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The Music Room in Early Modern France and ItalySound, Space and Object$
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Deborah Howard and Laura Moretti

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265055

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265055.001.0001

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Balance on the Lute: The Role of the Strings

Balance on the Lute: The Role of the Strings

(p.135) 7 Balance on the Lute: The Role of the Strings
The Music Room in Early Modern France and Italy


British Academy

The lute was the instrument on which the luthiers and string-makers of the past expended the greatest effort in order to achieve the best possible acoustic balance between the instrument and its strings. Formidable skills in the design and making of instruments were necessitated by the low tension of the strings, the sound produced simply by plucking with the fingers (rather than stroking with the bow) and the huge difference in frequency between the highest and lowest strings (especially in the versions with ten or eleven strings on the same fingerboard). The lute-makers of the Renaissance designed their instruments starting from the mechanical and acoustic properties of the strings, rather from the characteristics of existing instruments. It can thus be asserted that the lute guaranteed its success thanks to the best possible reconciliation of certain variables, in order to achieve the optimum balance between the rules of statics and acoustics.

Keywords:   lute, lutemakers, strings, pitch, sound, acoustics, musical instruments

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