How to Play the Lyre
The Lyre was always an instrument that was accessible and easy to play, true whether we are talking about the archaic Greek Lyres or Anglo saxon lyres, it was an instrument that could be passed around and just about anyone could block a few chords and strum. At the same time it was the instrument of the Bards, and in the right hands the virtuoso could do magical things with it. It explains why some instruments were given names and accredited with special powers.
Lyres at the end of the instruments period were being tuning in a Diatonic tuning and its mostly this tuning I have used on my Lyres, The Sutton Hoo size I make is mostly tuned to G tuning. The smaller Cologne lyre is in C, Other players use Pentatonic tunings and others.
The basic Lyre techniques of what is called "block and Strum" is the foundation of the playing
Depending on the tuning fingers of the left hand damp or block certain strings as all the strings are strummed.
In my Anglo Saxon Lyre Playing guide using a Lyre tuned to G Diatonic Here is the tuning in my video
G A B c d e
After I go through some of the techniques:
X notes are ones where your fingers touch the strings
O notes are open strings
//// number of strums
There are many patterns which you can learn to create different chords and notes between chords, here are some examples
G chord O X O X O X
C chord O X X O X O
D chord X O X X O X
Am X O X O X O
XO O X X O//// X O X O X O /////
X O X X O O ///// X O O X X O ///// X O X X X O
The Trossingen Lyre has slightly longer scale length, E or F pitch being a good starting point but between D and F#
E diatonic Tuning and Chords
Tune example in G:
Many monastic tunes can work on the lyre as do simple folk songs and tunes
Hymn to St. Magnus
Lament for a warrior Bard by Vicente La Camera Mariño
Lyre playing Song:
This is the story of Cadmons Hymn, It highlights the importance of Song in Anglo Saxon Society and the transition to the Chrsitian Faith.
as Sam Newton says its a Great Window into the pre-Christian world as well as the early British Christianity.
Husdrapa by Larry Miller
Beowulf was written down in Anglo Saxon and preserved
and is a great epic story, Great Bardic performance
example here by Bagby for extra inspiration:
As there are only a handful of Songs that date from the period the lyre was most played, To further extend your repertoire you can do What Mark Allen Barnes has done and use folk and modern songs to strum and sing to.
When I was beginning I took most of my playing style and techniques and playing from Kantele playing as this instrument has a lot of parallels culturally.
In this next video we are shown some advanced block and strum and plucking techniques:
She includes the original with English translation
Found it very inspiring, thought I would share
Móðir Mín Í Kví, Kví
For Further help and inspiration see my
Anglo Saxon Lyre Forum on yahoo here:
Facebook Lyre group here:
If you have any questions please post them here or on either of my Lyre forums and the Lyre playing community will get beck to you!
If you are interested in making your own lyre please see my "lyre Making CD-Rom" on my website, now available as a download too for instant access.
Much more lyre music and instruments to come this year, Wire Strung Irish Lyres, Trossingen and Ancient Greek Lyres
Michael J King