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Medieval Instruments

Music was an essential part of life for medieval people. They loved it. Because their world was not as filled with noise as ours is, they had more discerning hearing. When a dog barked, they knew whose dog it was. They were sensitive to voices and they listened intently to music.

The Gittern

This particular GITTERN was a gift from Queen Elizabeth I to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It was a small, round backed instrument, like a lute, but earlier versions had no neck. The "neck" was an extension of its teardrop shaped body. It had four or five strings and was plucked with a quill plectrum.

The Citole

The citole had a holly leaf shaped body, a short neck, a flat back and three or four pairs of strings which were plucked with the fingers.

The Shawm

This modern day troubadour is playing a shawm, a long wooden pipe with a double reed at the top, like a modern bassoon, and a bell shape at the bottom. It resembles the main pipe in a set of bagpipes, but is much larger.


Nakers were metal drums, like kettledrums, played in pairs suspended from the waist.

The Rebec

Here we see a REBEC, a fiddle with three strings, played with a bow.

A Psaltery

This was a metal stringed harp, usually in a square box plucked with a quill.


A stringed instrument played by the rotation of a hand driven wheel passing over the strings.


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