HOW TO ACQUIRE A LYRE!
In this extensive blog, I list all the makers of replica lyres I know of, from around the world!
These include makers of modern evocations of the Biblical lyres, makers of replica Classical lyres of ancient Greece, as well as makers of replica Northern European lyres.
I also list makers of African lyres and harps, still played today, such as the Egyptian Simmsimiyya & archaic African harps, almost identical to the ancient Egyptian arched harp, such as the Ugandan Adungu...
MAKERS OF THE CLASSICAL LYRES OF ANCIENT GREECE
LUTHIEROS ANCIENT AND MODERN MUSIC INSTRUMENTS
Based in Thessaloniki, Greece, Luthieros is formed of members of the Koumartzis family, who specialize in recreating beautiful replicas of all of the known ancient Greek lyres and harps, ranging from chelys (tortoise shell form) lyres, bass lyres (the barbitos), ancient Greek harps (the sambuca and epigonion), to advanced articulated lyres with their wonderfully created 2500 year old vibrato mechanism (the phorminx and kithara).
These simply stunningly authentic instruments are hand-made by Anastasios Koumartzis - an amateur musician, a best-selling author of do-it-yourself music instrument guides in Greek and a Luthier of more than 40 years. Anastasios, uses his rich experience in constructing Greco-Turkish stringed instruments (Bouzouki, Baglamas, Tzouras), for the ultimate goal of his new mission; to bring to life the enchanting, ancient timbre of the musical instruments of his ancient Greek ancestors.
Since mid 2014, I had the unique privilege of entering into an exciting new collaboration with Luthieros, "The Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the beautiful lyre of antiquity back into our much less beautiful, bland modern world.
This inspirational project, which aims to make available to every musician, hand-made quality replica lyres from ancient Greece at an affordable price, now has it's own entry in the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Here is a link to the article about our unique collaboration:
To view and order from the stunning range of these beautifully hand-crafted lyres, please visit eiither the Luthieros Etsy Store or their highly informative website:
For a special discount of 25 Euros, please quote the voucher code "MICHAELLEVY01" when ordering any beautifully hand-crafted lyre from Luthieros!
Carlos Paniagua created the wonderful replica ancient Greek lyres used in the fabulous album, "Musique de la Grece Antique" (1979) and is still producing the most amazing quality, stunning replicas of the lyres of ancient Greece to this very day:
For full details, please visit Carlos's Luthier Facebook Page
Nikolaos Brass specializes in making amazing hand-crafted replicas of the Lyres of Ancient Greece, including the Kithara & tortoise shell form lyre:
All his lyres feature authentic gut strings. Please visit the link to his website here
MAKERS OF BIBLICAL LYRES
Below are some links to the sites of specialist musical instrument makers who manufacture quality evocations of the Biblical Kinnor and Nevel.
For the beginner, I personally recommend the incredibly affordable models by Mid East Ethnic Instruments. For the more accomplished player, nothing beats the outstanding quality of the hand-made Marini Made Davidic Harp
MID EAST ETHNIC INSTRUMENTS
Both the best value & the most affordable manufacturer, from which I purchased my own replica Kinnor. The retail price of their replica Biblical Kinnor, direct from the manufacturer is presently just $269!
These lyres are ideal for beginners, thanks to sheer affordability and although not a wonderful purely acoustic instrument, when recorded and mixed properly, they sound magnificent:
For the absolute beginner, they make a mini version of their full size Kinnor for a mere $72.90!!!
Mid East Ethnic Instruments manufacture a replica Biblical Kinnor based on the illustrations of the Kinnor based upon contemporary illustrations of the lyre found on 2nd century Jewish coins from the time of the Simon Bar Kockba Revolt against the Roman occupation of Judea in 134 CE:
Their modern evocation of the Biblical Kinnor, based on these illustrations on the Bar Kokhba coins, is now available in both Mahogany or Rosewood/ Light Ash, with DuPont nylon harp strings - these have almost the tone of authentic gut strings (although slightly brighter & more resonant than actual gut). The advantage of nylon strings is the extra stability of tuning, string durability, & a lot less expense when it comes to replacing the strings...the cost of gut harp strings is horrendous, they go out of tune whenever there is any humidity, and only last a few months before the fragile gut snaps. I have had my original set of strings on the lyre since I first bought it in 2006, and it they still sound as good as new!
