Frequently Asked Questions

Should I join the Lute Society?

Absolutely! The Lute Society is the best source for information and lute related activities. It publishes an extensive collection of music, compiled and edited by leading experts in the field. Membership of the society is worth every penny.

Is the lute a difficult instrument to learn?

It's very hard to say. Some people take to it like a duck to water, some struggle for a while then their playing blossoms. You'll never know how hard it will be for you until you try it. The lute is a very satisfying instrument to play, because of the beauty of its sound, and the vast solo, duet and ensemble repertoire, so the effort you put in will be well rewarded.

Is there much music for the renaissance lute?

The renaissance lute has a vast repertoire, ranging from the humblest ditty to stunningly beautiful art music.  There are many beautiful lute songs, some of which are very famous, many duets, trios and even quartets.

Is lute tablature the same as guitar/ukulele tab?

No it isn't. Modern tab tends to be over simplified and doesn't contain all the rhythmic detail that you need to learn something from scratch.  That isn't the case with lute tablature. 

Do I need to know how to play the guitar to learn the lute?

Absolutely not. They are surprisingly different instruments, with very different techniques.

I regularly play classical guitar, can I play the lute as well?

Yes, I'll work with you to find a way to do both. Lot's of people find a way to do this without compromising the sound of either instrument.

Do I need to know how to read music/tablature before I begin?

No, we'll cover that as we go. Obviously the more you already know about music notation and theory the better, but it's not essential as a prerequisite.

What size lute should I start with?

Most people start on a lute in G, though A or F would also work.  Try for an instrument with 6, 7 or 8 courses to begin with. People usually choose a lute in G because it is nominally the "standard" tuning, based on song accompaniments. However if you are accompanying a singer (yourself maybe), they may prefer you to use a different size instrument depending on whether they usually prefer to have music taken up or down in pitch to suit their voice better.

Most lutenists have at least a lute in G, and those that are really keen may buy more lutes in other pitches for ensemble playing.

Do you teach baroque lute, baroque guitar, theorbo or oud?

Unfortunately not.  I teach only instruments that I play, which are the renaissance lute and classical mandolin.

What type of lute tablature will you teach me?

French first, then Italian.  I think it's important to start learning Italian tablature early on so that you don't cut yourself off from the wonderful Italian repertoire.

Do I have to use baroque pitch (i.e. A=415)?

You can if you wish, but it may make it difficult for you to play with other instruments. I recommend you string your lute so that it can happily play at A=440 (i.e. standard modern pitch), then you can easily switch between A=415 and A=440 as required by the circumstances.  For what it's worth, I play at A=440 (usually in 1/6 or 1/4 comma meantone) unless I need to do otherwise for a performance.