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I already play guitar, how different is the lute?

Holding the instrument

The lute is held at a different angle from the guitar, closer to horizontal.  You will even see the lute played with the neck angled slightly downwards in some early paintings.  The reason why is the right hand technique...

Right Hand technique

I teach the early "thumb in" technique, where the fingers of the right hand are nearly straight and parallel with the strings. We make the strings sound by gently stroking with the flesh of the fingers and thumb.

Can the lute be played with nails?

Yes of course it can. But, the sound is generally harsh and thin. So, I do not recommend it.

Isn't the lute terribly quiet?

It's true that the lute is generally not as loud as a modern classical guitar. But, a well made and strung lute, played correctly produces plenty of sound.  The ideal in lute playing is to seduce the listener into making the effort to listen by the sweetness of the sound and sensuality of the music.  If you play beautifully, people will gladly make the effort to listen.