Sunday, 4 May 2014

Guide to playing the 6 string 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.

Lyre Tuning
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

Strumming Pattern example

Strumming pattern written out simply:

                    X O X X X O ////  X O X X O O //// 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  

Tune example:

Many monastic tunes can work on the lyre as do simple folk songs and tunes

Hymn to St. Magnus

Misty Mountains

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.

This is a good Bardic performance of Beowulf 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.

Advanced Techniques
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:

Youtube user Songstress73 uploading Germanic/Scandinavian songs with lyre accompaniment.
She includes the original with English translation
Found it very inspiring, thought I would share

Móðir Mín Í Kví, Kví

further tunes:

Heiemo og Nykkjen

Drømte Mig en Drøm

De Två Systrarne

Song without a lyre that could work too
Jag Vill Gå Vall
There are more! 

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

Best wishes

Michael J King

No comments: