Early Instruments

LOUGHNASHADE HORN

The Loughnashade Horn is one of the top ten most important archaeological finds in Ireland. It has been given pride of place in the National Museum of Ireland and is regularly cited as one of the most unique and intriguing insights into Irish history. Despite all of this, few people have ever actually heard of it, let alone seen it in the flesh. Often overlooked by more well known and more ornate objects such as the Ardagh Chalice, Tara Brooch or the Broighter Hoard, the Loughnashade Horn often gets forgotten about. Here’s what you need to know about it and why its importance needs to be recognised more often. Read more…


Click image to hear the Loughnashade Horn

To learn more about the Loughnashade Horn, click here

SITAR

The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent, used in Hindustani classical music. The instrument was invented in medieval India and flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in 18th-century India. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the sitar

BANDORA

The bandora is a large long-necked plucked string-instrument that can be regarded as a bass cittern though it does not have the re-entrant tuning typical of the cittern. Probably first built by John Rose in England around 1560, it remained popular for over a century. A somewhat smaller version was the orpharion.

The bandora is frequently one of the two bass instruments in a broken consort as associated with the works of Thomas Morley, and it is also a solo instrument in its own right. Anthony Holborne wrote many pieces for solo bandora. The multiple lute settings of Pacoloni appear both with and without optional wire-strung instruments. Read more…


Click image to hear the bandora

VIOLONCELLO

The historical violoncello has evolved to become the instrument we now know as the “cello.” The violoncello appeared by the early 16th century, part of the “violin family” of stringed instruments. The violoncello – like its siblings, the violin and viola – has four strings. It is substantially larger than the other two, and has the deepest sound or “voice.” Read more…


Click image to hear the violoncello

RAUSCHPFEIFE

Rauschpfeife is a commonly used term for a specific type of capped conical reed musical instrument of the woodwind family, used in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In common with the crumhorn and cornamuse, it is a wooden double-reed instrument with the reed enclosed in a windcap. The player blows into a slot in the top of the windcap to produce the sound. Read more…


Click image to hear the rauschpfeife

PIPE ORGAN

The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air (called wind) through the organ pipes selected from a keyboard. Because each pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have many ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch, and volume that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops. Read more on Wikipedia…

 

METALLOPHONE

metallophone is a musical instrument in which the sound-producing body is a piece of metal (other than a metal string), consisting of tuned metal bars, tubes, rods, bowls, or plates. Most frequently the metal body is struck to produce sound, usually with a mallet, but may also be activated by friction, keyboard action, or other means. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the metallophone

 

COPPER SERPENT

The serpent is a bass wind instrument, descended from the cornett, and a distant ancestor of the tuba, with a mouthpiece like a brass instrument but side holes like a woodwind. It is usually a long cone bent into a snakelike shape, hence the name. The serpent is closely related to the cornett, although it is not part of the cornett family, due to the absence of a thumb hole. It is generally made out of wood, with walnut being a particularly popular choice. The outside is covered with dark brown or black leather. Despite wooden construction and the fact that it has finger holes rather than valves, it is usually classed as a brass; the Hornbostel–Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification places it alongside trumpets. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the copper serpent

 

PHORMINX

The phorminx  was one of the oldest of the Ancient Greek stringed musical instruments, in the yoke lutes family, intermediate between the lyre and the kithara. It consisted of two to seven strings, richly decorated arms and a crescent-shaped sound box. It most probably originated from Mesopotamia. While it seems to have been common in Homer’s day, accompanying the rhapsodes, it was supplanted in historical times by the seven-stringed kithara. Nevertheless, the term phorminx continued to be used as an archaism in poetry.. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the phorminx

 

LAUNTENWERCK

The lautenwerck is a European keyboard instrument of the Baroque period. It is similar to a harpsichord, but with gut rather than metal strings, producing a mellow tone. The instrument was favored by J. S. Bach, who owned two of the instruments at the time of his death, but no specimens from the 18th century have survived to the present day. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the lautenwerck

 

DIDGERIDOO

Top Ten Facts

  1. Possibly the world’s oldest musical instrument.
  2. A wind instrument originally found in Arnhem Land, Northern Australia.
  3. Is made from limbs and tree trunks hollowed out by termites (insects).
  4. Is cut to an average length of 1.3 metres and cleaned out with a stick. or hot coals.
  5. Was used as an accompaniment to chants and songs.
  6. Produces a low-pitch, resonant sound with complex rhythmic patterns.
  7. In some tribal groups only played by men but in most groups by men, women and children.
  8. Traditional forms of the didjeridoo where found right accross the Australian Northern Territory.
  9. The Didgeridoo is the sound of Australia.
  10. If the earth had a voice it would be the sound of the Didgeridoo.

