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The lute is a round-backed plucked-string instrument, developed in the Middle East and related to the Arabic oud.

The lute (its name is a corruption of the Arabic) was brought to Europe in the Middle Ages, but its heyday was the European Renaissance. The lute at that time usually had 6 courses of (gut) strings, with 2 strings per course. These were usually tuned to the same intervals as a viol, in fourths with a major third in the middle (so, for a lute in G, the tuning was GCFADG). This tuning is similar to the standard guitar tuning, except that the third is moved down a string. Lutes were made in a variety of sizes and played at different pitches.

The lute was particularly suited for the harmonies of the period, and was used as a solo instrument no less than as an accompaniment to singers or other instruments (sometimes as a basso continuo instrument). Lutes were made larger and more complex (see archlute[?], theorbo) over the course of the seventeenth century, and had 7, 8 or even more courses of strings. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, musical tastes changed and the instrument was largely abandoned until the original instruments[?] movements of the twentieth century brought about a revival.

Notable composers of lute music include Francesco da Milano[?], John Dowland, Denis Gaultier, Johann Sebastian Bach, Sylvius Leopold Weiss[?], Philip Rossiter[?] ,Thomas Campion, Frederick the Great.

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