Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Arts and 

About the Instruments

The Cittern
The Cittern, a Renaissance instrument that may be a descendent of the citole, is equipped with metal strings. It was considered an instrument fit for rustics, such as cobblers and tailors. The Citole and Gittern are two plucked string instruments with rounded pear shape and four or five strings are illustrated in the late thirteenth century Cantigas de Santa Maria manuscript belonging to King Alfonso X "The Wise" of Castile. The neck is fretted, the strings are gut and are often played with a plectrum. Their tuning may have been similar to t that of medieval lutes (c f a d'). It was frequently used for singing and dancing and is often pictured with the medieval fiddle.

The Shawm
A double-reed wind instrument (predecessor of the modern oboe) with expanding bell, made of wood and possibly derived from the Middle-Eastern surna. The shawm had a piercing sound that was said to have terrified the crusaders. It was often paired with trumpets and drums and played by professional musicians for ceremonial occasions, outdoors or in large halls. In all varieties of the instrument the reed was fixed onto a disc, made of wood or metal.

The Recorder
This wind instrument, also known as a duct flute, may have developed from more primitive pipes with five or six holes and no thumb hole. The medieval recorder had a rear thumb hole and seven fingerholes in front, a wide cylindrical bore that produced a mellow sound that blended well in ensembles. Recorders had two holes for the little finger, allowing for right- or left-handed players. The unused hole was then plugged with wax. By the 15th century the recorder was made in different sizes for consort playing and by the 17th century, the recorder was made in three sections with a narrower bore and more piercing sound than the earlier instrument.

Back to Medieval Music

The Middle Ages is inspired by programs from The Western Tradition.


© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy