(covers information from several alternate timelines)
The Vulcan lute (sometimes referred to as Vulcan harp, Vulcan lyre, or Vulcan lyrette) was a twelve-stringed musical instrument, played on the planet Vulcan, that was tuned on a diatonic scale and noted to be very soothing. (VOY: "Innocence")
Spock was proficient at playing the Vulcan lute and was known to play it often during his off-duty hours. (TOS: "Charlie X", "The Conscience of the King", "Amok Time", "The Way to Eden"; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
|Violin • Viola • Cello • Double bass|
|Guitar • Double guitar • Lute • Vulcan lute • Klingon guitar|
In the final draft script of TOS: "Charlie X", this musical instrument was described as "a strange stringed guitar-like instrument that gives off unique and not at all earth scale semi-electronic sounds."
The Vulcan lute in "Charlie X" was designed by Wah Chang.
Uhura is the only non-Vulcan shown playing an instrument of this type. Although Uhura actress Nichelle Nichols was actually a trained singer in her teenage years and her own voice was used for Uhura's singing in the episode, she didn't really know how to play the Vulcan lute. Hence, whereas her singing became an integral part of many personal appearances she made at Star Trek conventions, she didn't use a Vulcan lute to accompany her vocals. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 082)
In a deleted scene from TOS: "Elaan of Troyius", Spock revealed that he took second place in the All-Vulcan Music Competition, and that his father had taken first place. He also expresses his finding the playing of the instrument "relaxing". (Star Trek: Lost Scenes)
In VOY: "Innocence", the Vulcan lute is described as a five-stringed instrument tuned in a diatonic scale, but visibly has twelve strings. It is strongly suggested that the lute is instead tuned in a twelve-tone chromatic scale, since a seven-tone diatonic scale can fit in neither five nor twelve strings.
The description of the Vulcan lyrette from the original edition of the Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual reads that this is "An unusually harmonious and melodic accompaniment or solo instrument, whose origin is lost in Vulcan antiquity. It combines the tonal qualities of a harp, lute, sitar, and to some extent, violin." They were usually made of Li'Pon and Sher Skah woods, with a Bahun'ahb inlay. The lowest pitch it could reach was 60 cps, and the highest was an astounding 3,180 cps.
- Detailed Schematics and Construction Plans for the Vulcan Lyre/Harp/Lute
- An acoustic Vulcan Lyre/Harp/Lute construction project
- Ka'athyra at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works