Greek musical instruments

Greek musical instruments were grouped under the general term of , all developments from the original construction of a tortoise shell with two branching horns, having also a cross piece to which the stringser from an original three to ten or even more in the later period, like the Byzantine era. Greek musical instruments can be classified into the following categories:

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Related areasCyprus, Pontus, Constantinople, South Italy
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String instruments


Percussion instruments

See also


The askomandoura (Greek: ασκομαντούρα) is a type of bagpipe played as a traditional instrument on the Greek island of Crete, similar to the tsampouna.

Its use in Crete is attested in illustrations from the mid-15th Century.It is an Aerophone from the Greak Musical instrument.


The Chochilia (Greek: κοχύλια), are a kind of a Greek traditional auxiliary percussion instrument. They are shells from the sea, which become auxiliary musical instruments with the appropriate processing. Each chochilia, has its own musical tone. Those small shells called also, ostraka (Greek: όστρακα) and they are plenty in Greek islands.


In classical antiquity, a crotalum (Ancient Greek: κρόταλον krotalon) was a kind of clapper or castanet used in religious dances by groups in ancient Greece and elsewhere, including the Korybantes.The term has been erroneously supposed by some writers to be the same as the sistrum. These mistakes are refuted at length by Friedrich Adolph Lampe (1683-1729) in De cymbalis veterum. From the Suda and the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Nubes, 260), it appears to have been a split reed or cane, which clattered when shaken with the hand. According to Eustathius (Il. XI.160), it was made of shell and brass, as well as wood. Clement of Alexandria attributes the instruments invention to the Sicilians, and forbids the use thereof to the Christians, because of the motions and gestures accompanying the practice.Women who played on the crotalum were termed crotalistriae. Such was Virgil's Copa (2),

"Crispum sub crotalo docta movere latus."This line alludes to the dance with crotala (similar to castanets), for which we have the additional testimony of Macrobius (Saturnalia III.14.4‑8).As the instrument made a noise somewhat like that of a crane's bill, the bird was called crotalistria, "player on crotala".Pausanias affirms by way of the epic poet Pisander of Camirus that Heracles did not kill the birds of Lake Stymphalia, but that he drove them away by playing on crotala. Based on this, the instrument must be exceedingly ancient.The word krotalon is often applied, by an easy metaphor, to a noisy talkative person (Aristoph. Nub. 448; Eurip. Cycl. 104). One of the Spanish names for "rattlesnake" is crótalo.


An epigonion (Greek: ἐπιγόνιον) was an ancient stringed instrument mentioned in Athenaeus (183 AD), probably a psaltery.


The floghera (Greek: φλογέρα, pronounced [floˈʝeɾa]) is a type of flute used in Greek folk music. It is a simple end-blown bamboo flute without a fipple, which is played by directing a narrow air stream against its sharp, open upper end. It typically has seven finger holes.


A kollops (Greek: κολλοψ or kollabos) is a tuning device for a string instrument (generally a lyre) which consists of a strip of leather wrapped around the instrument's crossbar, tightened by a wooden peg trapped in its wrap. The device is mentioned as early as the 7th century BC, used metaphorically in the Odyssey. The material itself, usually the hard materia the back of the neck of an ox, was known as "kollops", and thus the term was also used for the tuning device.


The Koudounia (Greek: κουδούνια), are bell-like percussion instruments. Most often, they are made from copper and upon playing (that is, hitting them with a stick) they give out a special ringing sound. Originally the koudounia had been used as an amulet which protected the animals from evil spirits. Later, the koudounia became an auxiliary musical instrument.


The lalitsa (Greek: λαλίτσα) is a wind-blown musical instrument of Greece, widely used in Greek folk music. The flute it is Vessel flute, much like the floghera, though lalitses themselves have no finger holes.


The laouto (Greek: λαούτο) is a long-neck fretted instrument of the lute family, found in Greece and Cyprus, and similar in appearance to the oud. The name comes from the lute. It is played in most respects like the oud (plucked with a long plectrum). This instrument is known in Albania as "Llahuta" and in Romania as "lăuta".


The mantura (Greek: μαντούρα), is a Greek wind musical instrument with Cretan origin. It has 4 to 6 holes for the fingers and produces sound with the help of the tongue. Mantura is very widespread in Crete and Greek islands.


The pandura (Ancient Greek: πανδοῦρα, pandoura) or pandore, an ancient string instrument, belonged in the broad class of the lute and guitar instruments. Akkadians played similar instruments from the 3rd millennium BC. Ancient Greek artwork depicts such lutes from the 3rd or 4th century BC onward.


Phorminx is also a genus of cylindrical bark beetles.

