Lutes are plucked chordophones, divided roughly into two types: long-necked and short-necked. The Moroccan long-neck lute, seen here, has elaborate inlay work and a fretted fingerboard. The lute was introduced to Europe in the 10th century and became very popular during the Renaissance. Today lutes are usually used in folk music.
The mandolin originated in the 18th century and is related to the lute. It is a member of the family of musical instruments known as chordophones. The mandolin has four pairs of steel strings that are played with a pick, or plectrum. It is a popular instrument in Italian folk and American bluegrass music.
The balalaika is a traditional Russian lute with a flat back and a triangular body. This instrument has three strings and an ornamental peg box carved into the shape of two horse heads. Other balalaikas can have two or four strings and can come in any of six sizes, the largest of which must be rested on the floor in order to be played.
The 'ud ( also spelled oud), an instrument from the Middle East , is the ancestor of the modern lute. It is a member of the family of musical instruments known as chordophones. This contemporary 'ud is from Morocco. It has double strings, is unfretted, and is played with a plectrum, or pick. The 'ud is the most important instrument in classical Arab music.
Shamisen With Plectrum.
The shamisen, a Japanese flat-backed, long-necked lute, is a descendant of the Chinese san-hsien, which existed as early as the 13th century. The shamisen has a cat skin belly and back, and three strings that are struck with a bachi ( a bone plectrum, pictured). The shamisen is a traditional instrument in Kabuki theater.
The sitar is a type of long-necked lute played by classical Indian musicians. This sitar is made of teak with elaborate inlay and a soundbox made from a gourd. There are seven main strings, which are plucked, and eleven "sympathetic" strings, which vibrate when the main strings are played. The sitar is used to play classical Indian compositions called ragas.