Lute vs Mandolin: What are the Differences?

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The Lute and Mandolin are two smooth-sounding instruments that feel so good to the ears when played well.

Although they look similar, there are some significant differences. Hence the reason why many musicians engage in Lute vs Mandolin discussions.

In this article, I compare Lute vs Mandolin and show which one is best for you.

What is Lute?

What is Lute

The Lute is an ancient musical instrument from the stringed family. It has been part of the European culture for the past 500 years and descends from a musical instrument called the “Oud” which originates from the Middle East and North Africa.

The Lute is a string instrument with an elastic neck and round back. Its strings are attached to its neck and it runs perpendicularly over its fret to the sound-board.

The ancient Lutes had 5 courses of strings with another single string that serves as the treble.

Now, we have Lutes of different sizes and strings.

What is Mandolin?

What is Mandolin

The Mandolin is a string instrument that originates from the Lute family. It is played by plucking the strings with a plectrum.

The most common of them is the modern Mandolins that come in 4 courses of double metal strings that are tuned in unison. There are also other Mandolins that have 10-12 courses of strings as well.

They come with pegs at the back of their neck that serve as a turning mechanism for tightening and loosening of the strings and for tuning.

The pearl-shaped body of the Mandolin serves as a resonator which is attached to the neck by a fingerboard.

Is Mandolin a modern Lute?

Types of Mandolins

Even though they are from the same family, the Lute and Mandolin have major differences.

This might sound a little bit confusing to you at first because they are some attributes in common, nevertheless, they are not the same.

[The Lute is much larger than the Mandolin. The Mandolin has 8 strings whereas its sibling carries 15 strings.]

Understanding the basics of each instrument as earlier discussed in this article will enable you to decide which one is the best to choose for learning or entertainment purposes.

What is the difference between a Lute and a Mandolin?

Now, let’s examine the differences between the two instruments.

The Lute is the mother of many string instruments such as the guitar and the Mandolin itself.

The number of strings you would find on a Lute varies on the size and model. On a Lute, you can find up to 15-25 strings.

The Lute is played by plucking with the finger.

The Mandolin on the other hand comes with 4 sets of double strings making it 8 strings in total. There are other varieties of Mandolin that come with 5 or 6 sets of strings making 10 or 12 strings in total.

The Mandolin is played with a plucking instrument called the Spectrum and while the neck of the Mandolin is straight, the neck of the Lute is bent like an L-shape.

How similar is a Mandolin to a Lute?


Now, let’s examine some of the characteristics that they have in common.

The number one obvious similarity between the two musical instruments is that they are both from the string family. The Mandolin is a descendant of the Lute family. Other descendants from the Lute family include the guitar, violin, viola, ukulele, cello, and many more.

Also, they have similar shapes. They both have pearl-shaped bodies, are smooth on touch, and have long necks. At the end of their neck are the pegs serving as a turning machine for loosening and tightening their strings.

That’s not all.

In both instruments, the fretboard is attached to the neck and soundboard, and their metal strings run perpendicularly over their fretboard from the neck to the soundboard. This also performs the function of a resonator.

Can you play Lute music on Mandolin?

Though they are from the same family, (they make music by plucking their strings), the Lute and Mandolin have different timbres.

Before you can decide which music to play any of the instruments to, you should listen to some music already made with the Lute and Mandolin.

Wrap up

Lutes are not mass-produced and they are quite expensive. You can only get them on request from the luthiers or the Lute-makers.

So it is important to be careful when going out for one.

The Mandolin is cheaper compared to the Lute. Both are great instruments that affect the quality and projection of sound in every piece of music.

Jennifer Max


Hi, I’m Jennifer I’m a passionate singer and an audiophile from Detroit, MI. 

I’m on a mission to help music creators to create fine music that help them position uniquely in the saturated music space.

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