For more information about the dideridoo, click here
Also, Didgeridoo on Wikipedia


Click image to hear the didgeridoo

To view how the didgeridoo is made, click here.

 

HURDY GURDY

The hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents—small wedges, typically made of wood—against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board and hollow cavity to make the vibration of the strings audible. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the hurdy gurdy
MORE: View Introducing the Hurdy Gurdy

 

BAROQUE VIOLIN

A Baroque violin is a violin set up in the manner of the baroque period of music. The term includes original instruments which have survived unmodified since the Baroque period, as well as later instruments adjusted to the baroque setup, and modern replicas. Baroque violins have become relatively common in recent decades thanks to historically informed performance, with violinists returning to older models of instrument to achieve an authentic sound. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the baroque violin

MORE: Baroque violin and modern violin: What’s the difference? An introduction.

 

GUGIN

The guqin is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote “a gentleman does not part with his qin or se without good reason,” as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or “the instrument of the sages”. The guqin is not to be confused with the guzheng, another Chinese long stringed instrument also without frets, but with moveable bridges under each string. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the baroque gugin

 

GÜIRO

The güiro instrument is a long, hollow gourd with ridges that produce sound when a stick, called a pua, is scraped along the sides of the instrument. The güiro is classified as a percussion idiophone because the entire instrument vibrates to create sound. Popular in Latin American music and a staple of worldwide dance rhythms, this percussion instrument has been around for hundreds of years and continues to gain popularity. Read complete article…


Click image to hear the güiro

More: How to Make an Artisan Guiro 

 

HANDPAN

The path of this instrument’s development has traveled the globe and is intimately related to other musical instruments some of which are also very young and some of which are centuries old.
Continue reading, What is a Hand Pan, Hang Drum, and Pantam and where did they originate?”


Click image to hear the handpan

 

MUSETTE

The bagpipe, of course, is an ancient instrument. What distinguished the musette, a bagpipe popular in baroque era France, was the use of a bellows. In 18th-century depictions it’s possible to see this little bellows tucked under the forearm of the player. Read more…


Click image to hear the musette

 

CORNETTO

The cornetto is an early wind instrument that dates from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods, popular from 1500 to 1650. It was used in what are now called alta capellas or wind ensembles. It is not to be confused with the trumpet-like cornet. Read more on Wikipedia…

Video: What is a cornetto?
Matthew Manchester explains the cornetto, a musical instrument that flourished from the medieval period to the baroque. The cornetto is the platypus of the music world, with finger-holes like a recorder but a mouthpiece like a trumpet. The instrument represented life, death, and eternity when it was played in the cathedrals and palaces of Europe.

 

BASSOON

As with many instruments with ancient origins, the exact predecessor of the bassoon is hard to pin down definitively. There are several historic instruments that predate what we think of as the modern bassoon, but none were actually supplanted completely by the bassoon.

Throughout the Middle Ages, there is extensive documentation and surviving examples of instruments that bear resemblance to bassoons called shawms. These early wind instruments were made with either single or double reeds and were a common sight in Europe. One type of shawm called the “bombarde,” which was a cylindrical tube with seven sound holes and played with a double reed, was particularly bassoon-like. Read more…


Click image to hear the bassoon

Video: Introducing the Baroque Bassoon

MANDOLIN

mandolin (Italian: mandolino pronounced [mandoˈliːno]; literally “small mandola”) is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is usually plucked with a plectrum. It commonly has four courses of doubled metal strings tuned in unison (8 strings), although five (10 strings) and six (12 strings) course versions also exist. The courses are typically tuned in a succession of perfect fifths, with the same tuning as a violin (G3, D4, A4, E5). Also like the violin, it is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass. Read more on Wikipedia…


Click image to hear the mandolin

 

CONCH HORN

Conch, or conque, also known as a “seashell horn” or “shell trumpet“, is a wind instrument that is made from a conch, the shell of several different kinds of sea snails. Their natural conical bore is used to produce a musical tone. Conch shell trumpets have been played in many Pacific Island countries, as well as South America and Southern Asia.” Read more…


