The lute-guitar is an attractive instrument of a similar size to the guitar but with a body like a lute. With a neck shaped like that of a guitar and a 51mm (2'') nut of ebony, it will appeal to those who are familiar with normal classical or acoustic guitars. It is tuned like a guitar with six strings, three of plain nylon and three of nylon wound in nickel. If it is to be used for lute music, the 3rd string may be tuned a semi-tone down to F# to enable the application of lute fingering.
The lute has a long history dating back to pre-biblical times and although it has existed in many forms it may be classified as either short- or long-necked. The European lute and its ancestor, the oud, (or, 'al'ud' meaning 'the wood') are examples of the short-necked variety and were later developments. Examples of the lute-guitar, or some may call it guitar-lute, were plentiful in Germany towards the end of the 19th century and whilst it may be thought of as a type of guitar due to its stringing, six-course versions of the lute were also known in the Renaissance period. The term 'course' refers to the arrangement of the stringing. A 'course' may contain single, double or even triple strings, thus the guitar has single-string courses whereas the lute would be double strung. As with the German examples the lute-guitar has a bridge reminiscent of Baroque guitars with upturned 'moustaches' at the ends and pegs to retain the strings. It is best to tie a small stopper knot in the end of the string to increase its security when its retaining peg is inserted into the bridge.
The fingerboard on the lute was level with the soundboard and its frets were of gut tied around the neck in the appropriate places. Our lute-guitar has nickel silver frets fitted in a fingerboard that is higher than the soundboard, as is found on guitars. Spruce is used for the unpolished soundboard in keeping with original lutes and its soundhole has a carved rose in an attractive geometric pattern. In keeping with the lute, the characteristically bowl-shaped body is achieved by edge-gluing together slats of thin wood bent to a specific shape with no internal structure to retain its form. The overall length is 953mm (37½'') and the scale length is 648mm (25½''), similar to a normal guitar.
Some may find the round back of the lute-guitar body less easy to hold than the flat-back guitar and that is why, at the bottom end of the instrument a peg has been fitted to permit the attachment of a strap to facilitate security whilst playing. With one end of the strap attached to the peg and the other end tied to the tuning head it is possible to play whilst standing if required. Originally lutes were tuned by means of tapered pegs similar to those found on a conventional violin, but on the lute-guitar modern machine heads are fitted for ease of tuning. This instrument has great appeal to guitarists who enjoy playing early folk music and who like the idea of playing an instrument with a look and feel of the old times.
Zachary Taylor is a designer and maker of early stringed instruments. Early in his career as a performer on classical guitar and lute he began to study the creation of representations of early instruments. In his relentless research from many sources he endeavours to acquire sufficient information for the construction of examples in the likeness of original instruments. For more than a quarter of a century he has taught the subject of lutherie in the Universities of Suffolk, England and Vigo, Spain and in colleges including West Dean, Missenden Abbey and York in England. Major projects include the re-construction of instruments that form the entrance arch to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. His authorship includes many books, including 'Make and Play a Lute' and 'Making early stringed instruments'. It is Zachary Taylor's mission to design authentic examples of ancient instruments, accessible to enthusiasts who demand high quality without a high-price tag.
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