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A Method for the Renaissance Lute with Suppliment for the Archlute by Peter Croton

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A Method for the Renaissance Lute with Suppliment for the Archlute  by Peter Croton


This book is intended as an intensive course for teenage and adult beginners on the lute, with or without experience on the classical guitar, as a self- tutor or with a teacher, as well as for experienced lutenists who wish to re-evaluate their technique and musical approach. As a prerequisite, I assume basic knowledge of modern music notation and rudimentary sight-singing ability. If these skills are lacking, I suggest taking the time to develop them.

There are several excellent modern methods available for the renaissance lute. I shall cover similar ground in some respects, while additionally emphasizing a vocal approach by using original or imagined texts and employing modern notation (in addition to lute tablature) to help deepen our understanding of the music. My experience is that these tools can bring us closer to the subtleties inherent in our repertoires. Furthermore, I put added emphasis on historical source material, rhetorical expression in performance, physical efficiency of playing based on anatomical principles, and on mental imagery and training.

The focus is on solo music played in the ‘old tuning’ from 1507 (Spinacino) until 1623 (Piccinini), with a brief foray into early 18th century music (Zamboni). The instruments in question are lutes of six to ten courses (the latter were played long into the ‘baroque’ era)(1), as well as the archlute. Different right-hand positions were used during this time; I will present the ‘thumb-under’ technique for 16th century music, and the ‘thumb-out’ position for 17th and 18th century music.

I begin with a select few elementary-to-intermediate exercises and pieces (or excerpts thereof) to illustrate important points, assuming that students will make use of the surfeit of facsimile and modern editions to individualize their needs. Both “Exercise” and “Example” are abbreviated with “Ex.” I focus on ‘French’ and ‘Italian’ tablature systems and, fac-similes being sometimes difficult to read, have reset many pieces. Later on I introduce facsimile images of more advanced pieces.

Although the lute as an instrument of accompaniment is not covered in this book, there is a vast repertoire to explore once the basics have been learned: from lute songs with tablature to music with basso continuo requiring training in this art. There are many facsimiles and modern editions to choose from, either printed or on the internet.

I have produced video clips to clarify certain points found in these pages. Please check the playlist “renaissance lute method” at Peter Croton's Youtube page.

(1) I shall speak of “baroque” music but do so with misgivings, for it was not consistently used to signify the music of the period in question until the 20th century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “baroque” stems from the Portuguese word “barrocco” (Spanish “barrucco”), a jeweler’s term for a rough or imperfect pearl, and came to mean, in a derogatory sense, “overly ornamented”.

Peter Croton