Instrumental Music and Instrument Design

Instruments and Instrumental music were created to be functional and to serve a purpose. Early string instruments were used to accompany the voice. The main string instruments from the days of the Ancient Greeks were the Lyra and the Cithara.

Lyra and a Cithara

Basically the two instruments were of similar construction, each having a resonator from which projected two curved arms connected by a crossbar. The number of strings found on these instruments varied from 3 to 11. The strings were plucked with the fingers and the string tunings were determined by the piece of music being played.

Early Brass and Woodwind instruments served military purposes. These instruments were used to sound signals and warnings over long distances. Two examples of these types of instruments are the Salpinx, a straight trumpet with a cupped mouthpiece made from animal horns, and the Aulos, a double-reeded instrument composed of a pair of even pipes with four finger holes each.

Salpinx      Aulos

Percussion instruments were designed initially as a means of helping a song leader and poets to keep time. One such instrument was the Krotala. Krotala were hollow blocks usually made of wood and hinged together with leather. A pair of krotala was held in the palm of each hand by the leather knob holding them together. The sound was much like clapping hands, but slightly deeper.

Krotala Ancient Greece