The Renaissance lute comes in a variety of sizes, typically from six to ten courses. The top course is a single string, all other courses are double strung.
This is the classic lute from early Renaissance Italy up through the late 16th century. You will want to carefully consider the tradeoffs between how many courses. A six course lute is a sweet and elegant instrument that works well for the early Italian and French literature, as well as the wonderful Spanish vihuela composers. The seven course lute covers later literature, including much of John Dowland. The eight course lute is often thought of as a "universal lute" and covers most of the literature through the 16th century; the addition of two extra courses over the 6 course lute can be somewhat overwhelming for the beginner.
I build my own models for 6, 7, or 8 course lutes based on these historical instruments:
Giovanni Hieber ca. 1580 - 590mm Mensur
H. Frei 1530 - 620mm Mensur, 11 Ribs
W. Venere 1592 - 590mm-600mm, 11 Ribs Standard (*25-33 Ribs Additional)
6 Course Lute after Tieffenbrucker 595mm string length
7C Renaissance Lute after Laux Maler 65cm string length
Pear and bird’s eye Maple back (Honey - Amber oil varnish),
Ebony veneered neck and peg box,
Top wood: 2010 German spruce (Bear-claw figure),
Snakewood edging around the top.
The ten course lute is often characterized as a “transitional” instrument. In the early 17 th century it underwent a number of alternate tunings, eventually evolving into the 11 course baroque lute.
However, there is a wealth of late 16th and early 17th century literature that was
written for this lute in the “old tuning” (vieil ton) of the Renaissance, including the
music of Kapsberger, Michelangelo Galilei, Nicolas Valet, and Robert Ballard, not
to mention the marvelous music of Scotland. Many find that Dowland works well
on a 10 course and I think it is a practical alternative to a 9 course instrument.
M. Dieffopruchar — 1612 650mm 11 Ribs Standard (*31 Ribs Additional)
Frei — 650 mm
Own Design — 620-640mm 11 Ribs