The colour-coding of the strings (just as on a regular harp) enables the player to very quickly locate where the 4ths & 5ths are in whatever scale/mode the strings are tuned to.
There are problems with recreating the actual sound of the original Biblical Kinnor on this instrument, as best described in the recent review on iTunes (USA), made by John Wheeler:
"I have had the privilege - and I count it exactly that - of helping Michael Levy in his efforts to apply himself to the ten-stringed lyre (kinnor). Being more specialized on the academic side, I know just how hazardous it is to say that Michael's efforts tell us what King David's lyre really sounded like. The miracle is that Michael is able to get as close to ancient practice (as documented by archaeology, Hebrew Scripture and various treatises) as he does, given the limitations of the instrument he uses. It mics extremely well, but it is a very poor acoustic instrument (I know, I used to own one of them), it uses modern nylon strings, and it has a higher string tension than most ancient instruments. All this changes the tone (as do other things such as modern glues and woodworking techniques). Michael's lyre is an ancient instrument in a modern form and should be approached as such"
However, the compromises I had to make with this particular instrument for me, far outweigh the disadvantages. The nylon strings, although brighter in tone than original gut strings, have the advantage of stability of pitch - essential for studio work!
My only very slight criticism, is that the soundboard of their Kinnor is just a little too thick, which tends to stifle the tone & volume slightly.However, in the recording studio, or when used with any regular guitar amp with an acoustic guitar pickup attached, their Kinnor sounds perfect!
For my earlier Youtube videos, I used a regular Leem acoustic guitar pickup attached behind the bridge towards the treble end of the strings, a little preamp, leading to my VOX Valvetronix guitar amplifier...using with just a hint of reverb, for that essential "ethereal" sound!
Their interpretation of the Biblical Nevel, was that of a lyre with a skin membrane:
[Whether you get the full size or mini version the cost won't set you back very much. Unlike the investment required for a custom lyre, which you may need a Titlemax Missouri loan to pay for, the Kinnor is inexpensive and a great option for novice lyre players.]
The Biblical Nevel is an elusive instrument, but the following illustration seen on some of the 2nd century Simon Bar Kokhba coins, seems to show a lyre which may be the Biblical Nevel, and seems to show the reverse of a lyre, which has a resonator over which a circular skin-soundboard of taut leather is stretched:
There are a just a few design faults with their interpretation of the Biblical Nevel. Firstly, according to the writing of the 1st Century Jewish Historian, Flavius Josephus in his "Antiquities", he description of the Nevel, he states that it had 12 strings (presumably to represent the Twelve Tribe of Israel?) - the Mid East Ethnic Instrument interpretation of the Nevel has 15 strings.
Also, as described in the relevant section of the "Historical Research" pages of this website, from the ancient Rabbinical writings of the Mishna, it is likely that the Biblical Nevel had a resonator made of Lotus ribbing...the Mid East Ethnic Instrument interpretation of this Biblical Lyre is open-back with no resonator behind the skin soundboard (which leads to a significant loss of volume).
The final little problem with their Nevel, is the lack of colour-coding on the strings - 15 strings with no visual indication of where the crucial 4ths & 5ths are located, makes it very difficult to quickly locate the desired note. However, by simply using a red & blue CD Marker pen to literally "colour in" the 4ths & 5ths, this problem can easily be overcome! I did this little trick, when I recorded my album, "The Ancient Biblical Lyre", which features the Mid East Ethnic Instrument interpretation of the Biblical Nevel.
In my opinion, both the appearance, affordability & use of near "gut sounding" buy stable nylon harp strings on these instruments makes Mid East Ethnic Instruments replica Biblical lyres the best buy, by far!
MARINI MADE HARPS
I discovered these amazing-sounding hand-made evocations of the 10-string Biblical Kinnor in 2011, which possess a unique, beautiful harp-like timbre. They seem to be of far superior quality to the Kinnor made by Mid East Ethnic Instruments (which despite their drawbacks, are still the most suitable lyre for the beginner) - due to a thinner, much more responsive soundboard on the Marini Kinnor, these lyres produce a more harp-like, less "stifled" purely acoustic tone. I bought my Marini Davidic Harp in December 2011 - here is a video of my first ever "heavenly pluck":
They currently retail for $385...
