Medieval musicians played different instruments than the ones we now use. Over time, the unique sounds, styles, and techniques of their world eventually evolved into the way we create music today.
Let's listen to some of the most common instruments of the Middle Ages:
The vielle, or fiddle, usually had five strings and was played with a bow. Stringed instruments like the vielle were played all over the ancient world. In fact, the vielle may have evolved from the lira, an ancient instrument played by the Byzantines.
The hurdy-gurdy's name means "stringed instrument played on a wheel"... and that's exactly what it is! The hurdy-gurdy uses a wheel instead of a bow to play against strings. You can take a tour of a hurdy-gurdy in this video:
Now check out this performance on a hurdy-gurdy:
The psaltery is played by plucking strings attached to a wooden board. Over the years, musicians tried inventing bigger and bigger versions of this instrument until it eventually became... the piano!
THE TRANSVERSE FLUTE
Flutes held sideways, like the transverse flute, have a long history in many cultures. Sometimes made of bone, flutes over 9,000 years old have been found in China! In this video, a musician performs an estampie, a type of monophonic musical piece, on a transverse flute. Pay attention to how the melody moves up and down, similar to Hildegard's mystical musical compositions discussed in your magazine.
The shawm is played by blowing air into a pipe. It uses two little pieces of wood called a double reed to work. Today musicians still play double reed instruments, including bassoons and oboes.
THE PIPE AND TABOR
Are you good at doing two things at once? If so, you would've been an excellent pipe and tabor player! This instrument-combo requires a musician to play a small drum and a whistle at the same time. The pipe and tabor made great Medieval dance music!
The bagpipe has been around for a very long time. In the Medieval times, it was made from an animal bladder!