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Luthier Sterling Price

Thanks to Sterling Price, the Lute Lives


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Not too many budding musicians gravitate toward the lute. But Sterling Price's love of the lute began at age 13, when he tried unsuccessfully to re-create its sounds while playing the guitar. At 20, he studied lute music Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Fascinated by what he was learning, he wanted to purchase more lutes, but due to their cost (anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000), he instead traveled to England to learn how to build them. Now residing in Sandy, Price teaches students from Utah, Nevada and Idaho the art of playing this ancient instrument, specializing in music from the German Baroque period. He also builds lutes and guitars and maintains the website, where he converts 6-string guitars into 7- to 14-string instruments that can imitate different lute styles.

Why all this lute love?

The lute was the most popular instrument of the Renaissance and continued to be popular in the Baroque era. There is more lute music in existence than for any other instrument. I love the rich history and great music of the lute.

Is the lute catching on?

The lute went out of favor in the 19th century and was rediscovered starting in the 1920s. Now, there are thousands of players all over the world playing superb historically built copies of museum lutes.

For those who have never experienced lute music, describe the sound.

To the layman, a lute might sound a bit like a guitar. It is quite different, however. A baroque lute, for instance, has 24 strings with a much greater range than the guitar. A classical guitar sounds to me very hot, humid and muggy. A lute is crisp, dry and fresh.

Since synthesizers and keyboards can reproduce nearly any sound, why develop an instrument such as a 14-string guitar?

Synthesizers are the equivalent of processed cheese or box wine. Nobody wants to sit through a concert of a synth playing. There will always be a big place for real instruments.

When considering those running for U.S. president right now, which candidate represents the lute, and which one is a guitar?

The guitar represents Donald Trump—bombastic and full of himself. The lute, of course, rises above politics.

Correction: An incorrect price range for lutes was given in the original version of this story. It has been corrected above.