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Greek and Britanica[edit]

I think there is a problem with the 1911 edition of Britanica. Its article states that the greek word for lyre was "Xpa". According to the same article, "Xpa" seems foreign to Greek, and thus it concludes we must search other languages that had a word like "Xpa" in order to identify the origins of the instrument.

I have searched a dozen dictionaries of ancient greek language available online hoping that, after a century since the 1911 britanica, an explanation for "Xpa" might have been proposed. And I found that the "Xpa" which Britanica claims it is the greek word - whose roots can not be identified - ... does not even exist!

Instead I found "Lyre" itself as the word ancient greeks used. On every dictionary! Usually accompanied with a note that it comes from "Lyra", the Harp in Greek. I'm almost sure that Britanica-1911 was wrong. But can someone else verify it?

A lyre is also used in marching band so that performers can see their music while marching.

  • Possibly the 1911 article refers to classical Greek, and the dictionaries you are searching are for modern Greek?

I have almost zero knowledge on this, and so idea how different the two are, but it strikes me that the word Lyra may have been imprted in recent times...? AndyPope 01:11, 2 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

My Oxford English Dictionary has the roots thus: "ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French lire and Latin lyra from Greek lura." Hope that clears some of the philology confusion up. Munin and hugin (talk) 20:28, 19 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Manner of playing[edit]

THis article assumes that the left hand was used for silencing the unwanted strings, but perhaps there was another way of playing. The left hand could be used for playing harmonics. On any vibrating,tightly-strecthed string there are certain points called nodes that if touched will sound an overtone of the fundamental pitch. Pythagorus spent a great deal of time calculating the mathematical ratios of these nodes. He found that the ratios corresponded to Phi. We can imagine that any serious lyre player, and contemporary of Pythagorus would use these harmonics to create rich melodies and chords, greatly expanding the musical palette of the instrument. Subcinco 00:37, 1 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There is evidence from period pictoral sources if not literary sources that string damping was the most common method of play. Individual strings could be picked as well. As far as use of harmonics in musical play (beyond Pythagoras's tuning theories), you'd have to submit evidence for this, rather than speculate. Kortoso (talk) 22:47, 12 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Lyre and Kinnor[edit]

Historian Samuel Kurinsky asserts that the Greeks adopted the lyre from the Hebrew "kinnor" which is mentioned often in Psalms. See I wonder if this may have been more similar to the Egyptian kithara, mentioned in the entry here. Tzvi Freeman 15:57, 30 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The article concentrates on an extinct instrument. There are several living traditions of lyre music in east Africa. They should be given at least as much room as the ancient greece lyra. I suggest to split the article into a genaral article "Lyre" and e special article "Lyra" covering the greece instrument. The main Lyre article could then include references to all known types of lyre, including the Lyra and other ancient forms of Lyra. Nannus 17:36, 8 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't agree with splitting the article. Lyre very often refers to classic Greek Lyra. Why not somobody enriches this article with other Lyres from places outside Greece? Stevepeterson 09:15, 15 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

We could mention tanbura, krar and begena. -- Gyrofrog (talk) 17:52, 10 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Other Lyres[edit]

These seem to be mostly bowed lyres, whereas the Finnish kantele is given short shrift, although IMHO, it's as much a lyre as these others are. Kortoso (talk) 22:49, 12 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The second picture does not show a Lyra but a toy. I think it should be removed. I suggest adding some picture of an African lyra, e.g. from Ethiopia. We should try to find one that is in the public domain. Nannus 17:36, 8 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Addition of informative material and better free licenced or public domain images is encouraged. -- Infrogmation 17:42, 8 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

confusion between lyra and kithara[edit]

This article confuses lyra and kithara and only shows pictures labeled as kithara. --Espoo 21:40, 10 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


the lyre was invented in Sumer, Mesopotamia


the lyre was invented in Sumer, Mesopotamia  —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:52, 3 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply] 

What is a lyra?[edit]

If the lyra mentioned is not the Cretan lira, what is it? And why does the link take us to the constellation Lyra? That makes no sense at all. Perhaps the reference to lyra should just be deleted. Caeruleancentaur (talk) 00:14, 20 January 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

the constellation Lyra has its etymological roots in the instrument lyre.Rajpaj (talk) 15:06, 6 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


My interpretation was that harps were just specialized lyres/lyres are generic harps. Is that actually the case, or are we talking about two classes of instruments?Rajpaj (talk) 15:05, 6 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Names of 8 strings[edit]

definition of Lyre says "The strings of an eight-stringed lyre were named hypate, the ‘highest’ string (probably as the lyre was usually held), which was the longest and gave the lowest sound; parhypate, the next string to hypate; lichanos, the forefinger-string; mese, the middle string; paramese, the next string to mese; trite, the third string (from the bottom); paranete, the next string to nete; and nete, the ‘last’ or ‘lowest’ string, which was the shortest and gave the highest sound." possibly worth listing somehow ? - Rod57 (talk) 21:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Number of strings on the classical lyre[edit]

Original research? No cites seen. Kortoso (talk) 23:18, 28 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hermes and the tortoise[edit]

Hermes made a lyre out of a tortoise, what was it supposed to look like? More like a harp or more like a guitar? (talk) 13:43, 19 June 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Improvements needed[edit]

  • There should be reference, explanation, and links to both Greek lyric and lyric poetry, as well as the Nine lyric poets
  • There should be some explanation and link to the differences (if any) between this lyre and the cithara and other forms used in antiquity

 — LlywelynII 05:39, 15 January 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well, there were some mentions of cithara. They were just using an unorthodox spelling. Remember to use the versions where these pages are. If you think that's "wrong", try to get them moved to whatever you think is "right". — LlywelynII 05:43, 15 January 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I disagree with focusing the article on Greek lyre and describing the rest as "others"[edit]

I submit that the most neutral way to address the topic would be to start out addressing lyres by their organological definition, and then explain some of the most prominent lyres, and then have sections breaking them out and whatnot.

The current version treats the Greek lyre as a "default" and everything else as some kind of offshoot, which is not historically or organ logically correct, so I think that skews readers' perceptions of the instrument.

Does anyone object to my making some step-by-step moves to balance the article, which don't necessarily remove Greek content (at least nothing that isn't already found at other Greek lyre articles), but addresses the instrument in a more technical and global way? TapTheForwardAssist (talk) 21:22, 1 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It would be good to direct fresh creativity into this article. You’re right, it is very Greek-centric. I’d like to know more about the lyre in Asia and Africa. Starting organologically makes good sense for an article that touches on so many cultures. If you need help finding content or need other help, email me from my talk page, I might have some ideas. Jacqke (talk) 22:23, 1 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I havn't seen any objections in the last two months, so I'm going to start going ahead and making changes. @Jacqke:, feel free to pitch in as you like, and we can discuss here if we want to divvy up any responsibilities. TapTheForwardAssist (talk) 06:13, 6 March 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

We need to flesh out sections for Modern lyres, and African lyres[edit]

I've got some of the basics down, but I think we need a section for "Modern" lyres (the Gartner type being the key example), as well as the several lyres of Africa. TapTheForwardAssist (talk) 06:36, 6 March 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm planning to take the list at "Global variants and parallels" and turn it into text for each regional section. TapTheForwardAssist (talk) 03:20, 7 March 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]