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lute, musical instrument that has a half-pear-shaped body, a fretted neck, and a variable number of strings, which are plucked with the fingers. The long lute, with its neck much longer than its body, seems to have been older than the short lute, existing very early in the Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures, whence the word lute derives. The short lute was known in Spain as early as the 10th cent., having been brought there by Arabs. Its greatest development came in the 15th cent. The lute was the most popular English and European instrument of the Renaissance. During these periods it amassed a vast literature. In the 17th cent. a larger form (the archlute) was developed; it gave rise to the theorbo and to the chitarrone, which was supplanted by the Spanish vihuela and the modern guitar. Lute music is notated in tablature.
a plucked stringed instrument.
The lute has an oval, convex body, short and wide neck with a pegbox bent back at an angle, and from six to 16 strings (sometimes as many as 24). The upper sounding board is flat and has a large sound hole. The tuning of the strings is based on a system of different sequences of intervals of a fourth and third (depending on the piece being performed).
The lute originated from the Arab-Iranian al’ud (earliest information about which dates from the third to the seventh century), which was introduced in Spain and Sicily at the end of the Middle Ages. From Spain and Sicily a somewhat modified instrument, called a lute, spread to Western European countries, and later to Eastern Europe. The art of lute-playing reached its height in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the middle of the 18th century, the lute had been supplanted by the guitar.