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String Instruments

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Music - String Instruments
Medieval Musical instruments would be used by the musicians of the period including the Waits, Minstrels or Troubadours. There were three categories of musical instruments in the Middle Ages - wind, string and percussion. Bas referred to soft instruments (literally, "low," but referring to volume, not pitch) which were suitable for the chamber.

This type of instrument included many string instruments including the vielle, rebec and other bowed strings, the lute and other plucked strings and the recorders. Many of the Medieval musical instruments were the forerunners to our modern musical instruments.

Definition of String Instruments
Definition of String instruments: A family of instruments with strings that produce sound when plucked, bowed, or struck.

Types of String Musical Instruments
There were many types of string Musical Instruments played during the Medieval times including the instruments detailed in the following list:

  • Lute - A plucked string instrument having a pear-shaped body, a usually bent neck, and a fretted fingerboard
  • The Harp - The harp was another favorite instrument of the troubadours and minstrels and was about 30 inches in length
  • The Dulcimer - The Dulcimer was played by striking the strings with small hammers
  • The Rebec - The rebec was an instrument with a round pear-shaped body much like an early violin
  • The Psaltery - The Psaltery was a Medieval musical instrument which was a cross between a harp and a lyre
  • Chittarone - a lute which could reach 6 feet tall
  • Cittern - Similar to a modern guitar
  • The Fiddle - There were a variety of Medieval Fiddles which were played with a bow or plucked and usually held under the chin or in the crook of the arm. Easily portable and one of the most popular street musical instruments
  • The Hurdy-gurdy - the hurdy-gurdy was introduced to England during the 12th century - the bow was replaced by strings attached to a wheel which was cranked by a handle
  • Gittern - Similar to a modern guitar
  • The Viol - Viols were played with a bow and held on the lap or between the legs
  • The Vielle - Popular string instrument with troubadours and jongleurs
  • Mandolin and Mandore - A small and beautifully shaped string instrument resembling the lute
  • The Clavichord - an early stringed instrument like a piano but with more delicate sound
  • Harpsichord - a harp-shaped instrument of music set horizontally on legs, like the grand piano
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