Lute a generic name for stringed instruments composed of a body and of a neck that serves are a handle and holds strings streached across the instrument, is also the specific name of the European short-necked instrument of the Renaissance, for which a vast and significant musical literature was composed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Appearing early in antiquity, the lute had little impact on Europe until the late Middle Age. By 1500 the classic lute was formed with six courses of strings stretching across its pear-shaped body and a fretted fin-gerboard to a pegbox tilted back at a sharp angle. About 1600, in order to adapt to new musical styles, an enlarge range was obtained by additional low strings, usually unstopped and suspended from a separate and higher pegbox (theorbo and chittarone), and tunings were often altered. By the end of the baroque period (about 1750), the lute was largely abandoned.
Few unaltered historic instruments remain, but many printed volumes of lute tablature testify to the lute's popularity and the high level of skill demanded of its performers. The recent revival of old music has produced many fine modern makers and players. The delicacy and finely shaded tone of the lute make it essentially an instrument for intimate performance.