Lute.

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Stephen Hawkins
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Lute.

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:51 pm

I think it may only be in old black & white films that I have seen a Lute being played, perhaps some 1950's version of Robin Hood. Last night, however, I was sat next to a Lute player at the Folk Club.

Steve came to the club for the first time last week, though he wasn't playing a Lute on that visit. He is in a group which specialises in 14th & 15th century music, and it was from that repertoire that his three or four contributions came.

The Lute (I now know) is a very quiet instrument, requiring the listener to concentrate quite carefully on the melody. It is a thirteen string instrument, the strings being much finer than those of other stringed instruments, and more difficult to source.

Anyway, I am now a fan of Lutes and of 14th & 15th century music. Perhaps I can persuade Steve (who is a very pleasant chap) to give me some of these very old folk tunes to practice.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: Lute.

Post by Geronimo » Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:48 am

"The" lute comes in a gazillion of ranges and tunings with quite varying numbers of courses (some of them resonance strings). It's similar to its bowed cousin, "the" viol, in that respect.

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Re: Lute.

Post by TomBR » Thu Dec 21, 2017 9:09 am

It really is an amazing instrument, like a huge wooden eggshell! Very hard to play, the notes decay so fast it's a real challenge to give a feel of a "musical line."
There are some fine old tunes in the very early music repertoire and I think it's great that some get played in sessions or for dancing without a second thought. They can work really well on accordion. "Playford" published his tune books in the sixteen-hundreds but many of the tunes he included were very old then.
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Re: Lute.

Post by Anyanka » Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:50 am

I've only heard a lute on Radio 3 - I don't think I've come across one in real life, even though I meet a huge range of interesting players with interesting instruments. Nice to find one in a folk setting!

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Re: Lute.

Post by jozz » Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:32 am

isn't that the instrument they make out of intestines?

brutal

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Re: Lute.

Post by Morne » Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:59 am

For an even bigger wooden eggshell (and even more gut strings):
Back in the day - long before Roland - if you wanted to play your lute using a keyboard you had to get a lautenwerck.

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Re: Lute.

Post by TomBR » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:46 pm

Lute maker and player Edward Fitzgibbon once came to our local session. Not only did he join in very effectively and musically, I think he was playing a lute tuned at A415, so he was transposing everything up a semitone! :shock:
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Re: Lute.

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:00 pm

I believe that gut strings are still available, but Steve is a passionate vegetarian. He uses some kind of synthetic "gut" for his instrument(s), which are supplied by a company in Manchester. That, of course, is a matter for him to decide, though I would have no qualms about using the real thing.

The combination of the Lute and the music Steve plays is very soothing, or at least I find it so. When I next see him, I intend examining his hands to see how many fingers he has. Less than seven or eight fingers per hand seems implausible, though I have yet to detect any obvious abnormality.

I would guess that Steve is in his early to mid-sixties, and I believe that he has been playing "odd" instruments all his life. Anyway, it is a treat to have him at our folk club.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: Lute.

Post by jozz » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:40 am

Stephen Hawkins wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:00 pm
I believe that gut strings are still available, but Steve is a passionate vegetarian.
this is just gold :roll:

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Re: Lute.

Post by Geronimo » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:48 pm

jozz wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:40 am
Stephen Hawkins wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:00 pm
I believe that gut strings are still available, but Steve is a passionate vegetarian.
this is just gold :roll:
Just because an accordion is not edible does not mean that other instrumentalists may not have other priorities.

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Re: Lute.

Post by jozz » Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:17 pm

:) Well now I'm genuinly curious if a passionate vegetarian would only play accordions with plastic valves instead of leather...

:?:

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Re: Lute.

Post by Geronimo » Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:25 pm

jozz wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:17 pm
:) Well now I'm genuinly curious if a passionate vegetarian would only play accordions with plastic valves instead of leather...

:?:
There isn't any viable substitute for goat hide for the bellows corners I think. And a lute is assembled using bone or hide glue. Again, no really viable substitutes.

Stephen Hawkins
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Re: Lute.

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:46 pm

I am not able to dazzle anyone with my knowledge of Lute construction materials, though I understand that they are hand built by artisans. For the sake of authenticity, I would probably go for proper gut strings.

As the rest of a slaughtered animal is consumed in the traditional way, there is an obvious case for using the non edible bits for other purposes. (furniture ... car seats .... footwear ... Lute strings)

Anyway, I have found the Lute to be an interesting and very pleasant instrument, and sincerely hope that my new friend will continue to grace our humble little club with his presence. It is my personal view that the greater the diversity of instruments in a folk club, the more interesting and entertaining it becomes.

While I am on about instrument diversity, I have recently heard that a local folk club has banned the ubiquitous guitar. The person who told me owns and runs a music shop (from where my Wife bought a table-top music stand for my Xmas present.) Banning guitars altogether sounds a bit harsh, but I do understand the logic behind the decision. Practically every table in every folk club has a guitar propped up against it, and it does all get a bit "samey."

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: Lute.

Post by cat » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:23 pm

Indeed some (luteists, harpists, et al) do use gut. However it is both very expensive as well as challenging to maintain (vulnerable to climactic fluctuation, etc). Synthetics have of course obviated the challenges of gut, while attaining reasonable degree of sound approximation.

I play a bit of Arabic oud (early, or medieval lute). The oud is fretless as arabic maqam and musics of the mid-east and medieval europe utilize "microtonal" systems, predating tastes of modern harmony and polyphony - ergo, baroque and renaissance lutes incorporate frets.

Stephen Hawkins
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Re: Lute.

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:50 pm

Hello Cat,

My new friend has not returned to our Folk Club since that night, though I feel sure that he will visit us again soon.

To be honest, I was too intent on listening to the music he was playing to notice whether or not his lute was fretted. I think it probably was, though I could not swear to it.

We have another guy, a regular, who plays a Dulcimer. Though its range seems quite limited, it is, nevertheless, an interesting instrument to have around.

Our policy remains the same as it has always been: As long as the instrument is acoustic, you can play anything you can drag through the door.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: Lute.

Post by cat » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:38 pm

These instruments - lutes, dulcimers/zithers, et al ... all colors of timbre which i find most alluring. Instead of a reasonable approach of taking, say, a violin and logically studying its classical repertoire, my ear was captured by all the variation in folk forms. I was primed at an early age as I was into 'alternative' tunings on 12-string guitar, rock music, etc. My penchant for exoticism led me to pursue whatever instruments i could find: hammered dulcimer, wire harp/clarsach, bouzouki/saz, oud, guzheng, etc. I've been on the hunt for a hardanger fiddle for quite some time but these are rare to come across in N America. Pursuing these sounds consequently led me into a variety of folk forms and traditions. This has been my main pursuit, however I got into accordians as they are readily available, and eminently efficient machines for performance.

Stephen Hawkins
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Re: Lute.

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:48 pm

Hi Cat,

I also find myself drawn to unusual instruments, though I claim no expertise in any of them.

My musical interests began in the early 1960's, when I bought my first (and only) Clarinet. My Cousin and I would tour local Folk Clubs with our limited repertoire ... it was great fun. Denis later formed a Folk Group of his own, and I would occasionally "guest" with them on Clarinet. (I had learned more tunes by then)

My long Army service curtailed my musical aspirations somewhat, and it was at the age of 67 that I decided to have a go at the accordion. Oh Well, better late than never.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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