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Kolosnaya Lira

Name: Kolosnaya Lira.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Wheels > Friction.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.322.72
Country: Ukraine, Russia.
Region: Eastern Europe & Russian Federation.

Description: The Колёсная ли́ра [in Russian & Ukrainian Kolosnaya líra meaning “wheel lyre”] is a stringed friction musical instrument. It occurs throughout Eastern Europe particularly in the south of the Russian Federation, Byelorussia and Ukraine.

Etymology: The instrument Kolosnaya lira was under different names throughout different times. in German: Leier, Drehleier, Bettlerleier, Bauernleier ; in England ; hurdy-gurdy in France ; symphonie, chifonie, sambiût, sambuca, vierelète, vielle à roue also abbreviated – vielle ; in Italy ghironda, lyra tedesca, rotata, sinfonia] in Hungary, tekerő ; in Belarus kolavaya lіra ; in Ukraine [kolіsna lіra, rіlya, rilya or rolya] in Poland lira korbowa, in the Czech Republic niněra.

History: In Europe, it is known by various names the oldest of the names is the ‘organist’ [Latin organistrum] who has its origins in late Middle Ages; no earlier than the 13th century. The oldest images refer to the 12th century. English book miniature [c. 1175] and the bas-relief of the Cathedral of Sts. Jacob, Santiago de Compostela, 1188.

The Kolosnaya Lira appeared in Russia in the 17th century. It was played by vagrant musicians, kaliki perekhozhi and the blind, who sang historical songs, ballads and spiritual poems to the mournful sounds of their lyres. The arrival of the Колёсная ли́ра in Russia marked the decline of buffoon in connection with the persecutions by the authorities and clergy.

Repertoire: The lira was used as an instrument to accompany a wide range of genres from religious psalms, kants and epic ballads known as dumy. This repertoire is performed by itinerant blind musicians called lirnyky [sing. lirnyk]. Occasionally lirnyky were hired to play dance music at weddings. They often organized themselves into guilds or brotherhoods with their own laws and a secret language known as Lebiy.

Construction: The traditional lira has three strings, one on which the melody is played with the aid of a special keyboard, the other two producing a drone of a fifth. The sound is produced by a wooden wheel which is rotated by a crank held in the right hand. This wheel rubs against the strings, setting them into vibration like a bow on a violin. A number of different types of chromatic liras have been produced in Ukraine. In recent times interest in the instrument has increased considerably.

Citations: Bibliography: Agazhanov A. P. Wheel lira // Russian folk musical instruments. – M. MuzGiz, 1949. P. 19-22. – 56 S. Vasiliev, A. Shirokov, A. S. Wheel lira // Stories about Russian folk instruments. – 2nd ed. M. Soviet composer, 1986. p. 64-88 s. Kvitka K. V. On the study of the life of lyre // Selected works in two volumes. Volume 2. Moscow : Soviet composer, 1973, S. 327-423 s. Banin A. А. Russian instrumental music of folk tradition, Moscow, 1997 ; Bröcker, Marianne, Die Drehleier, 2. Auflage. Bonn – Bad Godesberg: Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft, 1977. Lyra // Musical Encyclopedia, M. Soviet Encyclopedia, 1976 T. 3. p. 278-279. 1104 s. Saponov M. A. Wheel Lira // Musical Instruments: Encyclopedia. M. Deca-VS, 2008. – P. 282—283. -786’s ;


Name: Lijerica.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Country: Dalmatia, Croatia.
Region: Balkans & South Eastern Europe.

Description: The lijerica [in Croatian pronunciation: in IPA: lîjeritsa] is a musical instrument from Dalmatia, Croatia and it is played in the Croatian regions of eastern Hercegovina. It is played to accompany the traditional linđo dance from the region. The lijerica’s name comes from the lyra [in Greek: λύρα] the bowed instrument of the Byzantine Empire which it probably evolved from.

Origins: The lijerica is closely related to the bowed musical instrument lyra [lūrā] of the Byzantine Empire, an ancestor of most European bowed instruments and equivalent to the rebāb used in the Islamic Empires of that time.

Construction: It is a pear-shaped, three-stringed instrument which is played with a bow. The lijerica has a carved bridge that is installed underneath the playing strings. The instrument as is with its Byzantine Lyra ancestor.

Citations: Bibliography: Margaret J. Kartomi: On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago Press, 1990 “lira.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2009 ;


Name: Gadulka.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Country: Bulgaria.
Region: Balkans & South East Europe.

Description: The gadulka is a bowed instrument having three playing strings although has 11 additional sympathetic strings that resonate when the instrument is played. Resembling the Lyra Politica and Cretan Lyra in its appearance and over all sound. The Thracian gadulka is the largest the dobrujan gadulka is slightly smaller in size.

Gadulka Tunings
Dobrujan A’ / E’ / A’
Gabrovo or Balkan A’ / A / E’
Thracian Tuning A’ / E’ / D’


Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music Volume Two G-O page, 2 article by Vergilij Atannassov ;

Karadeniz Kemencesi

Name: Karadeniz Kemençesi.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Luthier: Bagdat Saz-Evi, Izmir Turkey.
Country: Turkey & Georgia, Armenia.
Region: Asia, Caucasus.

Description: The Kemençe of the Black Sea [Turkish: Karadeniz kemençesi, Greek Pontic kemenche] or Pontiaki lyra [Ποντιακή λύρα], Laz Çilili [ჭილილი] or Armenian Qamani [Քամանի] is a bottle-shaped bowed lute found in the Black Sea region of Turkey [Pontus] and neighbouring adjacent countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as in Greece. It is also known as the “kementche of Laz”. The name kemençe comes from Iranian Music Instrument Kamenche. It is similar in appearance to the “Kit Violin” or “Pocket Violin”.

Playing Techniques: The strings are depressed onto the neck of the instrument by the player’s finger tips in the way violin strings are pressed, such as the large Cappadocian kemane. It is played in the downright position, either by resting it on the knee when sitting, or held in front of the player when standing. It is always played “braccio”, that is, with the tuning head uppermost.

The musicians usually play two or all three strings at the same time, utilizing the open strings as a drone. Sometimes they play the melody on two strings, giving a harmony in parallel fourths. They tend to play with many trills and embellishments and with unusual harmonies.

Construction: The kemenche bow is called the yay [in Turkish: Yay] and the doksar [in Greek: δοξάρι: doksar] the Greek term for bow. The kemençe is similar to a kit violin, as it allows for the violinist to dance while playing.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Islam Ansiklopedisi [Islam Encyclopedia – in Turkish] ;

Politika Lyra

Name: Lyra Politica.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Country: Many.
Region: Greece, Turkey.

Description: The πολίτικη λύρα [Lyra politic] or lira is a direct descendant of the byzantine Lyra. An instrument that was prevalent throughout the Byzantine Empire. These instruments were the most popular form of instruments during this time. Remains of two actual examples of Byzantine lyras from the Middle ages have been found in excavations at Novgorod; one excavation dated to 1190 AD. The first known depiction of the instrument is on a Byzantine ivory casket [900–1100 AD], it preserved in the Bargello in Florence [Museo Nazionale, Florence, Coll. Carrand, No. 26].

In Use today: Versions of the Byzantine lyra are still played throughout the former lands of the Byzantine Empire: Greece where this instrument is known in three major forms, Cretan lyra classic or politica lyra [Politiki lyra, literal translation. “lyra of the City” i.e. Constantinople], Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Republic of North Macedonia, Croatia [Dalmatian Lijerica], Italy [Calabrian lira] and Turkey.

Examples are the Politiki lyra [i.e. lyra of the Polis, or City, referring to Constantinople], [in Greek: πολίτικη λύρα Politica Lyra] also known as the Classical Kemenche [in Turkish: Klasik kemençe or Armudî kemençe] from Constantinople. Karadeniz kemençe] in the Pontic Greek communities, that existed [or still exist] around the shores of the Black Sea. The gudok, a historical Russian instrument that survived until the 19th century, is also a variant of the Byzantine lyra.

Terminology: From the organological point of view, the Byzantine lyra would be classified under the category of bowed lutes in the chordophone family. However, the designation lyra [in Greek: λύρα ~ lūrā, English: lyre] constitute of a terminological survival relating to the performing method of an ancient Greek instrument.

