Balance on the Lute: The Role of the Strings


in The Music Room in Early Modern France and Italy

Published by British Academy

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265055
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754166 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Balance on the Lute: The Role of the Strings

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The lute was the instrument on which the luthiers and string-makers of the past expended the greatest effort in order to achieve the best possible acoustic balance between the instrument and its strings. Formidable skills in the design and making of instruments were necessitated by the low tension of the strings, the sound produced simply by plucking with the fingers (rather than stroking with the bow) and the huge difference in frequency between the highest and lowest strings (especially in the versions with ten or eleven strings on the same fingerboard). The lute-makers of the Renaissance designed their instruments starting from the mechanical and acoustic properties of the strings, rather from the characteristics of existing instruments. It can thus be asserted that the lute guaranteed its success thanks to the best possible reconciliation of certain variables, in order to achieve the optimum balance between the rules of statics and acoustics.

Keywords: lute; lutemakers; strings; pitch; sound; acoustics; musical instruments

Chapter.  4083 words. 

Subjects: Opera

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