Lute Vs Guitar: What’s The Difference?

Lute Vs Guitar: What's The Difference?

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When it comes to string instruments, there are a lot of different options to choose from. Two popular choices are the lute and the guitar. So, what’s the difference between lute vs. guitar, and which one is right for you?

This article will explore the key differences between lutes and guitars, so you can make an informed decision about which instrument is right for you.

What Is a Lute?

​​A lute is a stringed instrument that has a long neck and a rounded body. A hole is cut into the body of the lute, which allows the sound to resonate. The system consisted of strings, each of which is connected to an item that is worn around the user’s neck.

In addition to that, the neck features some kind of rotating mechanism that lets users adjust the string pressure by either letting it out or pulling it in.

The lute can be held in place with one hand while the user plays the strings with the other. They can push individual segments of the string to create different notes.

What Is a Guitar?

A guitar is an instrument that has been around for centuries, used in many cultures for a variety of purposes. guitars can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, and plastic. They typically have six strings, which are played by plucking or strumming the strings with one or more fingers.

There are many different types of guitars, each with its unique features and capabilities. Acoustic guitars, for example, are usually played wirelessly, while electric guitars are the instrument of choice for rock as well as blues bands. Classical and flamenco guitars have nylon strings that are typically finger-picked while steel-string acoustics and electrics are more suited for strumming.

Guitars can be played solo or in a band setting. They are a popular choice for both amateur and professional musicians alike.

guitar over lute

What is the difference between guitar and lute?

The primary difference between a guitar and a lute is their size and shape. 

The lute has a rounded bottom with a curved neck, whereas the guitar’s body is more flat-sided and has an angular neck. Additionally, the bridge of a lute is positioned higher up on the body than that of a guitar, allowing for greater resonance when playing.

When it comes to sound output, guitars are louder and have more range because of their long necks and wider bodies. Conversely, lutes produce a much softer sound—almost like an acoustic harp or violin—and they often require amplification if they are being performed in larger venues. 

Additionally, there are significant differences in construction materials; guitars are usually made of wood while lutes use different combinations of animal hide, bone, or ivory for their frets, fingerboards, and tuning pegs.

Finally, playing techniques also differ between these two instruments. 

Guitarists tend to use their fingers to pluck strings to produce notes while lutists use something called “rapping” where they strike down onto the strings with their fingers which produces a softer tone that resonates through the instrument’s larger frame.

Lute Guitar
Shape Pear-shaped with a rounded back Hourglass-shaped with a flat back
Strings Typically has 6 or 7 paired strings and is plucked with a plectrum Has 6 strings, each tuned to a different note and played with fingers or a plectrum
Fretboard Fretless, with tied-on gut frets Fretted, with metal frets
Tuning Tuned in fourths and thirds Tuned in fourths and a third
History Originated in the Middle East in the 13th century and gained popularity in Europe during the Renaissance Originated in Spain in the 16th century and gained popularity throughout Europe and the Americas

What is the comparison of strings and frets on both instruments?

Free A Person Playing a Bass Guitar  Stock Photo

When comparing strings and frets on both the lute and guitar, there are some distinct differences.

A lute typically has six or seven strings made of gut, while a guitar has six or twelve strings made of steel. The fretboard of a guitar is made up of metal frets, while a lute’s fretboard is usually composed of wooden pegs. The number of frets varies between instruments, but the most common configuration for a guitar is twenty-two frets, while most lutes have between eleven and thirteen frets.

The scale length for both instruments also differs drastically. On average, a guitar’s scale length is around 25.5 inches compared to 23.5 inches for a lute. This may not seem like much of a difference at first glance, but it has an impact on the tension that each string can generate and therefore affects the sound produced when played.

When playing either instrument, the finger positioning varies greatly due to their different string configurations and fret arrangements. The guitarist must take into account both string spacing and fret size when forming chords or riffs with their left hand, whereas in lute playing this is less important as the strings are all generally spaced similarly close together about one another throughout the fretboard.


What are the Pros and Cons of playing each instrument?

When it comes to the lute, its mellow tones make it perfect for accompanying other instruments in ensemble settings. Furthermore, its wider range allows it to be played in a variety of musical styles.

On the downside, the lute’s lack of frets and thinner strings produce fewer overtones than a guitar does, making it less suitable for solo performances. Additionally, because of its smaller size and quieter volume, it may not be ideal for larger venues or stages.

In contrast, the modern guitar has six single strings that can be strummed or picked with a pick to produce warm twangy sounds. It is also designed for solo performances due to its metal frets, which allow easier access to higher notes than what can be achieved on a lute.

However, guitars tend to have shorter scale lengths than lutes – this limits their range but also helps them generate more tension when strummed or picked hard which produces more distortion and sustain than what can be achieved on a lute.

Ultimately, both the lute and guitar provide different playing experiences depending on individual tastes and preferences.

lute playing over guitar

Is The lute harder than the guitar?

The answer to the question “Is the lute harder than the guitar?” is both yes and no. While it is true that the lute has fewer strings than a guitar and its fretboard is made up of wooden pegs, which can make it more difficult for beginners to master, its larger size and overall design also give it some distinct advantages. 

For example, because of its long neck and wider body, the lute produces a softer sound with more resonance than a guitar. Additionally, because of its higher bridge position, vibrato effects can be used to create greater expression in music pieces.

Both the lute and guitar have their strengths and weaknesses making neither instrument inherently harder or easier than the other. 

Therefore, potential musicians should take into account not only their proficiency with each instrument but also their personal preference when deciding whether or not the lute is harder than the guitar for them.

Can you play lute if you know guitar?

It is possible to play the lute if you already know how to play the guitar. The two instruments share some common ground – they both have six strings and are played with a pick or plectrum. 

However, there are also key differences between them that must be taken into consideration when transitioning from one instrument to the other.


Can you use guitar strings on a lute?

Free Close-up of Guitar Stock Photo

Yes, guitar strings can be used on a lute.

When using guitar strings on a lute, it’s important to choose the right type and gauge of strings for your instrument as this will determine its sound quality and playability. 

Generally speaking, lighter gauge strings work best on lutes because they don’t require as much tension but still provide enough resonance for playing complex melodies or accompaniment parts.

Additionally, nylon or fluorocarbon-based strings are recommended due to their tonal qualities which are better suited for classical music styles compared to steel-string acoustic guitars.

Finally, when using guitar strings on a lute it’s important to adjust the setup accordingly to ensure proper intonation and playability. This includes adjusting the bridge height among other things so that the string tension is equal across all six strings. 

It’s also important to note that using non-traditional tunings can affect intonation and so any string changes should be made with the correct tuning in mind to achieve desired results.

Bottom Line

So, which is right for you? If you’re looking for an easy-to-learn instrument that you can play in a band setting, then a guitar is probably your best bet. However, if you’re more interested in solo playing or classical music, then a lute may be a better choice.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and what you hope to get out of your instrument. Whichever you choose, both the lute and guitar can provide hours of enjoyment.

Jim Henneberry

Jim Henneberry

I love playing my guitar, and my kids got hooked along with me.
This is a family thing now - why don't you join the family fun? :)