Greek traditional musical instruments


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Plagiari Primary School Comenius Project 2013-2015

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Musical instruments of Greece from antiquity to the present

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments The Cithara:  a plucked instrument with 5 strings originally, but  later with as many as 12 strings. The Cithara was bigger than the Lyra and it was the principal concert instrument  played by professional musicians, the citharodes.  Many instrument names like guitar, cittern, zither etc. derive from the word cithara.

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments The Phorminx  probably the oldest of the Cithara type instruments. From references in ancient sources (Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes) we know that the Phorminx was richly decorated  with gold and ivory, and  accompanied  the singing of the epic singers called rhapsodes.

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments The Lyra: originally called Chelys, because of the tortoise shell used as its sound box. It was invented by the god Hermes, who gave it to Orpheus. We don't know how many strings the original Lyras had. By the fifth century there were Lyras with anything from 9 to 12 strings. The strings (neura) were made of animal gut of sinew, but there are also references of strings made of linen or hemp.   The Lyra was mainly used for the musical education of the young, and by amateur players in general.

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments The Epigonion belongs to the psaltery family and it is the instrument with the largest number of strings, sometimes as many as forty. It may owe its name to the fact that it was played 'on the knee' - Greek 'epi gonu', or maybe because its inventor was someone named Epigonus.

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments The Pandouris or pandourion, also called trichord because it had three strings, is the first instrument known, forerunner of the various families of lutes worldwide. Source of our knowledge about this instrument is the Mantineia marble (4th century BC, now exhibited at the Athens Archaeological Museum) depicting the mythical contest between Apollo and Marsyas, where Pandouris is being played by a muse seated on a rock.

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments AVLOS OR DIAVLOS: It was one of the most significant ancient Greek wind instruments used in almost all the private and public ceremonies, in national competitions, in processions and in tragedies. It was connected with the worship of the ancient God Dionysus.

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Ancient Greek Musical instruments The Greek seistron,  is a rattle consisting of a wood, metal, or clay frame set loosely with crossbars (often hung with jingles) that sound when the instrument is shaken. A handle is attached to the frame.

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Traditional Greek musical instruments of the present

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Stringed Instruments The bouzouki is the main or lead folk instrument found in the taverna style or rebetiki music of the seaports and urban areas of Greece. The bouzouki is the descendent of ancient Greek and eastern instruments. In ancient times the name of this long-necked string instrument was the "trichordo" or "three stringed instrument." During the Byzantine period, it had many names including "tambouras," "yiongari," "pantouri," and others. It has three pairs of strings

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Stringed Instruments The LYRA of the Greeks of Pontos (Black Sea region of Asia Minor) is also known as the Kementse. It is played like a violin with a primitive style bow, but the musicians hold the lyra in an upright position. Sometimes they rest the instrument on their knee when they are sitting, and sometimes it is held out in front of them. The lyra usually has three strings.

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Stringed Instruments The outi (ud) is a stringed, lute type instrument that is used throughout the Arabic world. It originated with the Arabs. The Greek outi has mainly been used by the Greeks from Thrace and Asia Minor, which is now part of Turkey. When the Greek population was moved from Asia Minor, musicians brought these instruments into mainland Greece.

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Stringed Instruments The baglamas was often favored in the early part of the 20th century as a solo instrument for men in jail or for a small group of "rebetes" to play for singing and dancing. It is a smaller version of the bouzouki. A saying that the old "rebetes" used to quote was: "Eho to baglamadaki, kato ap' to sakaki." "I have my baglamadaki under my coat." This refers to the fact that they would carry the small instrument tucked into the back of their belt, under the back of their coat tail so that it did not show. If they found the occasion to play for their own expression, or for some friends, they could take the baglama out.

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Stringed Instruments The Cretan lyra is the most popular melody instrument on the island of Crete. It is a bowed instrument similar to the violin and it usually has three strings which are tuned in fifths. The lyra players play the lyra in an upright position. They sometimes rest it on the knee, or, if they are standing, they will put one foot up on a chair and rest the lyra on the thigh. They have an unusual way of fingering the strings. Instead of pressing the strings with the finger tips (like violinists or guitarists do), they press against the sides of the strings with the tops of their finger nails.