My main attraction to the Marini Davidic Harp, is that due to the superior construction and lighter soundboard, these lyres are suitable for the use of authentic, low tension gut strings - and being hand-made, the Marini family have even experimented with the use of gut strings for optimum tone:
"This past weekend we attended a harp event in North Carolina where I discovered where to buy gut strings for our Davidic harp. Some time ago, I tried some gut strings on our Davidic harp (samples that I had received from Bow Brand Company in England). We could tell a difference in the quality of the sound when we used gut strings on the lowest four notes (C, D, E, & F)... the high notes didn't sound much better. It was not very cost effective for us to buy a lot of gut strings in large quantities direct from England, but I thought that I'd make you aware that the Atlanta Harp Center does sell Bow Brand gut strings in individual packages. I had my personal Davidic Harp along at this event, so I brought it over to their booth and compared the strings to what they had there, and this is what I'm recommending for those who want to take this harp "a step up" in sound quality.... (gut strings are mellow sounding whereas nylon sound bright)
Order these strings...
Burgundy No. 24 (4th Octave) C .... $13.00
Burgundy No. 23 (4th Octave) D .... $13.00
Burgundy No. 22 (4th Octave) E ..... $13.00
Burgundy No. 21 (3rd Octave) F ...... $ 8.50
These strings are made for pedal harps, but are the right thickness for the lower strings on this Davidic harp. It gives the low strings a much more mellow low tone than the nylon strings... but we feel the upper strings sounded better and brighter with the nylon strings. Yes, they are expensive... but mine have lasted a couple years now without breaking. If you want to check it out, go to their website at:
On their "home page" go to the left side and under "strings" click onto "Burgundy Gut" Then scroll to the bottom and click onto page 2+3 to go to the 3rd+4th octave"
Please note when ordering - Marini Made Harps are are small family-based company, so to order a harp or lyre from them, it is necessary to send a bankers draught or cheque, as they do not deal with online transactions.
GLENN J HILL
Glenn J Hill is a highly skilled lyre luthier, who makes a beautifully ornate evocation of the 10 string Biblical Kinnor, featuring the "Schema Yisael" prayer, intricately carved into the arms of this wonderful instrument:
For full details on these wonderfully crafted Biblical lyres, please visit Glenn's website:
Harrari Harps are based in Israel, and manufacture luthier quality lyres with authentic gut strings - with the ultimate goal of their lyres being played in the Third Temple of Jerusalem! They manufacture two styles of Kinnor - based on the 2 types of lyre depicted on the Simon Bar Kochba coins:
Below is their interpretation of the "Type A" Biblical Lyre:
Below is their interpretation of the "Type B" Biblical Lyre:
The lyre depicted on the first coin ("Type A") may, in fact be the elusive Biblical "Nevel", rather than the Kinnor, as discussed earlier in the "History of the Lyre" section.
My main criticism of these "replica" lyres, is that despite all the effort and craftsmanship, they bear no resemblance to the lyres seen in the archeological records - for a start, neither model has a bridge over which the strings pass (the definition of what a lyre is, compared to a harp, whereby the strings enter the body of the instrument)...these "lyres" therefore, are in fact, very attractive, but organologically incorrect, portable harps!
Harrari Harps also manufacture high quality standard sized harps, (their own interpretation of the Biblical Nevel) which have 22 strings - corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet! Although the Nevel was far more likely to have been a lyre rather than a harp, (as discussed earlier in the "Lyres of the Levites" section), this does in no way distract from the frankly amazing craftsmanship of Harrari's beautiful modern evocations of the Biblical instruments...
DAVID HARP COMPANY
Abbot David Michael is another luthier quality maker of the Biblical Kinnor based in the USA, who designs his Kinnors based on ancient illustrations of type B lyres, as depicted on the Simon Bar Kochba coins above:
Marino Gutierre is a luthier quality maker of musical instruments based in Spain, and amongst his fine hand-crafted instruments, he makes a fine replica of the Kinnor based on Type B illustrations of the Kinnor, as seen on the Simon Bar Kochba coins:
His concept of the Biblical Nevel is the same as that produced by Mid East Ethnic Instruments - a skin-membrane lyre, similar to the ancient Greek "Lyra":
Both his lyres feature authentic gut strings...
Visit Marino's website here
A company in the USA which specializes in manufacturing replica Biblical lyres based on illustrations on the Bar Kochba coins of type A.