Click image to hear the conch horn

Also read, Brass Beginnings: A Fanfare for the Conch Trumpet

 

VIOLONCELLO

The historical violoncello has evolved to become the instrument we now know as the “cello.” The violoncello appeared by the early 16th century, part of the “violin family” of stringed instruments. The violoncello – like its siblings, the violin and viola – has four strings. It is substantially larger than the other two, and has the deepest sound or “voice.” Read more…


Click image to hear the violoncello

BANDORA

The bandora is a large long-necked plucked string-instrument that can be regarded as a bass cittern though it does not have the re-entrant tuning typical of the cittern. Probably first built by John Rose in England around 1560, it remained popular for over a century. A somewhat smaller version was the orpharion.

The bandora is frequently one of the two bass instruments in a broken consort as associated with the works of Thomas Morley, and it is also a solo instrument in its own right. Anthony Holborne wrote many pieces for solo bandora. The multiple lute settings of Pacoloni appear both with and without optional wire-strung instruments. Read more…


Click image to hear the bandora

RACKETT

The rackettcervelas, or Sausage Bassoon is a Renaissance-era double reed wind instrument, introduced late in the sixteenth century and already superseded by bassoons at the end of the seventeenth century. Read more…


Click image to hear the rackett

MESOPOTAMIAN LYRE

The lyre was played in Mesopotamia (modern-day southern Iraq) over 4,000 years ago. Music was an important aspect of many celebratory and ritual occasions in ancient Mesopotamia. The lyre is made of lavishly decorated silver and red limestone. The frame, tuners and strings are modern reproductions made from casts of the long-decayed wooden parts. The decorated panels below the bull’s head depict fallow deer and a tree on a hill, lions attacking a goat, and a lion attacking a gazelle. Read more about lyres…


Click image to hear the Mesopotamia lyre

To learn more about The Lyre of Mesopotamia click here.

JIAHU FLUTE

Chinese archeologists have unearthed what is believed to be the oldest known playable musical instrument, a seven-holed flute fashioned 9,000 years ago from the hollow wing bone of a large bird. Read more…


Click image to hear the Jiahu flute

 

ARCHLUTE

The archlute is a European plucked string instrument developed around 1600 as a compromise between the very large theorbo, the size and re-entrant tuning of which made for difficulties in the performance of solo music, and the Renaissance tenor lute, which lacked the bass range of the theorbo. Essentially a tenor lute with the theorbo’s neck-extension, the archlute lacks the power in the tenor and the bass that the theorbo’s large body and typically greater string length provide. Read more…


Click image to hear the archlute

 

HOHLE FELS FLUTE

The Hohle Fels (also HohlefelsHohler Fels, German for “hollow rock”) is a cave in the Swabian Jura of Germany that has yielded a number of important archaeological finds dating from the Upper Paleolithic. Artifacts found in the cave represent some of the earliest examples of prehistoric art and musical instruments ever discovered. The cave is just outside the town of Schelklingen in the state of Baden-Württemberg, near Ulm. Read more...


Click image to hear the hohle fels flute

For more information:
Click here to learn the history of the Hohle Fels Cave flute

 

LITHOPHONE

lithophone is a musical instrument consisting of a rock or pieces of rock which are struck to produce musical notes. Notes may be sounded in combination (producing harmony) or in succession (melody). The lithophone is an idiophone comparable to instruments such as the glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone and marimba. Read more…


Click image to hear the lithophone.

For more information:
Click here to view Jeff Shook describe and demonstrate a lithophone. This is a collection of rocks arranged like the keys of a xylophone.

 

ORGANISTRUM

The organistrum is an early form of hurdy-gurdy. Generally considered the ancestor of all subsequent hurdy-gurdies, the organistrum differs substantially from later instruments in that it was played by two individuals: one turned the crank while the other pulled the keys upward to change the musical pitch of the melody strings.. Read more…


Click image to hear the organistrum.

 

SHUTTLE PIPES

Shuttle pipes are a type of bagpipes which derive their name from the drones used to produce the harmony. Rather than the long tube-like drones of most bagpipes, shuttle pipes use a shuttle drone, a cylindrical chamber enclosing a series of drone tubes, each terminating in a slot covered by a sliding “shuttle” which can be adjusted to lengthen or shorten the distance traveled by air moving through the tube, thus flattening or sharpening the pitch of the note produced. Read more...


Click image to hear the Shuttle Pipe.

