Alessandro Piccinini (1566-c. 1638) claimed he invented the archlute. He says in the preface to his 1623 Intavolatura di Liuto et di Chitarrone, Libro Primo that he had a luthier build several versions of an "arciliuto" with a neck exension providing for extra bass courses. This neck extension resulted in a much more robust sounding bass and was soon adapted to theorbos.
Archlutes preserve the Renaissance G tuning (vieil ton) with double strings except for the top. There are typically 13 or 14 courses; in the latter case, the 14th course was usually tuned to F# or Eb.
According to Spencer, 'The liuto attiorbato was a lute of 7 or 8 double courses of stopped strings, with 6 or 7 single or double courses of unstopped diapasons.' This was intended as a solo instrument, although Piccinini disliked the use of this term because of the confusion it created with the theorbo. Regardless, this shorter and more compact type of archlute is easier to carry around and play and is ideal for the music of Piccinini and Kapsberger. In fact, it will also serve quite nicely as an accompaniment or continuo instrument.
I currently offer the following archlutes:
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