Guitars & Lutes – Classification & Varieties

Guitars and Lutes | Classification and Varieties |


The instruments of the string family can be divided into two main groups. The first group contains instruments such as the violin and cello that are mainly played with a bow. The second group contains instruments such as the guitar and harp that are played by plucking the stings. Guitars and lutes are similar to the violin family in that they have a fingerboard with strings stretched between a bridge and tuning pegs. However, the fingerboard has frets on which the strings are pressed, and guitars and lutes are also played differently. They are held against the body, supported, supported either on the legs if sitting or by a strap around the nick if standing. In addition, it is possible to play a melody and an accompaniment at the same time.


Guitar and lute players can get a wide range of sounds from their instruments by plucking the strings in different ways. They may also use a plectrum made from wood or metal to get a brighter sound from the strings. The principal difference between guitars and lutes is that guitars have flat backs and lutes are rounded.


The most popular guitar is the Spanish guitar or acoustic guitar. It has six strings and is capable of an enormous range of music, from concertos with orchestras through solo guitar pieces to simple accompaniments for singers. The twelve-string guitar is a type of acoustic guitar. It has six pairs of strings, each pair normally being tuned to the same note, which can give it a bright strident sound. The acoustic guitar is not a loud instrument so it is often amplified using a microphone or pick-up and loudspeaker. The lute is an ancient instrument that was very popular in medieval times. It has recently been revived for the performance of early lute music. It has six or more strings.


Varieties of guitars and lutes are played in popular and folk music in many parts of the world. The balalaika is a triangular three-string guitar played in Russia, while the mandolin is a lute having four or five pairs of strings, often hear in Italy. There are also the bouzouki of Greece, a six-string long necked mandolin, and the banjo of America, a strange instrument with a round drum-like body covered in parchment that originated in Africa. In India, several kinds of lutes are played, notably the sitar, vina and tambura. These may have sympathetic strings, which are extra strings that are not played but resonate as the other strings sound to give a shimmering effect.


Andrés Segovia (b. 1893 – d. 1987) was one of the most famous classical guitarist in the world. Segovia, who came from Spain, revived the use of the acoustic guitar as a classical instrument, developing ways of playing the instrument so that it could be heard clearly in concert halls. The foot stool raises the guitar to a comfortable position for playing.

8th June 2017. Church Music Ireland. All rights reserved.

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