 

TUTANKHAMUN’S TRUMPETS

Tutankhamun’s trumpets are a pair of trumpets found in the burial chamber of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The trumpets, one of sterling silver and one of bronze or copper, are considered to be the oldest operational trumpets in the world, and the only known surviving examples from ancient Egypt. Read more…


Click image to hear the Tutankhamun’s trumpets.

 

PSALTERY

psaltery (Greek: ψαλτήρι) (or sawtry [archaic]) is a stringed instrument of the zither family. The psaltery of Ancient Greece (epigonion) was a harp-like winged instrument. The word psaltery derives from the Ancient Greek ψαλτήριον (psaltḗrion), “stringed instrument, psaltery, harp” and that from the verb ψάλλω (psállō), ” to touch sharply, to pluck, pull, twitch” and in the case of the strings of musical instruments, “to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and not with the plectrum.” The psaltery was originally made from wood, and relied on natural acoustics for sound production. Read more…


Click image to hear the psaltery.

 

OBOE BARROCO

The baroque oboe seems to have developed from the shawm starting around the 1650s in Paris. Earlier instruments were loud double reeds intended for use outdoors (a use that continued through the 17th century in the “waits” bands of England) , and while the new, more refined oboe (and its larger cousins) maintained that function in the oboe bands of France, it also began to find a place in the orchestra starting in the 1670s. Its early orchestral use was in doubling the first violin part, but gradually it began to be used independently for its own color and expressive capability. The baroque oboe’s sound is less compact and more plaintive than that of the modern oboe and has been described as more like the human voice than any other instrument. Read more…


Click image to hear the oboe barroco which will be played by Ars Longa musicians.

 

THEORBO

The theorbo is a plucked string instrument of the lute family, with an extended neck and a second pegbox. Like a lute, a theorbo has a curved-back sound box (a hollow box) with a wooden top, typically with a sound hole, and a neck extending out from the soundbox. As with the lute, the player plucks or strums the strings with one hand while “fretting” (pressing down) the strings with the other hand; pressing the strings in different places on the neck produces different pitches (notes), thus enabling the performer to play chords, basslines and melodies. Read more…


Click image to hear the theorbo.

 

TIMPANI

Timpani or kettledrums are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum categorized as a semi-spherical drum, they consist of a membrane called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. Most modern timpani are pedal timpani and can be tuned quickly and accurately to specific pitches by skilled players through the use of a movable foot-pedal. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Read more…

 


Click image to hear the timpani.

 

NEVEL

The nevel or nebel was a stringed instrument used by the ancient Hebrew people. The Greeks translated the name as nabla. Read more…

 


Click image to hear the nevel.

 

BAROQUE FLUTE

A revolution in flute making took place in the second half of the 17th century. The instrument emerged as the ‘baroque flute’ with significant modifications including a conical bore, the addition of a key for the right hand little finger, and a more ornate body made in several pieces. It was now fully chromatic (in large part because of the key), but more significantly, it was better suited tonally for a role as a soloist (primarily because of the bore change). The bore change made a big difference in sound—improving the intonation and increasing the volume in the lowest notes, in particular—and incidently allowed the finger holes to be placed higher on the tube, making it slightly easier to handle with small hands than a renaissance flute at the same pitch. Read more…


Click image to hear the Baroque flute.

 

BAROQUE GUITAR

The Baroque guitar (c. 1600–1750) is a string instrument with five courses of gut strings and moveable gut frets. The first (highest pitched) course sometimes used only a single string. Read more…


Click image to hear the Baroque guitar

 

VIELLE

The vielle is a European bowed stringed instrument used in the Medieval period, similar to a modern violin but with a somewhat longer and deeper body, three to five gut strings, and a leaf-shaped pegbox with frontal tuning pegs, sometimes with a figure-8 shaped body. Whatever external form they had, the box-soundchest consisted of back and belly joined by ribs, which experience has shown to be the construction for bowed instruments. The most common shape given to the earliest vielles in France was an oval, which with its modifications remained in favor until the Italian asserted itself as the better type, leading to the violin. Read more…


Click image to hear the vielle. (Instrument used in EMS’s “The Play of Daniel”)

 

NYCKELLHARPA

nyckelharpa “keyed fiddle”, or literally “key harp”, plural nyckelharpor) is a traditional Swedish musical instrument. It is a string instrument or chordophone. Its keys are attached to tangents which, when a key is depressed, serve as frets to change the pitch of the string. Read more…


Click image to hear the nyckelharpa.