Lutes with extended necks

On this page you will find theorbos (also called chitarrone), archlutes (arciliuto) and liuto attiorbatos. All of which have always interchangeably been called by any one of these terms -and especially 'theorbo'- by the uninitiated. This is also a field of nomenclature further confused by regional varieties. Historically, all of these instruments were born out of wanting lower bass notes but being limited by string making technology of the time. The only solution was to make the bass strings longer.

I make necks and long extensions with carbon fiber reinforcement hidden under veneers and a small upper pegbox to reduce weight where it matters the most.

Foldable Theorbo

The foldable neck can be built on all theorbos and most archlutes. The only part of the mechanism that remains visible in playing condition is the hinge, which can only be seen from the back. The tension of the strings holds everything in place, and when folded, the strings wrap around a string holder so that they do not need to be loosened for storage or transport, and will be in tune when unfolded.

Pitch: any, String length: any cm

Theorbo, chitarrone

Typically a large lute with an extension that carries long bass strings typically twice as long as the fingerboard strings, characterized by re-entrant tuning where the two first strings or courses are an octave lower than in renaissance lute tuning: gdafcGF EDCB'A'G'F'. Can be tuned with first string in g or a. Smaller versions exist: The French theorbo or théorbe des pièces is tuned in d, while the tiny tiorbino is tuned in g' or a', so a whole octave higher than the normal size. Larger theorbos are mostly for continuo playing while the smaller ones are for solo repertoire.

All theorbos can be built with single or double fingerboard strings and in any case I make enough pegs for 7+7 or 6+8 stringing. Both ways are historically accurate, I would recommend single strings. An extra 15th bass string tuned in F# slightly spaced apart from the 14th can also be added.

Chitarrone, Buechenberg (1614)

Large theorbo / chitarrone with a multi-rib bowl.

Pitch: A or G, String length: 88-95 & 170-190 cm


Theorbo, Sebastian Schelle

Usually theorbos have triple rosettes, but the original Schelle has a large single inset rosette. I chose to use the same design, but cut in the soundboard, as the large majority of lute rosettes were made. The Schelle is also unlike most theorbos in that the body is made of only 11 wide ribs, while usually there are closer to 30 of them. The original also has a hinge on the extension, allowing the instrument to be folded for transportation if the diapasons are loosened. This theorbo suits tuning in A or D-minor, even G with slightly thicker strings than optimal.

Pitch: d, String length: 86 and 161 cm

Niskanen 109%

Now with 9% more theorbo! This is my own design, but scaled up from my original proposition. This is a slightly smaller theorbo than the Buchenberg and Schelle, and other serious historical theorbos, to allow for either a more frets on the neck (as shown), or shorter string length. As shown, can be strung 7+7, 7+8 or 6x2+8. 31 ribs. Total folded length 135 cm.

Pitch: G or A, String length: as shown, 10 frets at 89 cm & 174 cm. 9 frets at 84 cm, 8 frets at 80 cm

Hartung Foldable Theorbo

A smaller theorbo for solo playing with 10 frets on the neck, or fewer with a shorter neck. Shown with padauk body with maple filets, torrefied birch fingerboard panel, maple-ebony inlay on the neck, extension painted black.

Pitch: A, String length: 84.5 & 160 cm

Martinus Harz Theorbo in A

The Harz started life as a theorbo but the neck was shortened at some point. It can be made with a wide variety of string lengths to suit the player. Shown here with a reduced number of ribs, a neck long enough for 11 frets and pegs for single string courses.

Pitch: a, String length: 78 & 135 cm

Small Theorbo in D / Théorbe des pièces


Renaissance tuning with a long extension and single bass courses. The archlute differs from the theorbo in that it does not have re-entrant tuning, so you can play from all renaissance lute tablature. The repertoire for this type of lute greatly benefits from having nine or ten frets on the neck.

Archlute by Martinus Harz

Can be built as a large archlute or small theorbo. Also available at 3% reduced size, giving a large-bodied instrument in g' (a=415Hz).

Pitch: e' or f' or f#, String length: 67 & 144 cm

Short archlute, Pietro Railich

Pietro Railich, Venice 1644. Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nuremberg (MI45). Strings: (1x1 - 5x2 / 8x1). 15 ribs of "cooked" (kiln-dried) birch with birch filets.

Pitch: f#, String length: 64 & 99 cm

Liuto Attiorbato

String lengths around ~59cm & 93cm, 1+6x2 + 7x2. An instrument similar to the German swan neck baroque lute in having a short extension and diapasons with octave strings. The tuning of this instrument is the same as a renaissance lute, but with the added bass courses.

Matteo Sellas Liuto Attiorbato

Liuto Attiorbato in the style of Matteo Sellas, with the original ivory replaced by maple, and ebony replaced with darkened walnut (body) and blackwood tek (neck). Maple pegs. Carved and filled panels on the fingerboard copied from the original, line decoration on neck and extension. 7x2 + 7x2 courses.

Pitch: g' (a=440Hz), String length: 59 cm and 94 cm