Stephen Barber & Sandi Harris, Lutemakers
Catalogue and Price List 2016
1  Six course lutes 8  Gallichone/mandora, colascione
2  Seven and eight course lutes 9  Mandolino
3  Basslutes 10  Continuo instruments
4  Ten course lutes, 9- course lutes 11 Renaissance and Baroque guitars
5  Wire-strung instruments 12 Vihuela, viola da mano
6  Eleven and Twelve course lutes 13 Student Lutes
7 Thirteen course lutes  14 Footnotes

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Seven and eight course lutes

The following lutes are all available in either seven or eight course versions; other models are available.

The eight-course lute shown above is based on an original by Hans Frei (No.7 below) and has a back made from a highly-figured and unusual variety of English ash, very similar in appearance to Hungarian ash, and of equal hardness.

£4200 7-course / £4400 8-course.

A few of the surviving historical lutes from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth Centuries had a double first course, and we offer this where appropriate, although of course there is no reason why any model should not be built with this feature; some players like playing a double first course, some do not. A potential practical difficulty to be taken into consideration when deciding upon a double first course is the problem of keeping two thin strings in tune with each other, and with gut strings, this can be an issue of expense as well.


1. Own design      (based on Venetian & Paduan lutes, c. 1580-1610)

35, 39 or 43 ribs in yew with ebony spacers; also rio rosewood with holly spacers; ebony-veneered neck and pegbox; ebony fingerboard and soundboard half-edging; stained pernambuco, ebony or African blackwood (dalbergia melanoxylon) pegs.
String length: 600mm
Pitch: g'

£5200, 7-course / £5400, 8-course (basic versions, as described above).

The decorative options available for this model include: white stripes to rear of neck and pegbox; white edgings to the pegbox; bone panel line inlaid in fingerboard; bone heart with ebony border inlaid in lower soundboard; stained pernambuco, ebony or blackwood pegs with bone pips. This will be priced according to which options are chosen, but for example if all of these features were chosen, it would add £600 to the basic price.

The seven-course version shown above (with a shaded yew back) was originally made in 1980, just after Stephen moved to our present workshop in Peacock Yard; it recently came back for a new soundboard and bridge (following some impact damage) Over the quarter of a century since it was made, not a single glue-joint had opened or failed – a testament to the use of animal glues throughout. It was a nice opportunity to 'refresh' this lute, which had given its owner – Michael Bruhn, of Kiel, Germany – much playing enjoyment. Upon receiving the rebuilt lute, Michael emailed:

"Dear Sandi and Stephen, the lute arrived this day in the morning safely. I unpacked it this evening tuned it and was surprised by a really new lute. It has a rich sound in all registers and i am very content. You did a great job with this lute. Thank you very much and hope to see you for the next lute in the future ... Yours sincerely, Michael Bruhn".


2. Lute Society 6-course (built as a seven or eight course)    

(designed by Stephen Barber in 1982)

11 ribs in figured maple, birds-eye maple, figured ash or Hungarian ash; ebony-veneered neck and pegbox; ebony fingerboard and soundboard half-edging; stained pernambuco, ebony or blackwood pegs.
String length: 600mm
Pitch: g'

£4200, 7-courses / £4400, 8-course


3. After Vvendelio Venere, Padua 1592    (Bologna, Academia Filarmonica)

25 ribs in yew with holly spacers; neck and pegbox veneered with ebony; ebony fingerboard, pernambuco pegs.
String length: 584mm
Pitch: g'

£5000, 7 courses / £5200, 8 courses (both with plain, ebony-veneered neck & pegbox; decorated neck and pegbox as shown below adds £600 to the price).


This model is offered as an alternative to the Venetian/Paduan lute (No. 1 above) for players who prefer a shorter string length. It is also available in a decorated version, with stripes of ebony & red satiné with white (holly or bone) lines along the rear of the neck and pegbox (these decorative details feature on the original instrument). The decorated version is available at £600 extra.

 


Both versions shown above have yew backs, one has white (holly) lines between the ribs, the other has ebony lines (the central image shows an instrument made to special order with 37 ribs). The instrument shown lower right has decoration copied from the original, with its neck and pegbox veneered with stripes of ebony and red satiné, with bone lines inlaid.


4. After Magno dieffopruchar, Venice 1609   (Florence, Museo Civico Bardini Nr. 144)

37 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered neck and pegbox; ebony half-edging; stained pernambuco, ebony or blackwood pegs.
String length: 670mm
Pitch: f'


£5600, 7-course / £5800, 8-course.

