Cretan Lyra

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
7 years ago
2,088 posts

Thanks Helen and Ken...always good to hear encouraging words!

Helen- most of these tunes I know by heart in my head from years of listening, so that does help a lot when trying to play them. I still do keep a sheet music version next to me though, to refer to on the passages I may not be sure about. Generally playing by ear, after hunting around as to where the tune falls well on the lyra, range and fingering wise. In this tuning, more often than not it falls best with the tonic on the open G string.

Ken- I'm happy you think it's fine to use the arched bow. Yes I have watched many gadulka player videos. It's wonderful to see- they have such a vigorous folk/dance/song way of playing, with much sawing. So the short heavy home made bow like the one that came with my lyra makes total sense. We are not talking Purcell here...lol.

I love the videos showing the traditional bows with the little brass hawk bells attached. I used to tap my foot on a tambourine laid upon the floor, but now I use an anklet I made with goat hooves and bells and bottle caps to jangle when I stomp my heel- I use that for not only medieval but for minstrel tunes when Brian and I play fiddle/banjo minstrel repertoire, which typically included tambourine. It sounds so merry and festive! Maybe I will stick with the anklet I made, rather than attaching bells to the bow..tempting though it is.

I call it my "jangklet". To my delight, Brian likes it. Even though I keep it softer during festivals, other folks seem to detest it and some have insisted that i remove it at oldtime sessions. Sometimes I just outright refuse (oooh they get all red and mad!) and I guess I'm now risking becoming an 'oldtime leper'. Oh well. I feel strongly that it's all music for the people and should be not so uptight and anal. It's not like I'm playing a trombone or something- it's just a little foot rattle ! People need to loosen up and have fun. Oldtime festival jams are hardly 'performances'.

Ok gotta get off the rant now, back to work.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
7 years ago
14 posts

Hi Lisa,

Sounds like you are really making a lot of progress on your lyra. The tuning makes a lot of sense. I think you are doing absolutely right thing using the old style bow. You might want to check out some videos of gadulka players. Someone just posted a video like that on my Facebook page. Check out the bowing and the holding position. Very distinctive. This type of bow is not difficult to make which means you could make yourself one that is perfect for you. Looing forward to hearing what you're doing.

Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
7 years ago
118 posts
Wow, thanks for the update. It must be great learning and playing a totally different genre of music, however do u find time to sleep Lisa?
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
7 years ago
2,088 posts

OK a little update on this, now three and a half months after getting my impulsively bought broken old lyra repaired and in working condition.

I've practiced for (honestly) about an hour every 2 or 3 days. I know that's not enough, but i need to sandwich it in between everything else I do, plus dratted 'work'. I do seem to be progressing well enough to at least notice and feel good about though.

I decided early on to focus on playing medieval tunes rather than oldtime fiddling repertoire. I don't get a chance to pursue my love of early music aside from just listening to it, so this little instrument seems well suited. Besides, I'm married to a wonderful oldtime fiddler already, whom I play oldtime banjo with.

It's taken me a couple of months to sort and gather together a little selection of the tunes I like that are also 'accessible' for me to play or practice (tunes that are not too difficult). I now have about 20 tunes I'm regularly practicing, and that gives me some variety of interest and skills to work on. It's a real thrill when a simple tune I've heard for years and know in my head- is suddenly recognizable coming out from ME instead of from iTunes or a CD.

I'm finding that being cross tuned is very useful for most of these old tunes, enabling drone strings double-stops. So I'm tuned low-to-high: GDgd not sure how to indicate that. It's like a fiddle Cross A (AEae) but one step lower, so cross G.

I find that an old primitive style rebec-like arched bow like early fiddles used is better for me with the underhand grip and does not bounce like a viola or cello bow seems to be prone to. You keep the hair taught with your hand while holding the bow, so there is no tensioning nut and not too much skill is needed to re-hair it.

I took my arched jouhikko bow made by Michael King, (which always had a rather wimpy amount of hair), and this evening I rehaired it, putting in an entire full new shank of black mongolian hair. Rosined it up good with my Andrea cello rosin, and it works really well for me now- sounds good and lets me rock back and forth while staying stable. It feels nicely balanced, to my amateur senses, anyway. The old bow that came with my lyra sounds very strong but is just a bit heavy and less nimble. I still get a kick out of using it sometimes though.

