Originating in the Middle Ages, the lute has remarkable similarities to the Arabic oud, both consisting of a pear-shaped body with a wooden soundboard and bowled back. While the lute was a popular medieval instrument, the emergence of more contrapuntal works in the late fifteenth century led to further experimentation with design.The lute of the early Renaissance had five ‘courses’ (pairs of strings) that expanded to six with the rise of polyphony, and even resulted in up to ten courses by the seventeenth century. The lute was among the earliest instruments to develop a solo repertoire, with publications like Dowland’s book of songs and airs in 1597. Music of the Baroque period demanded additional low notes, which led to the development of lutes with extended necks such as the archlute, theorbo, and the chitarrone. In Spain, the vihuela, which was similarly-designed but shaped more like a guitar, was a preferred alternative to the lute. The lute fell out of fashion with the rise in popularity of violins and keyboards in the early eighteenth century.