The Improvising Lutenist

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Rob MacKIllop : I really like this book, and am already going through it with one of my Skype students. Although written for a 6c lute, it’s not confined to the stylistic period of the early Renaissance. In fact it takes you from simple two-part improvisation on a ground, to the frontiers of jazz. Recommended for all Renaissance lute players.

Silvia Amato : A must have for lutenists : Thanks to Gilbert Isbin, this book could really help the lutenists to begin and improve their trip into the contemporary lute music world, and anyway to approach the improvisation, an important step for everyone.

John Croall : ‘Got the book today and have started! Brilliant!’

Betsy Howard Small : What a service to lutenists this is for you to have written this book! I just ordered it on Amazon, and eagerly await its arrival.


This book is written to help you improvise in a contemporary way on the lute. Every musician can learn to improvise. You just need to learn and practice the right tools. Improvisation is not intimidating at all! Each chapter focuses on a different improvisational approach. Play through the examples at your own tempo but don’t feel as though you have to memorise them. This is not necessary nor desirable. When you feel ready, start practising improvising using the exercises given in the book. At first you will probably not be playing in strict time but you will be able to maintain a steady tempo as you become more experienced and confident. In every chapter there is a ‘Your turn’ section, following the examples. Here you are learning the tools of improvisation and it is important to invest time when it is ‘Your turn’. The aim is always to create your own improvisations but if this seems to difficult you could begin by composing some ideas on paper. The book will not deal in great detail with theoretical aspects. These can be found in thousands of books that have already been published. ‘The Improvising Lutenist’ is written with the lute at hand and is focused on improvising in a contemporary way on scales and modes, grounds and chord progressions. It is written for the six-course renaissance lute but if you have a lute with more courses you can just be creative with the additional basses.
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