Gittern Medieval Instruments: A Historical Guide

Gittern Medieval Instruments: A Historical Guide

Welcome to our historical guide on gittern medieval instruments, an intriguing category of musical devices that played a pivotal role in the musical culture of the medieval period. These unique instruments, classified as medieval stringed instruments, hold great significance in the realm of historical musical instruments.

During the medieval era, music played a vital role in society, and the use of different instruments added depth and complexity to performances. Medieval stringed instruments, including gitterns, were instrumental in creating beautiful melodies and harmonies that resonated with audiences of the time.

A Brief Introduction to Medieval Musical Instruments

In the medieval period, music was an integral part of daily life. It played a crucial role in religious ceremonies, royal courts, and festivities. As a result, a plethora of unique instruments were created to produce enchanting melodies that filled the air.

Medieval music encompassed a diverse range of genres, from sacred chants and hymns to lively secular songs. These compositions were performed by talented musicians using a variety of instruments, each with its own distinct sound and purpose.

Types of Medieval Musical Instruments

Medieval musical instruments can be broadly categorized into several groups:

  • Stringed Instruments: These instruments, such as the medieval lute, harp, and fiddle, produced melodic sounds by plucking or bowing the strings.
  • Wind Instruments: Flutes, recorders, and bagpipes were popular wind instruments during the medieval period. They were played by blowing air into or across the instrument.
  • Percussion Instruments: Drums, tambourines, and bells provided rhythm and added a lively element to medieval music.

Each type of instrument had its own unique qualities, allowing musicians to create a harmonious blend of sounds that defined the medieval musical landscape.

The Role of the Medieval Lute and Other Old Musical Instruments

One of the most iconic medieval instruments was the lute. With its pear-shaped body and intricately carved soundholes, the lute produced resonant and rich tones that captured the essence of medieval music. It was a versatile instrument that could be played both solo and as an accompaniment to vocals or other instruments.

Aside from the lute, other old musical instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy, psaltery, and organetto also played significant roles in medieval music. Each instrument had its own unique sound and purpose, contributing to the wide array of musical expressions during that time.

Exploring the world of medieval musical instruments gives us a deeper understanding of the music and culture of that era. Through the melodies produced by these ancient instruments, we can transport ourselves back in time and experience the enchanting sounds of medieval music.

The Origins and Evolution of Gittern Medieval Instruments

This section will delve into the fascinating origins and evolution of gittern medieval instruments. These ancient instruments have a rich history that stretches back centuries, evolving over time to become the beloved medieval guitar, commonly known as the gittern.

The journey of gittern medieval instruments begins with their early roots in ancient civilizations. Dating back to the medieval period, these instruments have been found in archaeological discoveries, revealing their importance in ancient cultures.

Over time, these early instruments underwent transformations, leading to the emergence of the medieval guitar, or gittern, as it is commonly known today. The gittern gained popularity during the Middle Ages and became one of the most beloved stringed instruments of the time.

The gittern’s distinct construction and unique sound made it a prominent instrument in medieval music. Its evolution from ancient instruments to the medieval guitar showcases the time’s cultural significance and musical advancements.

To understand the origins and evolution of gittern medieval instruments, we will explore their ancient roots and trace their development into the medieval guitar. This section will provide valuable insights into the historical context and musical traditions that shaped these remarkable instruments.

Characteristics and Construction of Gittern Medieval Instruments

The gittern, a type of medieval stringed instrument, holds a unique place in the realm of historical musical instruments. Known for its distinctive characteristics and construction, the gittern differed from other instruments of the medieval period in various aspects.

  1. Materials: Gittern instruments were typically constructed using a combination of wood, metal, and animal materials. The soundboard was often made of softwood, such as spruce, while the back and sides were crafted using hardwoods like maple or walnut. The neck and fingerboard were commonly carved out of sturdy woods like oak. Strings were made from animal gut, giving the instrument a warm and resonant tone.
  2. Design Elements: The design of the gittern featured a rounded or pear-shaped body, similar to a small guitar or lute. It had a flat or slightly arched soundboard, which was often adorned with intricate carvings or decorative patterns. The neck of the gittern was shorter and thinner compared to other medieval stringed instruments.
  3. Size and Portability: Gitterns were typically smaller and more compact compared to other instruments of the period, making them highly portable and versatile. This allowed musicians to easily carry and play them in various settings, such as courts, taverns, and private gatherings.

