wiese et al "Broken" system allowed the use of high -sounding lower strings for high voice in polyphonic pieces, and (alternating with overhead) for the performance of melodic passages. In this note, lessons on different strings, superimposed on each other, creating a special effect reminiscent of the sound of the harp. G.Sanz called this method "bells" (campanellas). The virtual absence of the bass strings, and this is the main difference from other plucked instrument (including from the lute), but thanks to the clean, bright tone and elastic sound (especially when the chord technique) provided him wide popularity for the performance of basso continuo.

Baroque guitar chords written in the Latin alphabet, starting with +, and then - A, B, C, D, etc. Sequence of letters has been focused on the logic of changing positions on the guitar fretboard and does not correspond with modern chords letter designation (eg, A - G Major, and not A, as in the current system), although in both the principles laid down the general idea. Some song collections that time headlining "Music for Guitar alfabeta., that is misleading modern guitarists who believe that in front of them - a special kind of music for the ancient instrument, although it is still the same baroque guitar.

Extant more baroque guitars in good condition works A.Stradivari I.Tilke, M.Sellasa etc.

Today, the revival of interest in ancient guitar music noted the same problems as the revival of the lute, but in a more acute form. Modern guitarists often without hesitation try to adapt old guitar music to modern performing techniques. In this course, music, calculated largely on the "broken" operation can not be appropriately assigned. Besides a lot of music for this instrument was designed for "scordatura", ie required restructuring guitar that finally confusing modern guitarists. As a result of performing activity has created quite a considerable repertoire completely distorted guitar music old. Hopefully, reprint reprint authentic sources and perform more correct transcriptions repertoire of the time, as well as the growing popularity of authentic performing soon fix the current state.

Everything described in this article is only a small fraction of the richest information about ancient instruments created for their repertoire, masters and performing tricks that are available in the annals of world music. Dimensions of this publication do not allow "to grasp the immensity".

Based on site magazine "Guitarist"