The Tudor period saw the invention on many new instruments, some of which were influenced by New World discoveries. It was a period of new music, new sounds and new dances. However, this did not mean that all of the medieval stringed instruments had been abandoned in favour of the new. In fact, many stringed instruments from the Middle Ages were still incredibly popular and could be played by the strings being either plucked, strummed or bowed.
List of Stringed Instruments in Tudor Era
The list of stringed instruments that were in use during the Tudor period is quite extensive. Some of these instruments would be easily recognised today, some, however, the more unusual ones would not. The harp was a popular instrument; the Tudor harp was a little smaller than the harps that we see being played in orchestras today.
The Tudor harp measured around 30 inches in length. It had a triangular shape and was set with a series of graduated strings which produced different noted when plucked. The fiddle was much the same as it is today and was an instrument much favoured by the working classes as it was easily transportable and could be used to create all manner of music.
The lute is probably the most recognised stringed instrument of the age and the most recognisable of the sounds in the music of the time. The lute had between six and thirteen strings and was a popular instrument in the royal court and amongst the nobility.
What instruments did the Tudors play?
Music played an important role in the lives of both rich and poor people in the Tudor era. Henry VIII loved music and himself played several instruments. Popular musical instruments were the bagpipes, flute, viola, harp, citole, the hurdy-gurdy, psaltery etc.
The stringed instruments were usually played with a bow or plucked with fingers. Vielle was also another instrument but it had lost its popularity.
Unusual Stringed Musical Instruments during Tudor Times
Some of the Tudor stringed instruments popular during the period would not be so easily recognizable today. For example, the rebec; a pear-shaped instrument which could be described as being an ancestor to the modern violin. The psaltery was a cross between a guitar and a harp, while the dulcimer was played with a small hammer, the hammer was used to strike strings which had been stretched across a wooden box.
The viol was either held on the lap or between the knees or played with a bow, while the viola de gamba could only be played when placed between the legs and bowed. The chitarrone was a very large instrument which could measure up to six feet in height and was similar to a lute. While the Gittern or Cittern was the ancestor of the modern guitar.
The Hurdy Gurdy was a strange instrument
This was one of the strangest instruments of the time. To define hurdy-gurdy you would have to think of the barrel organ which came much later. The instrument dates from the 12th century and instead of a bow being used to draw sound from the strings, they were plucked by wooden pegs which were attached to a cylinder.
This cylinder would be rotated by the turning of a handle. The hurdy-gurdy was a very popular instrument used by street musicians of the time, and something is more commonly seen being used by the working classes rather than the nobles at court.