Lute Rental Program

About the Lute Rental Program

For the novice lutenist the first challenge often is simply laying their hands on a lute. For one thing, lutes are expensive. Even the cheapest lute costs several times the price of a beginner’s guitar. Rarely, if ever, can anybody buy a lute “off the rack”. Lutes can be found for sale online, but they must be purchased unseen and unheard. “Buyer beware” is the watchword—and there is much to beware of. Often the unhappy purchase of an unplayable lute ends the beginner’s aspirations when they have scarcely begun.

The LSA’s Lute Rental Program was established to fill this very need. We provide players, especially beginners, with instruments on which to learn. We try to keep our rental fees low enough that a serious beginner will not be deterred from taking up the lute. Since all have come to us as donations, their quality necessarily varies somewhat. However, all our lutes are decently made, correctly set up, and altogether suitable for learning to play. No one should ever fear being stuck with an unsatisfactory lute. We support our renters unreservedly!


Demand for rentals is growing all the time. It’s very exciting, but it means we need more lutes! If you have an instrument no longer being used, please consider donating it to the Lute Rental Program. We are also happy to accept cash donations for the purchase of more instruments. If you would like to ensure that your own instrument comes to the Lute Rental Program as a legacy in your will, that too is possible. Please see our Donations page for details.

How to rent from us—the business arrangements.

Let’s get these over first…

LSA Membership

To rent one of our instruments you must be a member in good standing of the Lute Society of America. If you aren’t already a member, now is the time to join! It’s as simple as clicking this Membership link and following the instructions there. There are no other preconditions.

What does it cost?

All rentals are on a contract basis. The rental contract is for an initial period of twelve (12) months.* For most of our instruments, the rental rate is $55 per month, billed monthly, for a total of $660.00. The payments for the first and last months are to be paid in advance. In addition, you will be required to pay a $300 security deposit on the lute itself, also in advance. Once you have remitted these amounts, for a total of $410, the lute will be shipped to you. When your rental year is up and you have returned the lute to us in good order, your $300 deposit will be refunded. You are expected to insure the lute against theft and accidental damage, at your own expense. The cost of regular upkeep—strings and such—will be your responsibility.

Shipping is to be paid by the renter (you). This is billed at cost, once you have received your lute in good order. Return shipping is paid by the LSA, but you will be expected to prepare the lute for shipping according to our instructions. Shipping is normally by UPS Standard, but we are willing to consider other arrangements.

Premium instruments. A certain number of our lutes are high-value instruments intended for advanced players. The monthly rent for these is higher: $75, with a $500 deposit. There is often a waitlist for these lutes.

Canadian rentals. We now have a small collection of Renaissance lutes available for rental in Canada. The monthly rental rate is C$73 and the security deposit is C$400. There is no GST, HST, or TVQ. All other terms are the same as in the United States.

*Important: Your commitment to the 12-month rental period assures us of the income to keep the Lute Rental Program going. We regret that we can make no exceptions, so please don’t ask. If you just want to try out a lute for a couple of months, try to borrow one from somebody else. However, after the one-year contract is over, you may, with our consent, continue renting your lute month-to-month without any longer obligation.

How will I pay?

You will receive an invoice for every amount due. All your invoices will be issued through PayPal and sent to you by email. Payment is by PayPal ONLY.  We regret that we cannot accept other methods of payment. Unless you have a PayPal account, we cannot rent you an instrument. You will be able to pay them by simply clicking a link on the invoice. If you do not have a PayPal account already, you can easily open one on the PayPal Signup page.

Choosing your lute

Now for the exciting part. Please go to our Rental Lute Collection.

Here you may browse our store of instruments noting the ones listed as “Available for Rental”. There will be a photograph (for most of them—we’re working on getting the others!) and a short description of each. The majority of our instruments are Renaissance lutes. We also have a number of Baroque lutes available. Other instruments include vihuelas, as well as Baroque and Renaissance guitars. As mentioned above, we also have certain premium lutes, which are more costly to rent. These include baroque lutes, theorbos and archlutes. For these there is generally a waiting list.

