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Instruments of the Ancient World I

The concept of music and playing instruments has been a pastime dating back centuries. From the seductive sound of wind instruments to the bang of a drum, ancient cultures have used the most rudimentary of objects to produce music. In this article, we will explore some of the instruments that ancient civilizations, including the Greeks and Egyptians used.

Ancient Greek Instruments

Music played an important role in the ancient Greek culture because many believed that music made man closer to the gods. This is why many ancient Greek myths make mention of musical instruments. One of the most prominent of those instruments is the lyre. The lyre is thought to have been invented by the god Apollo. It was a stringed instrument originally made out of a tortoise shell with between three to twelve strings. When someone played the lyre, all of the strings were strummed and when a player did not want one to be heard, they pressed down on it.

The lyre was believed to have possessed power. One Greek myth features a son of Zeus named Amphion, who used his lyre to help construct the walls of Thebes. The myth states that as soon as Amphion played the instrument, the stones began to form into a wall on their own. The lyre is the instrument that was used before the harp. The Greeks were not the only culture to use the lyre , the Egyptians and Sumerians also enjoyed the sound of the instrument.

The lyre was also attractive because it was easy for amateur musicians to learn how to play. A larger version of the lyre called the kithara was reserved for the use of professionals. It was not only bigger, but also heavier and made out of wood. The lyre would later migrate to Europe, but started to fade out of popularity during medieval times. The lute would eventually replace the once-favored instrument.

The ancient Greeks also used woodwind instruments. For example, panpipes were also thought to have been invented by the gods. The instrument was comprised of cane tubes that were arranged in a scale. When someone blew across the holes, sound was made.

Ancient Chinese Instruments

Traditional Chinese music dates back 7,000 to 8,000 years and it all begins with a simple bone flute from the Neolithic Age. From religious ceremonies held in temples to tearoom performances, music was an important part of ancient Chinese culture. There are four different kinds of instruments associated with the ancient Chinese. They include stringed instruments, percussion instruments, plucked instruments, and wind instruments.

One stringed instrument that stands out is the horse-headed fiddle, which was played with a bow. The instrument was made with ha scroll that was carved into the shape of a horse’s head. Popular in Mongolia, this type of fiddle also made its way into European culture when Marco Polo brought one back during one of his travels to Asia. The fiddle had the ability to produce many different tones and ranges.