lute frets

Discussion of all aspects of early instruments, lutes, theorbos, vihuelas, Renaissance guitars and Baroque guitars.
2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

lute frets

Post by 2handband » Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:25 pm

This may be an incredibly stupid question... but why don't modern lutes just get metal frets? It seems to me it would save a lot of trouble...

User avatar
Michael McGrath
Posts: 286
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:59 am
Location: New Brunswick, Canada

Re: lute frets

Post by Michael McGrath » Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:56 pm

What's the point of playing a lute if you don't go for authenticity? Just play it on a guitar, or redesign a new stringed instrument that has the same strings but has better projection and ergonomics? :P
Armed with Book, Forum, and Guitar, I will bare my teeth and face the world! Music is a way of thinking, an art. There is nothing more demanding, and nothing more rewarding.

Alvarez-Yari CYM-75 Masterwork

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: lute frets

Post by 2handband » Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:06 pm

I dunno... I'd think it might be useful to have the sound of the original instrument without the inconvenience of gut frets.

Lovemyguitar
Posts: 2881
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:50 pm
Location: Canada

Re: lute frets

Post by Lovemyguitar » Mon Jul 13, 2015 4:40 am

Some modern lutes have metal frets (by "modern", I assume you simply mean "more recently built"), and you could probably have one built with them (or have them installed), if that is what you wanted.

Do you have a lute? Gut frets aren't that much trouble nor that inconvenient, although I do sometimes find that my left thumb catches on them occasionally, and of course, they move (which is actually good, for intonation up the neck!). I just put a new set on my lute, as a matter of fact. If you have a specific problem with them, maybe someone could suggest a remedy (other than metal frets!).

User avatar
David Norton
Posts: 3932
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:12 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Re: lute frets

Post by David Norton » Mon Jul 13, 2015 12:28 pm

The lutes of the 1950s/60s did have metal frets, take a look at Bream's LP covers from that era. However the Historical Authenticity crowd proved a more formidable force to reckon with, and the old style gut frets came back. Metal fret lutes are available from some builders but quite rare.

There's a somewhat valid argument that the gut frets can be angled slightly, to improve intonation. That concept really only works for the outer strings, because regardless of whatever angle is selected, the fret is still a straight line and therefore the intonation of the inner strings is not so adjustable.
David Norton
Salt Lake City, UT

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: lute frets

Post by 2handband » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:23 pm

Intonation is what compensated bridges are for... or is that a no-no as well?

What if a guy is interested in the lute for it's sound, and the historical repertoire is only a starting point? The guitar has been brought into the modern world; if the lute is still a valid instrument to play at all then perhaps it would make sense to do the same for it.

I don't have a lute yet, but I'm considering getting an 8 or 9 course model. I've never played with gut frets, but I admit they intimidate me. I'm that guy who strips the finish from the backs of his guitar necks and rubs in tung oil for maximum smoothness; I have the perception that gut frets would really slow you down when moving up and down the fretboard.

User avatar
David Norton
Posts: 3932
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:12 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Re: lute frets

Post by David Norton » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:42 pm

Lutes don't have saddles, compensated or otherwise.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
David Norton
Salt Lake City, UT

riffmeister
Posts: 4128
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:15 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Re: lute frets

Post by riffmeister » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:47 pm


User avatar
mc1
Posts: 1139
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:16 pm
Location: nova scotia

Re: lute frets

Post by mc1 » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:58 pm

i say metal frets, compensated saddle, single courses, more ergonomic body shape, now that's a lute. oh wait, that's a guitar. :)

here is some information on how lutanists reposition their frets depending on the music.

http://www.luteshop.co.uk/Tuning_%26_Temperament.html

Scot Tremblay
Luthier
Posts: 4217
Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:18 pm
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Re: lute frets

Post by Scot Tremblay » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:04 pm

The tuning system of "Equal temperament" used today was mostly a Classical era development. Prior to that the most used system was something called "Meantone". The purpose of meantone system was to preserve the consonance of the 3rds rather than the 5ths as in the modern Equal temperament system. The musical aesthetic was different than today and is partly reflected in the tuning in use at the time.

