The introduction of new musical instruments such as the early violin called the viol, the early oboe called the hautboy and the keyboard musical instruments called the spinet, harpsichord and the virginals provided the sounds which produced a much more refined sound than had been produced during the Medieval era. The virginals was a keyboard instrument similar to a harpsichord. Combinations of musical instruments, as in the modern orchestra, were still in the experimental stage but provided the opportunity to create unusual and creative music.
Elizabethan Musical Instruments - Categories
The Elizabethan Musical Instruments fell into the following categories:
- Stringed Musical Instruments - instruments which were played with a bow or plucked
- Wind Musical Instruments - instruments which were blown like trumpets or bagpipes
- Percussion Musical Instruments - various forms of drums and bells
- Keyboard Musical instruments - the organ, spinet, harpsichord and virginals
The Most Popular Elizabethan Musical Instrument - the Lute
There were many new songs and hymns composed during the Elizabethan era. Elizabethan composers for the voice made use of two distinct styles which were called the Madrigal and the Ayre. The most popular instrument played in the Elizabethan era was the lute, a musical instrument from the Medieval era. The popularity of the lute led to a variety of different forms to be developed. One of these new Elizabethan musical instruments was called the Chittarone, a lute which could reach 6 feet tall. The Chittarone had an elongated neck to which long bass strings were attached to an additional peg-box.
Music composed for Elizabethan Musical Instruments
Elizabethan and music composed during the Renaissance rarely specified which instrument should be used when playing the composition. The Composers wrote the music and the musicians decided which instrument it should be played upon.
Combinations of Elizabethan Musical Instruments - Consort Music
The Elizabethan musicians enjoyed experimenting with various combinations of musical instruments. But the most popular combination of Elizabethan musical instruments would become known as an 'English Consort'. This combination of Elizabethan musical instruments initially consisted of 4 musical instruments. This quartet comprised of:
The 'English Consort' was the first English string quartet. It proved to be so popular that in 1599 Thomas Morley published a book of 'Consort Lessons'.