Also available decorated as the original: white (bone, not ivory) stripes to the rear of the neck and pegbox; white edgings to the pegbox; ebony fingerboard with inlaid bone panel-line; inlaid bone/ebony heart in lower soundboard below bridge. £800 extra


5. After Vvendelio Venere, Padua 1582   (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum C36)

13 ribs in yew; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; ebony half-edging, stained pernambuco or ebony pegs.
String length: 670mm
Pitch: f

A broad-ribbed alternative to the instrument above - they are a similar size and shape.
£4400, 7-course / £4600, 8-course.


6. Own design    (designed by Stephen Barber & Sandi Harris, 1993)

9 ribs in figured ash or Hungarian ash; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; stained pernambuco, ebony or blackwood pegs with bone pips; ebony half-edging; pegbox cheeks veneered with snakewood, edged with bone; bone panel-line inlaid into fingerboard.
String length: 584mm
Pitch: g'

A lute for g' tuning, but with a string length very suitable for those with smaller hands or reach problems, or the younger player. A very popular model !


This eight-course version has highly-figured Hungarian ash ribs, colour varnished; a haselfichte soundboard, and plain ebony-veneered neck and pegbox, ebony pegs with bone pips. Ribs from highly-figured Hungarian ash adds £300 to the price of this instrument.

Owned by Daniel Kurz, Berlin

£4200, 7-course / £4400, 8-course (7c with extremely rare, highly-figured Hungarian Ash ribs is £4800, 8c is £5000)


7. After Hans Frei   (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum C34)

11 ribs in figured maple, figured maple striped with birds-eye maple or Hungarian ash striped with figured ash; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; stained pernambuco, ebony or blackwood pegs with bone pips.
String length: 630mm
Pitch: f#'

(This lute can be built at 610mm for g' tuning, and at lengths between 610mm and 640mm, as the player wishes)

This model has a very powerful, clear tone, with excellent projection; it is popular with players who prefer an instrument with a shallow body, which is of course not only comfortable to hold and play, but projects well.


The seven-course version above has a highly-figured birds-eye maple back, ebony-veneered neck and pegbox, and plain ebony pegs.

£4200 (7-course version, as above; 8-course version is £4400)

The eight-course version above has a back from Hungarian ash striped with flamed ash, ebony-veneered neck and pegbox, and ebony pegs with bone pips.

£4600 (8-course version, examples as shown above and below, which have backs made from rare types of figured ash and maple species)

The eight-course version above has a back from figured poplar, with snakewood fingerboard points and soundboard half-edgings; its rose is the same basic design as that of the seven-course lute shown two images above. However, the rose of the seven-course has an extra decorative border of motifs cut through the soundboard, whereas this eight-course instrument's rose has an incised, carved ring of 'chip-carving' around its perimeter.

(The body frets had not been fitted when the photographs above were taken, but the instrument was subsequently fitted with its fixed wooden frets, up to and including the 12th fret).


8. After Wendelin Tieffenbrucker c. 1600   (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum C.40)

19 ribs in yew (either heartwood or heartwood/sapwood); ebony-veneered neck and pegbox; ebony fingerboard; stained pernambuco pegs; pegbox fitted at a relatively-shallow angle to facilitate playing in the first position.
String length: 440mm
Pitch: d''

An exquisite little instrument, useful for playing lute trios; one of two virtually identical lutes in the Vienna collection (C.39 & C.40).
£3800, 7 courses / £3900, 8 courses.

The lute shown above was made in 1982, from shaded yew, and has Stephen's first brandmark on its upper soundboard (a cross with the initials S and B either side). It is still in our possession, having been originally made for Stephen's son Robert to learn to play.

9. After Jacob Hes, Venice 1586   (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs No. 40381)

15 ribs in figured ash or maple, with ebony spacers; neck and pegbox veneered with ebony; ebony fingerboard; stained pernambuco or ebony pegs with bone pips, ebony soundboard half-edging.
String length: 560mm
Pitch: g' (can be tuned to g#')

A beautifully-preserved smaller 7-course lute, its 15-rib back has very nice proportions. The original lute has ribs of ivory, with triple ebony/ivory/ebony spacers, which continue up the rear of the neck as 14 stripes (inlaid into an ivory background veneer), some then follow along the rear surface of the pegbox. Its rose is a similar design to the Magno dieffopruchar lute (No. 8 in the Six Course Lute section) but with a chip-carved border.

