Chris Nogy's Medieval
instrument Projects

Vertical harps with 2 arms also known as lyre harps or "lyres" began appearing in ancient Sumaria by
2800 BC. Some of the oldest carvings of harps were discovered in Phoenicia with marble harp
statuettes found dating back to 3,000 - 2,300 BC. The development of the lyre harp in Greece also
coincided with the development of mathematical musical scales. After those centuries of obscurity in
the historical record, the lyre precursor to the triangular Medieval harp reappeared in Western
European civilization. In the fourth century AD, monk vocalizations predating Gregorian chanting
were used in worship services in the Christian Church. The harp became a preferred instrument for
accompaniment for the monks' voices. The harp was one of the few instruments allowed in the early
church where the horn, drum and rattles were considered the devil's instruments. During the fifth
century, the Papal Music School was established in Ireland where the lyre harp was taught.
Fragments of a six-stringed lyre were found in the 7th-century burial ship unearthed at Suffolk in
England. The remains of several Germanic lyres, dating from the fifth through the tenth century, have
been found in Saxon and Frankish graves in Germany and England.
There are few craftsmen today that still build
these historic instruments. And even fewer as
knowledgeable and skilled as Mr Nogy! Here's
a little bit about this project;
This is the second Trossingen style lyre to come out of the shop.  
It is sort of a parody, the middle step between the actual
reproduction that Fionn built and the way-out full electric
Fender-style solid body that is the next project.  But just because
it is silly, doesn't mean it has to be built badly.  I followed closely
the work that Fionn did on hers, and with a few modifications
necessary to hide the electronics, built mine from what she
learned on her project.  The parts are all made out of the correct
materials, the soundboard is properly shaped, it is pretty much a
good replica except that I increased it's overall thickness by about
3/16 inch to accommodate the volume and tone potentiometers.
Here is the basic hollowed corpus with the
pickup set laid out for sizing.  I had it made
a bit big, but you can specify how you
would like it wired.  The guys at JJB
Electronics are very helpful.  These are very
responsive and sensitive pickups - before
deciding how to do the installation on this
lyre I attached these pickups to the
soundboards of several of my other
finished lyres, and the sound is terrific from
The soundboard is cut and profiled,
waiting to be glued on.  Neat thing about
hide glue, if I need to fix something later,
I can remove the soundboard without
damage.  That's cool.  Not the holes
where the original beechwood pegs
went through the soundboard of the lyre
- this is how I am hiding the tone and
volume knobs - they will be these
dowels.  A small dot of 5 minute epoxy
on the button pickups (just a tiny bit - it
will hold) under the soundboard at the
feet of the bridge and it's ready to be
The business end of the lyre.  Maple
tailpiece, willow bridge, the cheapest
black nylon Ernie Ball ball end guitar
treble sets I could buy.  The
soundboard 'dowels' (actually the
volume and tone controls) are made
of beechwood.  The tailpiece has been
drilled for ball end or tie-in strings.  
The tailgut puts just a bit of pressure
on the volume knob - keeps it in place.
OK, the final product.  Hand made tablet weave
strap, the body stained with dark brown Briwax, the
bridge and tailpiece left natural for contrast.  Really
an instrument I am proud of.The instrument is
completely playable, jacked into an amp.  It has a
pretty cool sound, and with the cable comes a
variety of optional effects boxes.  I have already
played it through my sound board in my computer,
through my old Fender TKO 80 bass amp, and
through my little smokey Supro pocket amp - it is
cool through all 3.  This was definitely a really cool
project, and very worthwhile. So far this has been a
very neat escape - many of my more authenticity
driven friends are dismayed, but most of the local
music crowd is very enthusiastic about the pair of
electric instruments I am building.  I am even getting
discounts from a few of the local music stores, with
the promise of course that they get to play around
with the instruments.  Perhaps this will open up a
little bit of a new performance venue - there are
many little battery operated belt amps (I use a Supro
- a bit overdriven and distorted, granted, but fun
until I find one of the little pocket marshal stacks for
cheap) and with hidden cable (I am covering mine in
a lucet woven silk cord 'sleeve' and hiding my amp
in a custom leather belt pouch) there are some
venues that were previously impractical for an
instrument like this - such as outdoor SCA events
and actually playing with other instruments - not a
period thing to do, but fun with the right folks.
This is just one of many cool
instruments built by Mr. Nogy.
Click here to go to his website
and check them all out!