The phorminx (in Ancient Greek φόρμιγξ) was one of the oldest of the Ancient Greek stringed musical instruments, intermediate between the lyre and the kithara. It consisted of two to seven strings, richly decorated arms and a crescent-shaped sound box. It mostly probably originated from Mesopotamia. While it seems to have been common in Homer's day, accompanying the rhapsodes, it was supplanted in historical times by the seven-stringed kithara. Nevertheless, the term phorminx continued to be used as an archaism in poetry.

The term phorminx is also sometimes used in both ancient and modern writing to refer to all four instruments of the lyre family collectively:






A psaltery (Greek: ψαλτήρι) (or sawtry [archaic]) is a stringed instrument of the zither family.

Qanun (instrument)

The qanun, kanun, ganoun or kanoon (Arabic: قانون‎, romanized: qānūn; Greek: κανονάκι, romanized: kanonaki; Hebrew: קָנוֹן, qanon; Persian: قانون‎, qānūn; Turkish: kanun; Armenian: քանոն, romanized: k’anon; Azerbaijani: qanun; Uyghur: قالون‎, ULY: qalon) is a string instrument played either solo, or more often as part of an ensemble, in much of the Middle East, Maghreb, West Africa, Central Asia, and southeastern regions of Europe. The name derives from the Arabic word qanun, meaning "rule, law, norm, principle", which is borrowed from the ancient Greek word and musical instrument κανών (rule), which in Latin was called canon (not to be confused with the European polyphonic musical style and composition technique known by the same name). Traditional and Classical musics executed on the qanun are based on Maqamat or Makamlar. Qanun is thought to trace its origins to Ancient Greece, developed by the Pythagoreans in the 6th century BC, however may have originated since Mycenaean times around 1600BC. The instrument is a type of large zither with a thin trapezoidal soundboard that is famous for its unique melodramatic sound.


The souravli (Greek: σουραύλι; Cretan Greek: θιαμπόλι thiampoli or φιαμπόλι fiampoli) is a Greek folk instrument, a type of a fipple flute made of reed or wood. It has a 2 octave ambitus.

A double flute is called a disavli (δισαύλι), one with no holes and the other one having holes to play the melody.

In Cyclades, the souravli is very widespread, especially in the Greek island of Naxos.


The tambourine is a musical instrument in the percussion family consisting of a frame, often of wood or plastic, with pairs of small metal jingles, called "zills". Classically the term tambourine denotes an instrument with a drumhead, though some variants may not have a head at all. Tambourines are often used with regular percussion sets. They can be mounted, for example on a stand as part of a drum kit (and played with drum sticks), or they can be held in the hands and played by tapping or hitting the instrument.

Tambourines come in many shapes with the most common being circular. It is found in many forms of music: Turkish folk music, Greek folk music, Italian folk music, classical music, Persian music, samba, gospel music, pop music, country music, and rock music.


A trigonon (trígōnon, from Greek "τρίγωνον", "triangle") is a small triangular harp occasionally used by the ancient Greeks and probably derived from Assyria or Egypt. The trigonon is thought to be either a variety of the sambuca or identical with it.

A trigonon is represented on one of the Athenian red-figured vases from Cameiros in the island of Rhodes, dating from the 5th century BCE, which are preserved in the British Museum. The triangle is here an irregular one, consisting of a narrow base to which one end of the string was fixed, while the second side, forming a slightly obtuse angle with the base, consisted of a wide and slightly curved sound-board pierced with holes through which the other end of the strings passed, being either knotted or wound round pegs. The third side of the triangle was formed by the strings themselves, the front pillar, which in modern European harps plays such an important part, being always absent in these early Oriental instruments. A small harp of this kind having 20 strings was discovered at Thebes, Greece in 1823.

Tympanum (hand drum)

In ancient Greece and Rome, the tympanum or tympanon (Ancient Greek: τύμπανον), was a type of frame drum or tambourine. It was circular, shallow, and beaten with the palm of the hand or a stick. Some representations show decorations or zill-like objects around the rim. The instrument was played by worshippers in the rites of Dionysus, Cybele, and Sabazius.The instrument came to Rome from Greece and the Near East, probably in association with the cult of Cybele. The first depiction in Greek art appears in the 8th century BC, on a bronze votive disc found in a cave on Crete that was a cult site for Zeus.


The Tzouras (Greek: τζουράς), is a Greek stringed musical instrument related to the Bouzouki.

Its name comes from the Turkish Cura. It is made in six-string and eight-string varieties.

The six-string model has the same arrangement of strings tuned to the same pitches as the six-string (trichordo) bouzouki. There are three pairs of strings, tuned to D3D4–A3A3–D4D4 or

D4D3–A3A3–D4D4. The strings are made of steel.The tzouras is about the same length as the bouzouki, with a similar neck and head, but with a much smaller body, giving it a distinctive tone.

Greek musical instruments
String Instruments
Percussion instruments
See also

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