Return to Musical Instruments Index page


After the recorder the lute is probably the most well known of early musical instruments. It is immediately recognisable by its distinctive bowl shaped back, short neck and sharply angled-back head. Unlike the cittern, which is also a fretted instrument, the early lutes had catgut frets tied around the fingerboard. Like the rebec, it originated in the Middle East as an Arabic instrument (the "el-aoud"), but it features in European paintings and drawings as early as the 9th Century. It became popular right across Europe during the renaissance and by the 16th Century it was the most widely used

Photograph of a Lute

Lute Sound Clips


play clip size: 93 kb


play clip size: 95 kb

Large printable image of the lute

Large detail image of the lute

 Photograph exhibiting the equisite detail of the Lute instrument for accompanying church and secular (non-religious) music. Lute music reached its peak in the work of John Dowland (1563 - 1626), the English composer and lutenist: a few seconds of his song Now, O Now is used for the sound clip that can be downloaded to your computer by clicking on the sound clip above.

Text copyright © James McCafferty 2000 Photographic images copyright © John Credland and James McCafferty 2000