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What is the Difference between a Lute And a Lyre

What is the Difference between a Lute And a Lyre

Are you curious about ancient musical instruments? Music has been around for a long time. The lute and lyre are both string instruments. They look different and sound special in their own ways. In this post, we will dive into their unique features.

What is a Lute?

lute is a string instrument with a long neck. It has a deep round back and frets. Frets are metal wires on the neck that help change the sound. The lute has strings that run over a soundboard. You play it with your fingers or a special pick.

What is a Lyre?

lyre is also a string instrument. But it looks like a small harp. It has strings attached to a frame. You can hold it in your arms or rest it on your lap. You make music by strumming or plucking the strings.

The Main Differences

ShapeLong neck with a round backU-shaped or circular frame
Playing MethodPlucked with fingers or a plectrumPlucked or strummed with fingers
Number of StringsVarious, often more than the lyreUsually less than the lute
FretsHas fretsNo frets
OriginOriginated in the Middle AgesMore ancient, seen in Greek history

These points show us how the lute and lyre are different.

Which is Older: Lute or Lyre?

The lyre is older than the lute. We can see lyres in old Greek paintings and stories. The lute came much later. It was big in the Middle Ages in Europe.

How They are Played

You play the lute by pressing strings against frets. This changes the pitch. For the lyre, you just pluck the strings. You cannot change the pitch in the same way.

What is the Difference between a Lute And a Lyre

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The Role of Lutes and Lyres in History

Lutes and lyres were both important in the past. Poets in ancient Greece used lyres to tell stories. In Europe, the lute was a favorite in royal courts. Both instruments helped shape music today.

Different Types of Lutes and Lyres

  • Lutes: These have many shapes. Some are called mandolas or theorbos.
  • Lyres: These come in sizes. Some are called citharas or krar.

The Sound of Lute vs Lyre

The lute’s sound is soft and deep. The lyre’s sound is light and clear. Both have been loved for their music.

What is the Difference between a Lute And a Lyre

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Frequently Asked Questions For What Is The Difference Between A Lute And A Lyre

What distinguishes a lute from a lyre?

A lute has a rounded body and a neck with frets, while a lyre typically has a U-shaped body with no frets.

Are the playing techniques different for lute and lyre?

Yes, lutes are usually plucked with fingers or a pick, while lyres are often strummed or plucked with a plectrum.

Which instrument has a longer history, lute, or lyre?

The lyre has a longer history, dating back to ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia and ancient Greece, while the lute emerged later.

Do lutes and lyres produce similar sounds?

While both are stringed instruments, lutes generally have a richer, fuller sound compared to the lighter, more delicate sound of lyres.

Can you provide examples of famous lute and lyre players?

Famous lute players include John Dowland, while Orpheus is a legendary figure associated with the lyre in Greek mythology.


To sum up, lutes and lyres are special. They have different shapes and sounds. Yet, both have made history rich with music. Whether you prefer the lute or the lyre, their beauty is timeless.