is some information on
the first of the lyres that I built. This has been the most
educational of my instruments - in other words, it has had the most
problems and failures, so it has taught me a great deal. I am
currently working on the second lyre, to correct the problems with the
first. I hope to have it finished and playing to bring it to QPT
with the other instruments.
This project is not a project in itself, but a primary test bed for
methods and techniques I will use to build a Crwth - which if you don't
know what it is, you will have to wait or look it up yourself - it is
such an interesting instrument that there is not room here for
discussion on it. Let it suffice to say it is Welsh, it is a
hybrid of 2 instrument design philosophies (doing each precisely
half-way), it has a most marvelous sound, and it is possibly the only
string instrument I know that could be fatal if you fell on it while
Things I learned while building the Lyre.
American White Oak is strong enough to stand up to nylon or gut
strings, but not steel wires (at least not in 1 inch thicknesses.
"Ja Bjorn, squeal like a pig" could have been uttered in period with
the proper musical accompaniment.
Having no nut is a survivable, but takes some getting used to.
Running by the bridge sounds just a little too hillbilly to me, but
playing at the pins is almost civilized
It only takes a half an inch of airspace to get the attention of the
room. And instruments don't really need holes in the front.
If you are curious as to what any of those thing mean, contact me
personally, I'll explain.
Top view of the lyre. White oak, 1 inch thick, body hollowed up
into the arms. Birch ply with an Oak face for the
soundboard. Dimensions are 30" x 8" x 1"
Side view at the
bridge, showing the position and height of the bridge and
tailpiece. Yes, there is a warp in the entire lyre caused by the
tension of the wires.
Closeup of soundbox
and soundboard area, with bridge and tailpiece. The bridge is
castle-shaped made of maple. Period bridges were wood, metal,
bone, horn, and amber.
Peghead area. Hand-cut pegs of maple. The
brass support on the bass side is because of the intense tension put on
the head joint by the steel strings. The treble side isn't as bad
off, and since I am building a better instrument, I decided not to put
the effort into this one to put the brass on. Maybe I will rework
this instrument and cut the joinery different, and brass sleeve the
joints, and string it with nylon for a good loaner instrument - it does
still sound very nice.
Here I am, preferred playing style. Stop the strings you
don't want to hear from behind, strum from the front. As you get
closer and closer to the bridge, the tinny sound of a resonator banjo
appears, and up at the tuning pegs, the sound is more harp-like.
It took about 5 minutes after first stringing to start to play cool
medieval melodies and chord progressions - it is a VERY easy instrument
to get the basics of, even without instruction.
A very fun instrument, it is more
than I had expected. I will post more detailed construction
photos of this next lyre on another page.