As mentioned above, the type A lyre on the Simon Bar Kochba coins may more likely be a representation of the Biblical Nevel, rather than the Kinnor. However, the lyres are very well crafted.
My only criticism, is that Jubilee Harps use steel strings - a material that was not even invented in the Bronze Age, when the Biblical lyres were first being made! However, the steel strings do give a very pleasant reverb, and a unique sound:
These lyres would also be ideal for playing traditional Egyptian music, as the Simsimyya lyre still played in Port Said in Egypt, traditionally uses metal strings.
For further details, please see the link to their website below:
MAKERS OF REPLICA NORTHERN EUROPEAN LYRES
Michael J. King
Michael J King specializes in making amazing quality replicas of the Sutton Hoo & Germanic Trossingen Lyres of the Dark Ages:
For full details, please visit Michael's fascinating website:
Corwen Broch & Kate Fletcher
Lyre luthier Corwen Broch & Kate Fletcher specialize in recreating fantastic replica lyres of the Dark Ages:
"We make a variety of musical instruments, specializing in instruments current in Northern Europe before around 1050 AD. As well as reproductions, we make contemporary versions of these instruments, improved and adapted for the musicians of today.
We are fascinated with the musical culture of ancient Northern Europe before roughly 1050 AD, and some of its instruments, including the Blowing Horn (cow horn trumpet), Bone Flute, Bowed Lyre (Jouhikko, Talharpa, Gue), the Kantele, the Willow Flute, Reedpipes, Viking Style Panpipes and of course the six stringed Lyre."
These beautiful lyres feature authentic gut or horse hair strings...
Below is a fascinating video, in which Corwen demsonstrates some of the lyre playing techniques possible on one of his hand made replicas of the Germanic Trossingen Lyre of the Dark Ages:
For full details, please visit:
Thomas Handwerker is a luthier, specializing in making beautifully ornate replica Trossingen Lyres - the Germanic Lyre of the Dark Ages...
Benjamin Simao is a French-based craftsman, specializing in making early music strings & wind instruments. He has also constructed some finely crafted replica Trossingen & Sutton Hoo lyres:
Here is another one of Benjamin's splendid hand-crafted models - this Lyre is inspired by a Byzantine floor mosaic from Tarsus (Antakya Museum) circa. 270 - 300 AD called "Orpheus Enchanting Animals":
Benjamin recently explained his detailed construction techniques to me:
"For the trigonal shape of pegs, i worked with archeological research in greece & the roman empire (text of Callisthène, Pompeian frescos, archeological pegs found in tombs, Roman sculptures of Vatican museum and paintings of Herculanum, etc..)
For the Holes on the soundboard, I decided to create them after a long hesitation. Rarely shown because forgotten or deliberately neglected, holes in the soundboard seem to have existed. We found sound-holes on a Gallo-Roman relief in Melun (France), on the cithara of Apollo painted on the wall of a house in Pompeii on the column of "Mayence" erected in the time of Nero, etc..
How was antique bridges? we only know that, thanks to Lucian and Philostratus this piece existed. I am inspired by the wood fragment that was found in 1962 in the Gulf of Fos, decorated with ocelli.
For the tailpiece, Nicomachean mentions it in his writings. He compared it with a "pull-stick". that's why I created mine in real Bronze, glue at the bottom of the Lyre. A model similar to "Nicomachean" could be seen at Hercalanum for example.
Finally, regard to the arms of the lyre, it is unlikely that we have made frequent use of real animal horns for arms as was often written. The use of animal horns was probably symbolic. the remains of the lyre Elgin sycamore are so far the only archaeological evidence.
Of course everything is hand made with tools gallic types a smith make especially for me, and i use animal glue (especially bone glue)."
Benjamin explained to me in more details below, the unique archaeological approach to his work:
"Evoking instrumental practice since humans protohistory is not easy.
This allows among other things to discover missing sounds but also to understand the close relationship between society and music. Thanks to the joint work of specialists and enthusiasts in recent years have shed light on these old instrumental practices, which had been in the 19th century largely distorted vision.
Craftsman carpenter training, multi-instrumentalist musician passionate Archaeology and Ethnomusicology, it is natural that I turned to the invoice of ancient instruments and sound exploration through the ages.