It won't be long before I post another little video of some simple tune. Just trying to find the right tune and the right moment and time of day when i'm not busy and when things are quiet.

Overall, I am really loving it. It enables me to work on a personal musical yearning I've had for decades.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
Wow! Wow and double Wow! That was great Lisa. I can see why u have fallen in love with this wonderful instrument and gee it scrubbed up nicely. More please.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

i will work on that Ken, thanks.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

Here's what I do to get my classes to relax. We start out with just sitting there with your arms and hands complely relaxed with your wrists resting on your legs. Then, LIGHTLY grip the bow, jsut enough so you can lift it up. Put the bow on the string and just bow the open string, concentrating on keeping your shoulders relaxed, your posture good, breathing deeply . Draw the bow over the string and see if you can get a steady tone. On left hand just bow the open string and concentrate on staying relaxed, gripping the bow very lightly and moving the bow at a steady pace.

Next, keep your elbows realxed and close to your body. Now see how far you can move the bow back and forth and not move your arm at all, kind of like Surrty County fiddlers. This is all wrist movement. If you have to, have someone hold your arm so it can't move and see how much movement you can do with just the wrist. Watch that your shoulders don't stiffen up. Try this and see if it helps. If not, let me know and we can try some other things.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Thanks friends!

Ken I was hoping you'd have some tips for me.

During the video retakes (there were 9 attempts...lol), I kept finding my bowing hand and arm all tense, using a death grip- part of that was due to video-stage-fright. I do know what you mean about the loose wrist, I watch fiddlers do it, and I can feel/envision it clearly in my head while I play. I will try to push the message from my head to my arm.

I also know I'm raising my fretting fingers up way too much between notes, and that works against me.

I guess it's good that I 'know' some of the things I need to do but need to persuade my body to cooperate. Better than being altogether clueless! I certainly am aware of when I am out of tune....dang!

I feel like I FINALLY have a bowed instrument I will be able to play successfully if I work at it- this little lyra seems to be very willing and eager. Maybe it's grateful that it got a whole new chance at life again after living in a dusty dark closet somewhere for goodness knows how long.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,330 posts
Way to go, Strumelia!
Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

Hi Lisa,

Very good sound. You are moving the bow well and your rhythm is good. If I could make a suggestion to you, try and use less arm and more wrist. Hold the bow more lightly. Check out some of the videos at the site of the Viola Da Gamba Society of America and see how much wrist is used. When I do bowed dulicmer classes I am always going around getting people to relax the upper arm so that everythinng flows more. It takes a while to get the knack of loose wrist bowing but I think when you get there your playing will really take off. I look forward to hearing you and Brian doing duets this way. I know it will be good.

Ken

John Keane
John Keane
@john-keane
8 years ago
182 posts

Wow...I thought that was great for it being a new to you instrument! Smile.gif

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Not sure I would use the word 'pure' for my rough squawks, but thanks Kevin!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Kevin Messenger
Kevin Messenger
@kevin-messenger
8 years ago
86 posts

Wow Lisa you have taken right to the new instrument. I like it. That is about as pure mountain sound as you can get.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Ok, you guys asked for it...get your ear plugs ready!

Here is my first out-of-tune attempt on my Cretan Lyra:

http://youtu.be/uxWIkRsOx-I

Yes, I know my form is awful... but I promise it'll improve rapidly! lol...

I kinda love playing around on this thing.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
No pressure...just when u have a brave (or silly) moment.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

I'm working on that Helen. Hopefully within a week. I'm still quite bad but never fear, I will try not to be a perfectionist in posting a rough sample of my struggles...maybe just post it in this thread rather than subject all fotmd members...lol. If you were brave enough on your digeridoo, well I will try to be brave like you !




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
I hope you post a demo of u playing this unusual instrument Lisa.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

I am having a LOT of fun learning to play on this little lyra. It has a very big voice for such a wee thing!

