The lute, which derived from the Arabic Ud, came to Europe in the 13th century via Islamic Spain. The lute was adopted throughout the whole of Europe, becoming the most important instrument in Western music in the centuries that followed. Lutes were relatively cheap to make and were the most popular instruments in the Renaissance, though they were also made with the most expensive materials for rich households and patrons.
Many Renaissance paintings and prints show lutes being played in different circumstances: in church, in palaces, in a domestic environment, in street processions and in taverns. The lute was an instrument that many amateurs played and was certainly not only for professional musicians.
Audio: Washa mesa, Der Hupff Auff, Gassenhauer
This instrumental piece of music is from a book published in 1536 by Hans Neusidler in Nuremberg, Germany. This recording was made by the Royal College of Music especially for the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.