Six- course lute after Frei

6-course lute after Frei, c. 1550
By BC luthier Clive Titmuss, 2015
$4,200 CAD
$3,130 USD

(Click for larger image)

The six-course lute occupies a special place in the history of the instrument: There is a vast wealth of music from most of the countries of Western Europe, most of it printed. This means that the best composers were careful about their work, and much of it is easily read in the original notation. Unlike later lutes, Italian, German and French tablatures are numerous.

This instrument is not a copy of any particular historical example, because very few (maybe three!) exist in their original form. They were later converted, and so reverse engineering is required to make one. By following the record provided by contemporary images, we can see the way the neck and body related, details of peg design and other feature. Holbein’s: The Ambassadors provides a wealth of details, for example.

This instrument is made from Amazon rosewood, with extraordinarily straight grain (although many rib blanks were marred by oil and sap pockets), which has the property of imparting great and almost steely projection. This is a wood with the highest density, and a correspondingly strong spring back after bending. You can hear it.

I veneered the neck and pegbox with material unusable for ribs, and this is offset with holly spacers, almost white. There is no finish, only the polishing of the wood itself, filling the pores with beeswax, a historical finish. The top is a fine-grained and somewhat softer piece of Engelmann spruce from my home in BC, and it helps to make the lute warmer-sounding than the influence rosewood normally would impart.

It is without the usual beards, the tiny graces which mark instruments of the second half of the century; there is no binding. The pegs are boxwood, with a heart-shaped head used one surviving instrument by Gerle. The rose is also unusual, being pattern collected and drawn in the eighteenth century by a French draftsman, found in a book of late medieval Arabic ornamental stone work, it looks like a variation on a well-known pattern, but with subtle differences–the circles and points.
After having made more than a dozen six course lutes with various designs, this is undoubtedly my finest one.


All instruments built by Clive Titmuss come with custom-fitted cases.
Prices do not include shipping and insurance.


If you have any questions about the instruments, please contact me.

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