The use of the term lyra for a bowed instrument was first recorded in the 9th century, probably as an application of the term lyre of the stringed musical instrument of classical antiquity to the new bowed string instrument. The Byzantine lyra is sometimes informally called a medieval fiddle, or a pear-shaped rebec, or a kemence, terms that may be used today to refer to a general category of similar stringed instruments played with a horsehair bow.

Lyra Politica
Name Tunings
Cretan Lyra A D G
Thrace, Karpathos & Dodecanese A A E
Drama E G E
Classical Kemence A D A

Citations: Bibliography: Arkenberg, Rebecca October 2002 – Renaissance Violins, Metropolitan Museum of Art, retrieved 2006-09-22 Baines, Anthony November 1992 – The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments, Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-311334-1 Butler, Paul  October 2003, The rebec project, Personal website, retrieved 2009-03-10 Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 lira, Encyclopedia Britannica Online Kartomi, Margaret J. 1990, On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-42548-7 Grillet, Laurent 1901, Les ancetres du violon v. 1, Paris ;

Kritiki Lyra

Name: Cretan Lyra.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Tuning: A D G.
Country: Greece.
Region: South Europe & Mediterranean.

Description: The Cretan lyra [in Greek: Greek: Κρητική λύρα] is a Greek bowed musical instrument having a pear shaped body and short neck. This particular type of era is played in the Dodecanese and Aegean Archipelago in Greece. The Cretan lyra is considered to be the most popular surviving form of the medieval Byzantine lyra, it is considered an ancestor of many European bowed instruments.

Origins: The lyra has been cited as a typical instrument played in the Byzantine by the 9th century Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih [d. 911] in his lexicographical discussion of musical instruments along with others including urghun [organ], shilyani probably a type of harp or lyre and the salandj, a type of bagpipe. Margaret J. Kartomi, 1990.

The lyra spread westward through Europe with an uncertain evolution. A noticeable example is the Italian Lira da Braccio. A 15th Century bowed instrument and likely candidate for the predecessor of the violin. The descendants of the Cretan lyra are played in post Byzantine areas. This includes the Bulgarian Gadulka, Calabrian Lira and classical kemence [Classical Kemenche in Turkish: Armudî kemençe, Greek: Πολίτικη λύρα] in Istanbul, Turkey.

Varieties: Several varieties of this instrument exist. They include – lyraki [Greek: λυράκι liraki], a small model of lyra, almost identical to the Byzantine lyra, used only for the performance of dances [Anoyanakis, 1976] the vrontolyra [Greek: βροντόλυρα vrontolyra], which has a very strong sound, ideal for accompaniment of songs the common lyra [in Greek: λύρα κοινή], popular in the island today; designed based on the combination of lyraki with the violin.

The influence of the violin caused the transformation of many features of the old form of Cretan Lyra [lyraki] into the contemporary lyra, including its tuning, performance practice, and repertory. In 1920 the viololyra was developed in an effort by local instrument manufacturers to give the sound and the technical possibilities of the violin to the old Byzantine lyraki. Twenty years later a new combination of lyraki and violin gave birth to the common lyra. Other types include the four-stringed lyra.

Playing Techniques: The Cretan lyra is held upright while resting on the musicians knee. During the performance the musician places the fingers of his left hand to only touch the side of the strings. This allows for rotation of the instrument when bowing while retaining the comfort of playing the instrument in performance.

Sometimes small bells are tied onto the bow to create a rhythmic effect during playing. One can see this technique be utilized by Ravanahatha players in India, no relations to musical instruments though.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:


Name: Qobuz.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Double > Chested > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.21.71
Country: Kazakhstan & Turkestan [Xinjiang China].
Region: Central Asia.

Description: The Qobuz [in Kazakh Cyrillic: қобыз] or qıl-qobız. The origins of this instrument are ancient. Traditionally they [Qobuz] were sacred instruments, owned by shamans and bakses who were traditional spiritual medics. According to legends, the qobuz and its music could banish evil spirits, sicknesses and death.

Development: In the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, during the 1930’s. Development of the Qopuz occurred in a form some what resembling a violin. In construction, appearance range and tuning. Four metal strings were added.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Kurmangazy Kazakh State Academic Orchestra [archived website] ; Kobyzbook.kz http://kobyzbook.kz/Home/About