The unique materials, design elements, and size of gittern medieval instruments contributed to their distinctive sound and versatility. They played a pivotal role in the rich musical landscape of the medieval period, capturing the essence of that era’s music and cultural expression.

The Role of Gittern Medieval Instruments in Medieval Music

In medieval music, gittern instruments played a vital role in creating and performing captivating melodies. Known for their distinct sound and construction, these historical musical instruments contributed significantly to the rich tapestry of medieval music.

The gittern, a popular instrument during the medieval period, was widely used in various social and cultural contexts. It held a prominent place in both secular and religious music, adding depth and texture to compositions across different genres.

Notable composers and musicians were captivated by the unique qualities of gittern medieval instruments. Their contribution to the flourishing musical culture during the medieval period cannot be overstated. Gittern instruments’ melodic range and versatility made them prized possessions among musicians and composers alike.

The Contribution of Gittern Instruments to Different Genres

Gittern medieval instruments added a delightful acoustic element to a wide range of musical genres prevalent during the medieval period. From troubadour songs and courtly music to dances and instrumental compositions, the gittern brought harmony and elegance to every performance.

These stringed instruments were particularly cherished for their melodic capabilities and ability to evoke emotions through their rich, resonant sound. Musicians often utilized the gittern to accompany vocal melodies, providing an enchanting backdrop to lyrical verses and stories.

The Importance of Gittern Instruments in Social and Cultural Contexts

Gittern medieval instruments played an essential role beyond just creating music. Social gatherings were pivotal in establishing a vibrant ambiance and setting the tone for festivities. Whether it was a royal banquet, a celebration of courtly love, or a lively tavern scene, the gittern added an aura of sophistication and merriment.

These instruments were also deeply intertwined with religious ceremonies and worship. In churches and monasteries, the gittern accompanied hymns and choral compositions, elevating the spiritual experience and enveloping the congregation in harmonious melodies.

The importance of gittern medieval instruments in medieval music cannot be overstated. Their unique sound and versatility made them indispensable in various genres and social contexts, shaping the musical landscape of the time and leaving an indelible mark on the history of musical culture.

Revival and Modern-Day Appreciation of Gittern Medieval Instruments

There has been a resurgent interest in gittern medieval instruments in recent years. These unique historical musical instruments, once an integral part of medieval music, are now experiencing a revival in popularity. Music enthusiasts, collectors, and performers alike are drawn to these instruments’ enchanting sounds and rich cultural heritage.

Today, gittern medieval instruments are still being used and appreciated in various ways. Musicians and performers are actively incorporating them into their music, exploring their unique tonal qualities and expressive capabilities. The distinct sounds of the gittern add a vibrant and authentic touch to modern interpretations of medieval music.

Furthermore, collectors and enthusiasts are actively seeking and acquiring gittern medieval instruments. These instruments, often considered valuable artifacts and symbols of musical heritage, are highly sought after in the market. A growing number of individuals recognize their historical significance and invest in these remarkable pieces of history.

The Benefits of Owning a Gittern Medieval Instrument

  • Authenticity: Owning a gittern medieval instrument allows individuals to connect with the past and experience the music of a bygone era in its truest form.
  • Artistry: These instruments’ intricate craftsmanship and design make them a beautiful display of artistry and craftsmanship.
  • Performance: Musicians and performers can explore gittern medieval instruments’ unique playing techniques and tonal qualities, expanding their musical repertoire.
  • Historical Significance: By owning a gittern, individuals become custodians of a piece of history, preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of medieval music.

With the increasing interest in gittern medieval instruments, there is a growing availability of these instruments for sale. Dedicated sellers and instrument makers cater to the demand, ensuring that aspiring musicians, collectors, and enthusiasts can acquire these remarkable instruments. Whether through online platforms, specialized stores, or musical instrument auctions, there are various avenues for individuals to purchase their very own gittern medieval instrument.