The best thing is that I don't seem to have too much trouble getting a decent tone from it, which has been somewhat of a struggle on my other bowed instruments in the past. Yay, so inspiring!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
She sounds wonderful Lisa. Congrats and happy bowing.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Hey thanks so much Ken! You da man!!

No way I could emulate those fabulous lyra players though- well this is really a violin-lyra anyway- not meant to be fretted with the side of the nail in the air, and no sympathetic strings etc... It's really just a bowlbacked fiddle when it comes down to it.

The luthier found it impossible to play on his arm like a fiddle, sliding all around...but i just flipped it over, stuck it on my lap like a cello and started playing and he looked amazed....lol! sooo funny.

Ok gotta play a simple tune, maybe Aunt Rhody? before I leave for that dance tonight. We are very lucky tonight in our humble little village dance to have Jay Unger and Molly Mason as the dance band- and it's just two blocks down the hill from my house...can't miss it!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 06/29/15 11:34:09PM
Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

Congratulations, Lisa!! Getting anew member of the family is always exciting. I'm sure you've checked out some videos of Cretan lyra players. They are quite something to emulate. Let us know how you progress with the new baby!

Ken

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

UPDATE-

Just got this Cretan Lyra back from the luthier/repair fellow. Fretboard is re-glued, bass bar is reattached, top is re-secured, new soundpost, new set of 4 fine tuners, repaired and reenforced tail (that was half broken off already), and new set of 3/4 Prim violin strings (as called for by the scale length). All cleaned and lovely.

Bow is rehaired but at first try is pretty crummy, functionally. Luckily I have other bows lying around.

All I can say is WOW. This thing sings with huge tone and volume, and it is SUPER easy to tune and finger and hold if I treat it like a tiny cello. I could not believe the grand voice when I touched the bow to the strings....AMAZING!! I thought- Gee, how come my notes aren't all squeaky and nasty, like on my other bowed instruments? How come it sounds so beautiful and bell-like clear and warm? Just maybe the crappy tone wasn't entirely my fault to begin with?

It came out about three times as great as I had wistfully hoped. Going to a contra dance tonight to dance...kinda wish I could just stay home and play around with it... it's FABULOUS!

Yay I feel like I could now learn to play anything on it- oldtimey, medieval, ethnic folk stuff, minstrel tunes... no limit!

Well yes there is actually a limit- I need to learn to play it first. Well two limits really- I also need to learn to play it in tune. hmmm....




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
Aaah, very clever.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Helen, I experimented with various rigged arrangements for producing foot percussion, including just tapping on an inverted tambourine. Eventually I made a percussion anklet for myself, attaching various bottle caps, rattle items, and bells. That seems to be working well. I had to remake the first prototype as the metal bottlecaps kept cutting through their string attachments. That's no longer a problem now.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
What are u using for foot percussion Lisa? I have a jingle stick that sticks into the side of my shoe, a seed pod rattle for wrist or ankle (that isnt as loud as I would like) and a foot tambourine, which I have only managed to use publicly once on Old Joe Clark. Given my poor coordination even that was a miracle and my friends up at the nursing home seemed to enjoy it.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Hoping this Lyra may be ready to pick up repaired by the end of October. Meanwhile, continuing to play my medieval rebec, with added foot percussion. I have ordered a frame drum , which should arrive in a few days. I'll start a new thread on the frame drum, as I don't see any other frame drum threads here in the "Other Instruments" forum.

I just love to learn new stuff!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Hi Helen!

Our repairman is doing a few extra things for this job- as is so common, one finds additional little things that need attention as one gets into repairing an old instrument. So he's in the middle of doing a few others things as well. Thus, my initial decision to not attempt the original fingerboard re-gluing myself was a wise thing. I imagine it'll be another week or two to be finished. I hope he work will be worth the expense and that I'll find it satisfying to play. There's no way to know until it's all done.

Meanwhile, I have been playing my little gut-strung rebec lately, and that's been fun. Hard work to play in tune and get even tone with the bow, for sure! Same issues all beginner fiddlers share I think....making terrible dying cat sounds...lol.

