Medieval Musical Instruments

 

Medieval Musical Instruments

  • Medieval Musical String Instruments
  • Musical Wind Instruments used
  • Musical Percussion Instruments
  • Medieval Musicians and status
  • Performing Medieval Music
  • Method of music notation in use

Medieval Musical Instruments

Medieval Musical Instruments
Music was extremely important to the people who lived during the Medieval era. Medieval Music was a major form of entertainment. Music and medieval instruments could be performed by Medieval musicians, the Minstrels or Troubadours,  or simple songs and ballads could be sung in the villages and fields to ease the monotonous tasks undertaken by serfs. The oldest Medieval musical instrument was the human voice! The spread of Christianity in the early Medieval period led to the popularity of hymns and secular songs. The earliest Church organ dates back to to the 8th Century! The Musical instruments of the Middle Ages were the forerunners to our modern musical instruments.

Medieval Musical Instruments - Categories
There were many Medieval Musical Instruments which fell into the following categories:

  • Stringed Musical Instruments - instruments which were played with a bow or plucked
  • Wind Musical Instruments - instruments which were blown like trumpets or bagpipes
  • Percussion Musical Instruments - Various forms of drums and bells

Medieval Musical Instruments - Stringed Category
There were many Stringed Medieval Musical Instruments :

  • The Harp - The harp was and instrument favored by troubadours, about 30 inches in length
  • The Fiddle - Fiddles were played with a bow or plucked and usually held under the chin or in the crook of the arm
  • The Rebec - The rebec was an instrument with a round pear-shaped body ( an early violin )
  • The Psaltery - The Psaltery was a cross between a harp and a guitar
  • The Dulcimer - The Dulcimer was played by striking the strings with hammers
  • The Hurdy-gurdy - the hurdy-gurdy was introduced in the 12th century - the bow was replaced by strings attached to a wheel which was cranked by a handle
  • The Viol - Viols were played with a bow and held on the lap or between the legs

Medieval Musical Instruments - Wind Category
There were many Wind Medieval Musical Instruments :

  • The Flute - Musical instrumentsplayed by flute-minstrels
  • The Trumpet - Long instrument made of metal, often in four parts
  • The Pipe - The pipe is a simple instrument usually having only three melody holes
  • The Shawn - The shawn was a reed instrument with vent holes
  • Recorder - The recorder is a simple instrument with melody holes
  • The Bagpipe - The Bagpipe was an ancient instrument, used by the poorest people and was made using a goat or sheep skin and a reed pipe
  • The Crumhorn - The crumhorm (Curved Horn) was introduced in the 15th century as a double reed musical instrument
  • The Gemshorn - The gemshorn was made of an ox born as a flute-like musical instrument
  • The Lizard - An s-shaped horn

Medieval Musical Instruments - Percussion Category
There were many Percussion Medieval Musical Instruments :

  • The Drum - Drums were made initially from a hollow tree trunk, clay or metal and covered by skins of water animals - also called tambours
  • The Cymbal - Thin round concave metal plates
  • The Triangle - Instrument Introduced in the 14th century
  • The Tambourine - Musical instrument traditionally used by a woman

Medieval Musicians
There were two types of Medieval Musicians - the Minstrels and the Troubadours.

  • Troubadours - A troubadour was a travelling musician. The Troubadours travelled from one village to the next and many also travelled abroad. The troubadours therefore served a dual purpose and spread the latest news across the realm. The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadours mainly dealt with chivalry and courtly love - romantic ballads. The troubadour would play for common people and nobles.
  • Minstrels - A minstrel was a servant first employed as a castle or court musician. The name 'minstrel' means a "little servant". Minstrels often created their own ballads but they were also famous for memorising long poems based on myths and legends which were called 'chansons de geste'.  The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadors also dealt with chivalry and courtly love but they also told stories of far lands and historical events. The Minstrels were replaced by Troubadours and also started to move around and were known as 'Wandering Minstrels'

Medieval Music
Early Medieval music was first performed in unison. The notes were usually the same length and song, or played, in the Key of C. Harmony was gradually introduced and by the 12th century a method of music notation developed which indicated the length of each note and the pitch.

Medieval Musical Instruments
The descriptions of Medieval Musical instruments provide valuable facts and information about musical entertainment in the Middle Ages.
 

Medieval Musical Instruments

 


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