£4300, 7 courses / £4500, 8 courses (plain version, with ebony-veneered neck and simple ebony rib spacers).

Also available decorated as the original lute, with triple rib spacers (black/white/black - ebony/holly/ebony); ebony fingerboard with 2 inlaid bone lines, which run parallel to the edge, and continue through the fingerboard points, and striping to rear of neck and pegbox; this option is £600 extra.


10.  After a lute labelled "in Padov 1595"  (ex-Robert Spencer collection)

–Late 16th-Century 'veneered' version–

9 ribs, in pear, plum, apple, figured maple, Holbein maple or Hungarian ash; ebony-veneered neck and pegbox; ebony fingerboard; pegs in either pernambuco, or alternating ebony/pernambuco.**
String length: 576mm
Pitch: g'


A smaller g' lute, suitable for players who experience discomfort playing a larger instrument; built in the style of a late 16th Century lute.

7-course version is £4200 in figured ash or figured maple – £4800 with Hungarian Ash (as below) or Holbein maple ribs.

(an 8-course version is £4300 in figured ash or figured maple – £4900 with Hungarian Ash)

 

Shown above is a 7-course version of this beautiful, early 16th Century lute, made for Rolando Ossowski, of Buenos Aires, in late October 2009. This version has been made using the features that a typical late 16th Century 7-course lute could have had, including an ebony-veneered neck and pegbox, a dark (ebony in this case) fingerboard, a scroll-ended bridge and pegs with a later type of head design (rather than the heart-shaped style seen in early 16th Century iconography, and on the Georg Gerle lute).


11.  After a lute labelled "in Padov 1595"  (ex-Robert Spencer collection)

–Early 16th-Century 'unveneered', 'Virdung' version*

9 ribs, in pear, plum, apple, figured maple, Holbein maple or Hungarian ash; neck and pegbox in pear, apple or brown oak; boxwood or figured satinwood fingerboard edged with bone; heart-shaped pegs in either pernambuco, or alternating ebony/pernambuco.
String length: 576mm
Pitch: g'


A smaller g' lute, suitable for players who experience discomfort playing a larger instrument; built in the style of an early 16th Century lute.

7-course version is £4000 in figured ash or figured maple – £4600 with Hungarian Ash (as below) or Holbein maple ribs.

 

Above is a 7-course version of this beautiful, early 16th Century lute, made for Thomas Höhne, of Wittenberg, in June 2009.

*It has been made using the features that an early 16th Century 7-course lute could have had, including a plain, unveneered neck and pegbox, a pale-coloured fingerboard, a bridge with stylized flowers carved at its ends, and heart-shaped pegs (rather like the style seen in early 16th Century iconography, and on the Georg Gerle lute). The rose design used on this model is that found on the original lute.


The original 'in Padov' lute

The original instrument is a very important surviving fragment of 16th Century lute construction: the soundboard of this very interesting and beautifully-proportioned lute originally had only five main original bars, two between the rose and block, two between the rose and bridge and one below the bridge, and no main bar through the rose centre (just four small supporting bars). Originally from the Sebastian Isepp collection, it was acquired in 1969 by Robert Spencer; at this point, it was fitted with 8 courses and had a long (10 fret) neck dating from the early 18th Century – since removed from the instrument following a modern conversion.

This lute has passed through the hands of several owners since Bob sold it in 1973. Along the way, it has been speculatively (and almost certainly erroneously) attributed to 'Martin Presbyter', but the hand-written label fragment is probably that of a repairer; the lute seems to date from much earlier in the 16th Century. There are no known authenticated, genuine labels by 'Martin Presbyter' with which to compare the fragment which survives in this instrument, so any attribution to 'Presbyter' must be treated with caution.

An important instrument, it has a very interesting rose, recalling Moorish mosaic patterns (see above) with traces of a painted pattern on the soundboard around it, following the tracery of the rose (the rose design used on the instrument shown here is from another lute, at the customer's request). There were also traces on the soundboard of an earlier bridge with rounded ends (now sadly obliterated forever by the most recent 'restoration'). Stephen first measured it back in 1973, and we again measured and photographed it in April 1989 (when it was in a London auction house, awaiting sale) using our specially-designed machine for accurately recording the geometry of its back, to supplement the internal documentation we already possessed from 1973.

*Sebastian Virdung, the Heidelberg-born publisher, mentions that the 7-course lute existed as early as 1511 (in his treatise on instruments, Musica Getutscht, Basel).