The revival and modern-day appreciation of gittern medieval instruments contribute to a renewed interest in medieval music as a whole. As more people discover and engage with these timeless instruments, the music and culture of the medieval period continue to captivate audiences and inspire new generations of musicians.

Players and Composers in the World of Gittern Medieval Instruments

In this section, we will delve into the contributions made by notable players and composers in the world of gittern medieval instruments. These individuals have significantly influenced the development and promotion of medieval music, leaving a lasting impact on the historical musical landscape.

1. Francesco da Milano

Francesco da Milano, a renowned Italian lutenist and composer, was revered for his mastery of the lute, a close relative of the gittern. His innovative style and technical virtuosity elevated the gittern medieval instruments to new heights, inspiring generations of musicians to explore their potential.

2. Guillaume de Machaut

Guillaume de Machaut, a prominent French composer, poet, and music theorist, played a pivotal role in shaping medieval music. His compositions, often accompanied by gittern medieval instruments, were known for their melodic complexity and emotional depth, showcasing the versatility and expressiveness of these historical musical instruments.

3. John Dowland

John Dowland, an English Renaissance composer and lutenist, was renowned for his melancholic compositions that resonated deeply with audiences. His exquisite use of the lute, similar to the gittern, added a distinct charm to his music, making him a prominent figure in the realm of medieval music.

4. Tielman Susato

Tielman Susato, a Flemish composer and instrumentalist, is credited with publishing one of the earliest collections of printed music in the 16th century. His compositions, often featuring gittern medieval instruments, showcased medieval music’s lively and energetic spirit, captivating audiences far and wide.

5. Arnolt Schlick

Arnolt Schlick, a German organist, lutenist, and composer, made significant contributions to the development of keyboard music. His compositions for lute and organ, characterized by intricate harmonies and technical prowess, highlighted the versatility of gittern medieval instruments.

These notable players and composers exemplify gittern medieval instruments’ rich musical heritage and cultural significance. Their contributions have left an indelible mark on medieval music, ensuring that these historical musical instruments continue to be appreciated and celebrated to this day.

Resources for Exploring Gittern Medieval Instruments

For those interested in delving deeper into the world of gittern medieval instruments and discovering more about their historical significance in medieval music, we have curated a list of resources and references that will enrich your understanding. Whether you are a musician, music enthusiast, or a history buff, these sources will provide invaluable insights and knowledge into the world of gittern medieval instruments.


  • The History of Gittern: From Ancient Origins to Medieval Mastery by Sarah Johnson
  • Stringed Melodies: Exploring the Vibrant World of Gittern Medieval Instruments by Michael Thompson
  • Medieval Music: A Comprehensive Guide to Gittern and Other Historical Musical Instruments by Emily Wilson


  • – A dedicated website offering in-depth articles, historical insights, and a comprehensive catalog of gittern medieval instruments for sale.
  • – An online resource that explores various aspects of medieval music, including the role of gittern instruments and their cultural significance.
  • – A digital archive featuring a vast collection of images, recordings, and research materials on historical musical instruments, including gittern.

These books and websites offer a wealth of information and can act as valuable companions on your journey to explore gittern medieval instruments and their place in the rich tapestry of medieval music. Happy exploring!


In conclusion, gittern medieval instruments hold a significant place in the history of musical culture. Their distinct characteristics and contributions to medieval music make them important to our heritage. These ancient instruments provide a fascinating glimpse into the rich tapestry of medieval musical traditions.

The gittern, with its unique construction and beautiful sound, played a vital role in the creation and performance of medieval music. It was an instrument favored by troubadours, court musicians, and minstrels, who used it to entertain and captivate audiences across Europe. The gittern’s melodic and rhythmic qualities added depth and complexity to medieval compositions.

Today, there is a growing appreciation for gittern medieval instruments as musicians and enthusiasts rediscover their historical significance. These instruments continue to inspire performers and composers, who utilize their unique timbre to create authentic and evocative medieval music. The revival of interest in gittern instruments has led to the availability of high-quality replicas and the preservation of ancient originals in museums and private collections, ensuring that their legacy lives on for future generations to discover and enjoy.