The beginnings of the Western classical music tradition can be uncovered in the middle ages era. Lasting an remarkable 900 years, the is often separation into three mini-periods: the early on Medieval duration (500-1150AD), the High Medieval duration (1150-1300) and also the so late Medieval period (1300-1400).

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The at an early stage Medieval period was conquered by religious vocal music, through plainsong or Gregorian chant the finest known examples of this. But, later on, the increase of secular music and also music for the purposes of entertainment corresponded with the advancement of musical instruments. While modern-day versions of few of these are still offered by 21st Century musicians, others dropped out of favour and also might look quite strange to modern-day observers!

Table that Contents

Medieval Woodwind InstrumentsMedieval Brass InstrumentsMedieval wire InstrumentsMedieval key-board instrumentsMedieval Percussion

Instrumental categories in middle ages Music

In this article we’ll take it a look in ~ the main instruments that to be played in the middle ages period.

For the benefits of clarity fine organise lock into modern instrumental family members – woodwind, brass, strings and also percussion.

But the is precious noting that, in ~ the time, instruments would have been split into two large groups:

haut, definition loudbas, definition soft

In general, haut instruments were suitable for play outdoors, and also would have consisted of many the the wind instruments mentioned here: shawms, sackbuts, trumpets and so on.

Meanwhile, tools that were perfect for indoor chamber music – the recorder and also most string instruments – would have actually been part of the bas category.

Because very few original instrument specimens endure from medieval times, chroniclers have had to item together information around the kinds of tools that were played by looking very closely at art, texts and written music.

Medieval Woodwind Instruments


Today the Recorder is often taken into consideration the appropriate starter-instrument for younger children.

They are now normally made from plastic, whereas middle ages recorders to be wooden, yet otherwise they remain essentially the same, through a beak-style mouthpiece and eight finger holes.


Unlike the metal instruments we check out today, middle ages Flutes would have been do from wood.

They would have actually had basic holes to be extended by the fingers, quite than the more complicated systems that key-work we watch today.


Viola Da Gamba(CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Viol, i m sorry was additionally called the Viola da Gamba, was an instrument that appeared towards the finish of the medieval period.

A type of bowed cable instrument, castle come in miscellaneous sizes, however the most typical member the the family members is held between the legs and also looks comparable to a cello, despite it has actually a wider neck and much more strings.


The Rebec is one ancestor the the violin.

It has actually a narrow, boat-shaped body and also is played with a bow on the eight or under the chin.

It is pertained to the Rebab, an ancient string instrument from north Africa and the middle East.

Medieval key-board instruments

Pipe organs

The organ was among the few instruments that were enabled in churches and also cathedrals, where vocal music dominated.

The positive organ to be a smaller, fairly portable form of pipe organ.

Portative organ

The portative body organ is a little bit like a miniature variation of the church organ.

A portable instrument, that is strapped to the performer, that operates a pair of bellows, which place wind through a collection of pipes.

With the other hand, that or she theatre pitches top top a small keyboard.

Medieval Portative Organ


The harpsichord was designed in the late middle ages period.

A relative of the piano, that strings are plucked through a cause mechanism when secrets are pressed top top the keyboard.

Medieval Percussion


This is basically a tambourine: a wooden structure drum v jangles or bells round the edges.


Sometimes dubbed naqareh, nakers space a little relative of the kettle drum (or timpani), which were brought ago to Europe throughout the Crusades.


A portable snare north played either through one hand or 2 drumsticks.

Elsewhere, bells and cymbals are additionally commonly watched in middle ages paintings.

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Wrapping up on middle ages Instruments

So, that concludes our guide to the instruments of the medieval period.

We expect you’ve delighted in finding out around some tools which have actually close loved ones that us still use now – favor the flute and also the sackbut – as well as learning around some weird and wonderful item – choose the hurdy gurdy – that room a little less familiar!