Brian and I are trying to learn a couple of simple medieval tunes together on rebec and fiddle. That's a genre that is completely new to him, and it was amazing for me to hear medieval sounds coming from him- I'm so used to hearing him play old-time repertoire only.

I don't have all that many exotic instruments, compared to some of our friends- do rattles, tambourines, bones, mouthbows, and limberjacks count?? I have more banjos than anything else. I am however about to order a frame drum. Because of course. :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Helen Seiler
Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
8 years ago
118 posts
Another unusual instrument from a far away land for u Lisa. So there is this one and the Jouhikko, do you have many others? (Ps. Great to hear your fiddle guy can do the repairs).
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Gregg- yes I wouldn't be surprised if the bow was older. Unfortunately the wood stick is warped in the middel, but I don't think that effects it's function.

Ken- thanks, I guess the tuning will depend a lot on what kind of music i want to play on this thing, and if I am semi-successful in doing anything at all on it..lol. The 'bounce' middle string- yes you mean like a drone in the middle to play a doublestop from each side of the middle string? If so, that's like the jouhikko tuning I had gotten a little familiar with. I may start with just standard 5ths to get a feel- Im such a greenhorn, truly! I can try a few other things later.

There is a huge unknown concerning how this instrument may feel and sound after a couple basic repairs. Our luthier suggested some very limited repairs so that it would not cost a fortune, -no sense going completely overboard when there are fine new lyras and medieval fiddles for sale once you get to a certain price point. He said he could get it playable at least, and he's very good at what he does, well respected. So now I must just wait. Meanwhile, i can tool around on my 3string gut rebec when i get that little bowing urge that hits me.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Gregg Schneeman
Gregg Schneeman
@gregg-schneeman
8 years ago
27 posts

That bow could actually be older than that particular lyra.

Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

Hi Lisa,

That bow looks a lot nicer than they usually do. I could be an old nyckelharpa bow, judging from the particular shape. Most Mediterranean bows I've seen do something very different for the tip. That angled portion you often see in nuyckelharpa bows. You can set it up like a fiddle but lyras usually use a different sort of tuning with a middle string being the sort of "bounce" string". I think if you do a bit of Googling you'll find a number of different approaches that might make more sense to you than the normal fiddle tuning. Let me know if I can help.

Ken

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Yes, i like the bow, and am having it re-haired...which caused a raised eyebrow considering that it will cost more to rehair that home made bow than the bow is worth. But I love keeping the same bow with it. Even if the bow is not exactly original to this particular instrument, it is at least very typical to such instruments, and this bow came in the case and more than likely played upon this lyra long ago by some previous owner. The instrument, bow, and case are all pretty old- I'd guess maybe ranging somewhere between 1890 and 1930 or so. The case is an old violin case that was crudely carved out by hand by someone to fit this lyra. I suspect the case, instrument, and bow probably all started out separately from each other.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Gregg Schneeman
Gregg Schneeman
@gregg-schneeman
8 years ago
27 posts

Interesting bow design too, looks to be original to the instrument.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Update...

I never did find the time to try regluing the fingerboard back on this Cretan Lyra, so I decided to bring it to a good luthier we know who has worked on Brian's fiddles over the years. He showed us how the base bar had come apart from the top inside at one end, as well. This would have meant it would not have worked right even if I had successfully reglued the fingerboard- goes to show it's never a bad idea to get someone to help who knows more than you do!

Anyway, he is keeping it now for a few weeks and will do these two repairs and then string it up. Apparently it has 3/4 violin sized scale, and he has a set of those type strings lying around that he said he will throw on it just to see how it plays. I can then decide if it needs a different set of strings for the tunings I may want for it. All this will take a few weeks.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Thank you Ken! :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

HI Lisa, You can clean off the surfaces by wetting them with warm water and gently scraping off the goo. It may take several times doing this to get the surfaces really clean. Then very lightly sand with fresh 220 paper staying away from the edges.