It would be wise to involve your teacher in your choice. The Lute Rental Program Director, James Louder, also will be happy to help you choose. Once you have settled on the instrument you would like to rent, it’s time to start… 

The Rental Process

Please complete the online Application for Lute Rental. The Lute Rental Program Director will verify your membership status. If all is in good order, he will send you the Rental Agreement for you to fill out and sign. In the meantime, the Director will contact the Lute Rental Program Custodian who has your lute in their care. The Custodian will verify the lute’s condition. If any maintenance is needed, (e.g. new strings) the Custodian will take care of it. When your lute is sent it will be in proper condition for you to begin using it at once.

When the Director has received your signed Rental Agreement, he will issue your invoice for the initial payment: first & last months’ rent, plus the security deposit. Once your payment has been received the Custodian will pack your lute and the Director will issue the shipping order. The instrument will be sent by UPS Standard, prepaid. The Director will invoice you for the shipping cost (typically between $100 and $250) once you have received the lute in good order.

Enjoy learning to play the lute!

When the lute is shipped to you, the Director will email you a copy of a document called Caring for Your Lute. You should read it carefully, for it contains important information about your instrument and your rental. Among other things it will included contact information for your lute’s Custodian, who will be another resource person for you. Instructions for the lute’s care will also be included in your lute’s case, along with a schedule of strings for that particular instrument. The case will contain a humidifier, a small humidistat, and one spare chanterelle, i.e. the single string for the first course.

Our lutes are typically strung with Aquila Nylgut™ synthetic gut strings. If one of the other strings should break, the Traffic Manager will be happy to have a replacement sent to you, billed at cost on your next month’s invoice.

If you are a beginner we strongly recommend that you establish a relationship with a teacher. During the pandemic most teachers are very willing to give lessons online—as indeed many were even before COVID-19 came along. You can search for a teacher using our Professional Directory. Although we do not strictly require that you have a teacher before you rent an instrument, we do insist, if you are a beginner, that you have had an initial discussion with a teacher about taking lessons. The lute is not a simple instrument which anyone can play, badly or well as they find it. You will be very unlikely to succeed if you try to teach yourself from a book and/or YouTube videos. You will be most successful and avoid being hampered by bad habits, if you work with a teacher who can observe your playing and  instruct you in correct technique. Most important of all, your teacher will open to you the amazing scope and depth of lute music, a repertoire which historically spanned almost three hundred years, and which is growing once more in our own time.

When you first receive your rental lute you will be excited and eager to draw the first sounds from it. When you get a lute from us you will want to tune it up, play around with it, explore it. But you will also have many questions. We have put together a Beginner’s Guide to the Renaissance Lute to answer some of your questions, if you are a complete novice. It will go a fair way toward relieving the frustration a beginner might feel if they received their lute while the first meeting with their teacher might still be weeks away. The Beginner’s Guide will help make your first contact with your rental lute a great experience. It is available as a PDF at the link above.

During the rental process and subsequently during your rental, you may always feel free to contact James Louder, the Lute Rental Program Director. James will be happy to answer your questions and/or assist you with any concerns you may have.

What about buying a lute?

If you are interested in buying a used lute, check out the Lutes for Sale webpage.  If you would like to commission a luthier to make a lute specially for you, please search the Professional Directory for US and Canadian luthiers.  There are, of course, outstanding luthiers in other countries and by typing in “lute luthier” in an Internet search engine, you can find all of them who have webpages. Luthier Martin Shepherd has lots of great tips regarding what to look for if you are buying a lute.

Does the Lute Rental Program have a rent-to-own plan?

No, we do not. Rent-to-own is a retail model for selling new instruments. The LSA is in an entirely different business: the non-profit rental of donated ones—and that’s enough for us!