For fretted instruments, movable frets was the best way to deal with the various tunings available and to adjust the thirds for different keys. The most common tuning used was the quarter (1/4) comma meantone but there were others 1/5, 1/8...

Here is an article on the subject. In table 2 you can see the various "temperaments" and their cent values.

http://www.theaterofmusic.com/temperaments.html

2handband, the only time tied frets slow one down is if the left thumb is planted heavily against the neck. I'm sure you don't play that way as that would also seriously hinder a guitarist as well. In actual fact, when playing the lute, I don't even notice the feel of the frets on the back of the neck. Trust me :twisted: you will have no problem.

Bridges with a compensated saddle changes drastically the sound of a lute. Compensation for intonation is adjusted at the fret level which is something guitars with fixed frets have been struggling with since the inception of the fixed fret. The movable tied frets of the lute would actually be a blessing for guitarists should they decide to switch...but we all know that is never going to happen.

A good lute player can compensate for intonation at the bridge by adjusting where they place the loop. There is plenty of room for fine tuning should the need arise but mostly it is taken care of with the frets.
Scot Tremblay Guitars

"One picture is worth a thousand words. So, for me, one good note put where it should be put, will say what it will take some people many notes to say. ~B.B. King, 1986

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 6429
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: lute frets

Post by Michael.N. » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:11 pm

The Lute bridge does allow for compensation. It's all in how near (or far) one places the loop or the string stop in relation to the bridge. That is adjustable, more readily adjustable than any fixed Guitar saddle. Same with the action. It's much quicker to alter lute action than it is on a fixed Guitar saddle.
Amazing. It seems so simple yet by design or by accident, all the adjustment is incorporated into the bridge.
Historicalguitars.

Polifemo de Oro

Re: lute frets

Post by Polifemo de Oro » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:22 pm

A good lute player can compensate for intonation at the bridge by adjusting where they place the loop
Yes. Quite true. That's the theory, anyway. But try it, sometime, on a beast like this. Lutenists spend most of their lives "compensating." :mrgreen: :
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
mc1
Posts: 1139
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:16 pm
Location: nova scotia

Re: lute frets

Post by mc1 » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:24 pm

Michael.N. wrote:The Lute bridge does allow for compensation. It's all in how near (or far) one places the loop or the string stop in relation to the bridge. That is adjustable, more readily adjustable than any fixed Guitar saddle. Same with the action. It's much quicker to alter lute action than it is on a fixed Guitar saddle.
Amazing. It seems so simple yet by design or by accident, all the adjustment is incorporated into the bridge.
that's pretty cool! are there any side effects, like some dampening of the string? would older gut strings be in more need of compensation compared to modern man-made materials?

User avatar
pogmoor
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 8680
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 10:55 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: lute frets

Post by pogmoor » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:31 pm

There are makers who build lutes with metal frets though the majority of lute players appear to prefer instruments built the same way as historic lutes. The best known 'modernised' lute is the liuto forte which was previously discussed here: viewtopic.php?f=28&t=79418.
Eric from GuitarLoot
Renaissance and Baroque freak; classical guitars by Paul Fischer (1995) and Lester Backshall (2008)
Yamaha SLG 130NW silent classical guitar (2014), Ramirez Guitarra del Tiempo (2017)

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: lute frets

Post by 2handband » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:36 pm

Thanks for the wealth of information! I'm learning a lot from you guys, and it is appreciated. I just wish there was a place where I could spend some serious time with the lute. One thing... a lot of you are talking as if you feel the lute isn't really a very good or practical instrument, and the only reason to use one is historical authenticity. Anyone wanna comment further on that?

Return to “Lutes, Baroque and Renaissance Guitars, etc.”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot] and 0 guests