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Stringed Instruments The tzouras is a long necked string instrument which is in the bouzouki family of instruments. The tzouras is also called a tambouras, and is similar to the ancient and Byzantine forms of the long necked stringed instruments. The body of the tzouras is smaller than that of a bouzouki. Like the bouzouki and the baglamas, the tzouras (tambouras) was a favorite instrument of the rebetes in rebetiko music. For several years it was not as popular, but it has had a renaissance in the past few years.

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Stringed Instruments The Santouri is a type of hammered dulcimer. It probably evolved from harp-like instruments such as the lyra of the ancient Greeks.  It is played with two "hammer-like" sticks whose ends are wrapped in cotton. These hammers are similar in function to the small hammers which strike the strings of a piano. The piano probably evolved from these early types of instruments. 

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Stringed Instruments A laterna is a portable piano with an action activated by a wooden cylinder and spiked with thousands of little nails, each one being a musical note. The laterna began to be heard in the streets from the late 19th to early 20th century in Greece, before there were radios, TV sets or gramophones. It was the main method of reproducing music until WWII and it was widely produced and popular with Greeks, becoming the jukebox of the period. The first laternas were created by Italian Giuseppe Turconi and the Greek, Joseph Armaos, both living in Constantinople at the time. The Italians called the barrel piano “la torno”(to turn) and the Greek word is close too…”laterna”.

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Wind instruments The floyera is the Greek shepherd's flute. The musician blows across the open end or rim of the upper part of the floyera. It can vary in length, but commonly the floyera is about 12 inches long, more or less. In northern Greece they also have longer floyeres. In Epiros, northwestern Greece, these longer flutes are called tzamara. In Greek Thrace, northeastern Greece, they are sometimes called gavali (similar to the Bulgarian kaval). Shepherds often play these, as they are fairly easily made by the musician himself. They can be made from bamboo, or from a straight branch from a tree.

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Wind instruments The Karamoudza is similar to the ancient Greek Avlos. Drawings from ancient Greek vases show that musicians usually used some sort of a "lip guard" which helped them keep their lips from losing air as they played. Today, karamoudza players use the "kareli" or small wooden disk for the same purpose. Other names for the Karamoudza include: pipiza, zournadi, and zournas. They range in size from the small, approximately 5 or 6 inch zournadi to the large approximately 20 inch long zournas common in Greek Makedonia. In Peloponnisos and Roumeli, the pipizes or karamoudzes are usually about 12 inches long.

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Wind instruments The Greek gaida is similar to other bagpipes found in Balkan countries. The bagpipe has been used by the Greeks since ancient times. The gaida has a single chanter pipe and one drone pipe. The reeds are single (like a clarinet reed). Gaides like this one can be found today mostly in northern Greece, including Macedonia and Thrace. At one time it was found even in southern Greece. 

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Wind instruments The Tsabouna is a type of bagpipe which is very popular on many of the Greek islands. It differs from the mainland bagpipe (or gaida) in that it does not have a separate, low-toned drone pipe. Instead, the Tsabouna has double pipes that are fingered at the same time. In other words, the musician plays two pipes at the same time.  On this bagpipe from Kythnos, both pipes have the same number of holes, and the result is a melody which is played in unison on two pipes at the same time.

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Wind instruments Klarino is what the Greeks call the Greek clarinet, and it is the most popular lead melody instrument in the mainland regions of Greece. It is an Albert (or simple) system clarinet which is an older, more primitive version of the clarinet now common in classical and popular music in most of Europe and America. The Albert system klarino has fewer keys and has a different tone than the modern clarinet. The Greek "klaritzides" also play the klarino with a different style and sound than that used by classical musicians in Europe and America. 

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Drum instruments The Daouli is the two headed drum. The daouli player usually hangs the drum from a belt or strap over his left shoulder. The right side of the drum has a lower pitched skin, while the left side has a higher pitched skin. Goatskins are usually used for the drumheads. In the olden days wolf skin was used for the heads of the daouli.

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Drum instruments The defi is a fairly large hand drum with metal bangles. It is similar to a tambourine in construction, however the defi is made with a metal screw system so that the head can be tightened and tuned. It is popular in many forms all over Greece. The defi is particularly popular in Epiros in northwestern Greece, where they are still handmade today. They have a beautiful low tone, and the bangles are low pitched as well. A virtuoso defi player can decorate the rhythm of the songs in many exciting ways.

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Summary: traditional musical instruments of greece

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