Aware of the cultural heritage of great civilizations, however, I chose to limit my geographic area to western Europe and mainly deal with the most relevant aspects. Discipline link, it implies the exchange of information, which is why this work is only possible in conjunction with professionals from complementary fields.
The first and most important step is to gather all available and accessible sources, such as iconographic, numismatics, philology (the study of texts), epigraphic (study enrollment), archaeological discoveries, etc..
We can do nothing without essential informations, necessary work of rebuilding archaeological sound.
After carefully classified and prioritized these data, compared them, it is essential to compare them with the texts.
Indeed, valuable information was gathered by witnesses from different eras (Cicero, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny the Elder, Alchindius, al-Urmawi, Henri de Zwolle, Jerome of Moravia etc..),
However, although it is necessary to deepen the written sources, it is also important to take the necessary height for reflection, a critical blind would be ineffective. This research can be done so that a depth that are consistent organological realities, social and geographical.
Furthermore, in order to avoid interpreting an instrument that is not a cause, or to misunderstand when in actual use, it is important to categorize and offer terminology precise (Cordophones, Aerophones, etc.)..
We don't have all the keys, it is sometimes useful to use the Ethno-Organology (Understanding the musical instrument in its manufacturing technology, gaming, its history, use of music, etc.) that allows clarify many mysteries by analogy or deduction.
To carry out this business and restore the accuracy and skill of the artisans of the past, it seems effective to develop an implementation plan next logical plots and harmonious proportions, already used since ancient times.
Finally, I chose to include my work the propositin of instruments in line with a time and responding to musical codes, temporal and organological, experiment and submit a free personal interpretation without falling into error feeding a fanciful imagination.
Because not find any trace of an instrument, does not prove it did not exist
Only experimentation can judge the credibility of a hypothesis.
Indeed perishable materials such as horn, bone, elder, have been used but have not received a proper storage medium, have disappeared.
To conclude, I would say that this Instrumentarium is a purely "speculative" work because it intends to propose ways of thinking, where archeological finds is questionable. The resulting work is therefore also"
Here is a link to Benjamin's website:
Jrv Luthier is a Spanish based craftsman, specializing in the construction of beautiful quality lyres, harps, lutes, psalteries and other string instruments:
Jrv Luthier has reconstructed "one of the oldest stringed instruments of the Iberian Peninsula: the lyre of funerary stele found in 1975 in Luna (Zaragoza), whose dates speculate between X-VIII centuries before Christ.
The features depicted in the wake recorded are identical to the funeral monuments within the scope tartésico. This circumstance has been much controversy among experts as the tombstone was discovered in a place from the early seventh century to the s. IV BC was occupied by Celts and Celts.The stele belongs, therefore, to a human community that lived around the current Zaragoza at least a century before the influx of Central European peoples. Who were the members of that community and where does this trail, old and decorative style tartésica attributable to culture, but found in a settlement protocelta ...? It is for this very reason why the lira from plume Moon is unique within the ancient musical iconography"
MUSIC MAKERS LYRE KITS
The affordable lyre kits illustrated above are available to order from this company. Here is the link to their website:
Below is a video featuring one of the lyres made from these kits:
THE EGYPTIAN SIMSIMIYYA (Arabic: سمسمية)
The Simsimiyya (sometimes spelt "Semsemia") is a lyre still played today in Egypt around Port Said, as featured in the amazing recordings of the band "El Tanboura". These beautiful wire-strung lyres can be purchased from:
ARCHAIC AFRICAN ARCHED HARPS
My album "The Ancient Egyptian Harp" features an archaic African Harp, the "Adungu" of Uganda - an incredible instrument almost identical to the ancient Egyptian arched harp:
THE ADUNGU ARCHED HARP OF UGANDA
EXAMPLE OF A PRESERVED ANCIENT EGYPTIAN 18th DYNASTY ARCHED HARP
An instructional book by Martin Klabunde on how to play the traditional Ugandan Adungu can be ordered from Amazon:
PALAEOPHONES - ANCIENT MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
"Palaeophones" are Luthiers specializing amazing quality replica musical instruments from throughout the ancient world, such as this magnificent replica 18th Dynasty ancient Egyptian Box Lyre (c.1550 - 1292 BCE):
Below is the original surviving lyre, as preserved in the Berlin Museum:
These incredible quality, replica ancient instruments are only hand-made made on demand, so the price or purchasing such a unique instrument reflects this.
For further details, please visit their website: