I really want a lute but I don't have much money!

I get lots of emails asking about inexpensive lutes! Unfortunately for some folks, there is no big factory in Indonesia stamping out "lute starter sets" for $299. All lutes are custom made instruments, and therefore they tend to be expensive. A used Larry Brown student lute, the "standard" of the beginner's lute world, goes for $1500 USA these days, give or take $500. And sells quickly, too.

Used Lutes

If you get a good quality used lute it will hold its value. This is good because it means that if you decide not to play your lute, or you want to get a better lute, you can sell your lute and get most of or all the money that you paid for it back (maybe excepting shipping.)

Used lutes are a good investment, and there are always some listed on my "Lutes For Sale" Web page. But the less expensive good ones sell very quickly, so you have to keep checking regularly!

Classical Guitars

There is a lot of lute music, especially that from the first half of the 1500's, that can ble played on six courses, and therefore can be played on a classical guitar. Classical guitars are available for reasonable prices because they are often made in factories. Yamaha makes some nice ones for a low price, and they are always available used.

Classical guitars today are made to speak best with heavy strings, using a different right hand technique than one would use for the lighter double lute strings. You would tune the g string to f# to get into renaissance lute tuning. You can track down very light strings, and maybe tune the instrument down a little to further reduce the tension on the strings and use lute right hand technique. It will tend to sound quieter and mellower than modern classical technique but will feel more like a real lute, though not exactly the same.

Cheap Lutes Made in Pakistan

You can get inexpensive "lutes" made in Pakistan for a lot less than a used hand made lute, but the word is that they usually need quite a bit of work, plus new strings, to get them playable, and then you still have a lute that doesn't sound good. And when you try and sell it you won't get the money you invested into fixing it up back. And you will want to buy a real lute anyways, as soon as you can. So why not start off with a better lute?

What lute should I get? How many strings?

Chances are pretty good that you will want to replace your first lute as you learn more about lutes and what you want to play. So I recommend getting a lute that you can sell again in a few years, and not worrying about what kind or how many strings. But, of course, you should read the Buying A Lute FAQ before you get anything! There is a big difference between renaissance lutes and baroque lutes, so if you know that you want to play one or the other it is best to start with that kind.


A good teacher who knows lute technique and knows the local early music scene can help a lot, as he or she will probably know if there is a lute for sale locally and be able to judge the playability of the instrument.

Of course there are also guitar teachers who have never even seen a lute who will be glad to give you lessons, but they won't be so helpful. If you take lessons from a guitar teacher who is not familiar with the current methods of playing the lute you should expect to start learning a lot of techniques all over again when you find a lute teacher.

Lute Seminar

There are lute seminars in the USA and many other places. They are an excellent way to learn all about lutes. There will be a lot of lutes that you can try, makers to talk to, and people with lutes for sale. The money you spend to go could be saved when you don't get the wrong kind of lute. I strongly recommend that you go to a lute seminar when you are starting out!