Most German Folk and Art songs (Lieder) since the Middle Ages were commonly accompanied by a plucked string instrument of four to six strings. That is to say a Zupfgeige if you were very poor (an old violin or Gamba, less bow and soundpost), or a guitar or lute, depending on the time and place, if you were only fairly poor. (In many parts of Germany and in the 18th century song collection "Die Zupfgeigen-hansel", the guitar is still referred to as Zupfgeige.)
It is interesting that the basic word "Laute", which describes the sort of lute used by most ordinary people, refers to a six-string instrument. The recently revived bent-neck lute, which was at one time the principal domestic instrument of the rich, requires a qualifying adjective such as "Knickhals-Laute" or "Klassische" Laute", and its period of popularity was followed by virtual extinction for nearly two centuries. The six string lute has never been extinct. Although Italian and Spanish guitars made inroads into its popularity, in many places it remained the most popular instrument, particularly in South-East Germany.
At the beginning of this century the songs of Herrmann Loens would have been accompanied on Lueneburg Heath by a virtually identical instrument. There are many more historical examples of the instrument's respectability and it does not deserve the scorn poured on it by the new enthusiasts of the newly revived bent-neck lute. It is and has been, since the beginning of European History, a true Folk instrument.
Fletcher Coppock and Newman have some of these instruments at varying prices around £70. As exports of individually made instruments from East Germany are likely to disappear soon, if you are interested in one, do something about it before it's too late. They can be played in a variety of tunings by any guitarist and use either nylon or ultralight steel guitar strings, such as Handcraft Spanish (these are steel) or Thomastik set nos. 460 to 465 (called Plectrum guitar strings, and also very light steel). The tone quality and dynamics are halfway between a bent-neck lute and a German Classical guitar, and are well suited to song accompaniment, Bach, and six-string transcriptions of classical lute music. A French artist uses one for instrumental blues, and I have sold one to Dr. John for — would-you-believe — Voodoo-Rock? They are made of spruce, pear, cherry, birch, maple and rosewood — and not a piece of veneer or plywood to be found. This means that they do not like central heating, dry rooms, or sudden changes of climate. If you wish to use steel strings, you should pick the model which has a continuous fingerboard extending over the body to the "Rose" (soundhole), and for steel strings or hard use with nylon strings, you should avoid the pretty scalloped fingerboards, as they wear quickly and are difficult to refret. If you have no choice however, they can be planed flat and refretted normally. If the instrument has a slightly high action and a high bridge, it can be adjusted; high action and a low bridge may mean problems.
Similar instruments are imported by Stentor Music and Summerfield Brothers. While the basic design remains the same, you will find great variations in design details, quality and price (the price given here is an average). Better instruments frequently have bridge and rose matching and are carved with some surface detail, but no carving round the edges of the soundboard. These instruments are beautiful but fragile and I am sorry to see that most importers no longer have shaped hard cases available. Such a case is necessary for professional use and the cost of having a case made here is very much higher than the additional cost of importing the lute in a case. Perhaps some could be imported in their cases and these cases then made available separately.
Retail Price £75