10 Medieval Instruments That Survived or Adapted to Classical Music Today

The Medieval period is a musical stretch roughly between 500 A.D. and 1400. The instruments than we’re not as refined as today’s West-European instruments or lost popularity, but some of them survived through the ages or were adapted and refined into the instruments we know today. Many percussion instruments also survived, but we will not go over those today. So, here are ten Medieval instruments that survived today:

1. Bagpipes
This ancient woodwind instrument consists of at least an air supply, a bag, and a chanter (and usually a drone). Bagpipes were used by the poorest people and were usually made with goat or sheep skin and reed pipe. This instrument is used in ceremonies and movie soundtracks.

2. Dulcimer
This string instrument is described as having metallic strings strung and either plucked or in this case, struck with hammers. The dulcimer has made a comeback in recent years being used in several movie soundtracks.

3. Flute
Very similar to today’s modern flute. It is a wood instrument where you blow across a hole and has holes that are covered by fingers and keys. The modern flute is used in many settings, including orchestral.

4. Harp
This harp would have normally been 30 inches in length. This string instrument is played with fingers and at the time sometimes had pedals. This instrument is used in symphonies.

5. Harpsichord
This instrument looks very much like the grand pianos we see today. The biggest difference is that the harpsichord has quills that plucks the strings inside verses the later piano that hammers the strings. It has been used in some recent films, such as “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

6. Pipe Organ
This instrument is has long been used in churches and is still used today. You can also find them in many major concert halls.

7. Rebec
Often played with three strings. This bowed instrument that was played on the shoulder or in the armpit may have influenced the creation of the violin.

8. Recorder
While recorder might have lost popularity in the concert hall, it certainly has gained popularity in the public school education setting, though they usually use plastic instead of wood recorders. The recorders that are made of would, are virtually unchanged from medieval times,

9. Sackbutt
This instrument likely seems to be the predecessor to trombone. It had nine or ten slides. It was later developed into slide trumpet and then trombone.

10. Shawm/Hautboy
These double reed instruments were loud instruments. The Shawn was typically played in the streets. They were predecessors that would have been modified into the instrument we know today as the oboe.

It is interesting to see the similarities and differences between instruments, and how over time people are creative enough to not only create so many unique sounds, but modify them as well.

Medieval Life and Times, as well as Iowa State University in no way sponsored this article, but did influence some of the writing.

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