Instruments | Lyre & Crwth | Medieval Era | Classical
The medieval plucked lyre had six strings which passed over a bridge resting on the front of a hollow resonant body. These strings were secured at the base of the instrument and were fixed to a yoke which was shaped like a crossbar between two arms projecting upwards from the sides of the body. In order to play the instrument, the lyre was rested in the lap and the right hand plucked the strings near the bridge.
A second type of lyre, the bowed lyre, is now generally called by its Welsh name, ‘crwth’ (pronounced ‘crooth’). In this instrument, the arm and crossbar construction was altered: a fingerboard gave it a double arch, so the instrument as a whole looked like a face. It was held up against the chest to allow it to be bowed. The left hand grasped its ‘nose’ (the fingerboard) and the six strings were fixed to a row of pegs across the ‘forehead’. The bridge – the mouth – was flat, so any melody was continuously accompanied by a drone on the other strings.
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