Near Ancestors of the Guitar: The Lute and the Oud

By Michaud Savage

As I discussed last month, there is a lot of history involved with the guitar. This month, I've chosen to look at some of the near ancestors of the guitar, focusing mainly on the lute and oud. The lute is an instrument still used today, but is mainly used for recreating medieval and Renaissance music. The oud is considered to me a much older instrument, with some of it's documentation going back 3,500 years ago in ancient Persia. Both the lute and the oud existed with popularity from the Medieval through the Renaissance eras, although they were more largely embraced by different regions of Europe and the Mediterranean.

Now, if you say “oud” aloud and the say “lute” aloud, what do you hear? Take a moment to try this a few times and name a couple of key differences between the two words. Also, describe the biggest similarity you find. During the Medieval times, the oud was brought to to Europe by Crusaders, where Europeans adopted the instrument and began to develop the bracing system of the instrument. The oud continued to flourish in Arabic culture, whereas the lute has only begun to return to popularity since the coinage and codification of Early Music in the Twentieth-century.

During the renaissance era, an instrument called the “vihuela” or “viola da mano” emerged, which as you may have guessed, is a near ancestor of the violin, viola, bass and cello family! This instrument was built similarly to a lute, but had extra strings added, totaling 6 and had a tuning similar to how it is tuned today. However, the vihuela didn't last very long, as soon after it's development came the baroque guitar, the first guitar-like instrument to be identified with the name “guitar.”

There's a little history lesson for you, now go play some music!!!