Practice with the glue first. Hide glue does not give you much open time so you have to be ready and have planned out how you are going to clamp it up. Remember that wet glue is alubricant and the pieces will want to slide on you. Many folks take a small brad or two and clip the point end to make some little pointy bits that will grab while the glue is drying. You can plan out what you are going to do. Getting the edges to line up is the hardest part. Try dry clamping several times until you have it figured out. If it doesn't work out like you would like, you can laways get it apart and do it again till you're happy with it. That's the great thing about hide glue. Always mix it fresh. It doesn't keep well. Good Luck and let us know how it works out!

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

I ordered some hide glue and have decided to reglue the fingerboard myself- it looks like a very clean surface to redo, and nothing is cracked or warped- the parts line up very nicely. If I am careful, it might be a fun and satisfying little project!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

Hey Lisa,
After you get it up and running you'll have to find a laouto player to back you up. It's akiller combination.

Jennifer Wren
Jennifer Wren
@jennifer-wren
8 years ago
17 posts

Ahh, bummer you have to wait to play it, but I'm glad to hear it arrived relatively unharmed. I like hearing about the case. That IS cool.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Well this violin-lyra (origin Crete) arrived...'almost' in one piece. The fingerboard glue failed in transit and the fingerboard popped off but no damage. However, to fix it properly, the old hide glue should be removed before being re-glued. It's a job I would feel better having a violin guy do for me, so we'll take it to a fiddle man we know who does good work. It's a simple fix. That'll probably take up the summer to get done.

The rest of it all looks fine, needs new strings and the crude bow should be rehaired eventually. I have some good black bow hair I can use, but for now I think i'll just clean the bow hair with alcohol and re-rosin and see how it works on my rebec.

The wooden violin case is literally falling apart but it's fascinating and had been carved out by someone to receive the bowlback and the tail peg that sticks out. It's a mess but so awesome. :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Ken thank you so much for enlightening me- it all makes sense now.

So satisfying to know it is a lyra, and that there will be some good info online about it to delve into.

Yes, my jouhikko has the same kind of soundpost that props under one bridge foot.

I'm thrilled to know you think it looks like it is well made.

Jennifer, glad to know you are interested in these things as well!

I now need to just relax and be patient, as it might take a nother few weeks to actually get here from Bulgaria...on the slow boat. lol




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Jennifer Wren
Jennifer Wren
@jennifer-wren
8 years ago
17 posts

I was looking at this on ebay! It seems promising. If you like it maybe it will give me courage to make an offer on something similar in the future.

Ken Bloom
Ken Bloom
@ken-bloom
8 years ago
14 posts

Hi Lisa, Nice instrument. It is not a gadulka. It is too small and no sympathetic strings. It is a lyra which you find in Macedonia, Crete, and also in other parts of the Balkans. I have seen four string lyras but they are not as common as the three stringers. Be careful that you don't lose the soundpost which is that little stick that is coming through the soundhole and connects to the foot of the brdige. I think you have a winner here. It looks to be very well made.

While the gadulka does not have a fingerboard, the lyra often does. I think when you start researching it, you will find quite a bit of info about the instruemnt and certainly a lot of Youtube examples. If you need more info, let me know and I'll try to help.

Wout Blommers
Wout Blommers
@wout-blommers
8 years ago
97 posts

Played in Bulgaria, it is a gadulka.

When played in Russia, it is a gaduk.

There are about 20 names for this instrument in several regions...

At the other hand many will call it a rebec Grin.gif

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
2,088 posts

Hi all,

Hoping for some feedback on what I got myself into.... Ken Bloom?- Mark Gilkston?- others who know something about such instruments?

I impulsively made an offer and won this old instrument on Ebay- it's going to be coming from Bulgaria in another week or two. Yeah, I am kinda nuts. But I've been enjoying my rebec lately and wondering about something like it but with steel strings- then this popped up and I liked it because it didn't have like 10 sympathetic strings, for one thing. I didn't expect my offer to be accepted, but I found myself suddenly owning it.

Yes the case is falling apart- an old fiddle case that was butchered to fit this instrument long ago.

It looks to me like a gadulka, except it has a nut and a regular violin fingerboard and what appear to be four standard violin strings. ? The carefully adapted case and the two fine tuners lead me to believe this was once played by a serious folk musician.

Is it .... a fiddulka? a gaddidle? lol... help me out here!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 06/11/15 07:40:37AM