Lyre Vs Lute: Everything You Need To Know About The Lute & Lyre

A lute and a lyre appear to be in the same family of stringed instruments.

These are commonly used back in the past and up until this century. But how do they exactly differ from one another?

We’re about to find it out!

lute vs lyre


A plucked string music instrument called Lute
Lute became well-known in Renaissance and Baroque music by the 16th and 17th centuries. (Image credit: Ching on via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

A lute is a kind of chordophone with a neck attached to a pear-shaped body.

It has a cavity in the center, and its lower part is designed with roses carved on the wood.

Attached to the pegs are the strings which are commonly used in turning mechanisms.

This allows the player to make adjustments on the tension of the string, whether they would like to go for a lower or a higher pitch.

The distance of the finger pressing the strings down on the fingerboard determines the pitch produced by the strings.

In the 13th century, this instrument was brought to European countries.

By the 16th and 17th centuries, it became notable in Renaissance and Baroque music eras.

When the 18th century came, its popularity was taken away by the keyboard, and in the 20th century, the use of the lute was brought back to life.


Lyre or Yoke Lute
The lyre, which is similar to a small harp in appearance but has distinct differences, was popular in Greek classical antiquity and later periods. (Image credit: Dr. Steven Plunkett on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.5)

A lyre belongs to the lute family. It is sometimes referred to as “yoke lute” for its strings are attached to a yoke that settles in the same plans as the sound table.

This instrument consists of two arms and a crossbar sticking out from a certain level.

It is also labeled as a small harp.

The lyre is frequently utilized to accompany singing.

How do these instruments differ from one another?

Here’s a fun fact!

A lute started as a chordophone with four strings plucked with a quill plectrum. However, the plectrum was short-lived as it progressed to the 15th century; the plectrum was abandoned, and playing with bare fingers became more favorable.

Because of that change, movable frets were added to the fingerboard, and the lute had its 5th string.

By the 16th century, the final form of the lute has been revealed to have six courses of strings.

On the other hand, a lyre is played with a plectrum held in the right hand while the left hand’s fingers meddle with the unwanted notes and often plucks or halt the strings’ vibration to produce a higher note.

In solo playing, both hands pluck the strings.

Back in Homer’s time, the strings of a lyre range from three or four to as many as 12, and later on, the classical number of strings became 7.

Another distinct feature of these instruments is their origin.

The lute came from European roots, while the lyre originated in Ancient Greece.

Despite the fact that both the lute and the lyre harp are stringed instruments, they are very different.

Which do you think suits you better?

These instruments are widely versatile in the genre they can be used for. Although both belong to the same family, a player would have to choose skills, comfortability, and knowledge about the instrument.

If you were a musician, would you rather be a lyrist or a lutenist?

Avatar photo
About Maggie Holding

Hello! My name is Maggie and I am a proud Editor/Author for PlayTheTunes. Coming From South Carolina, USA, my whole life I've sang and played the guitar and flute! I love music with a passion, and am ecstatic to help others in their own music journey!