Ancient Greek Music - Ancient Greece for kids

Ancient Greek Music

Apollo playing the lyre

People in ancient Greece loved music, and made it an important part of their lives. Greek people thought of music as a way of honoring the gods, and making the world a more human, civilized place. Unfortunately we really have no idea what Greek music sounded like, because there were no tape recorders or anything like that then, and they had no way of writing down music either.

We do know what kind of instruments the Greeks had. They had pipes, and lyres, and drums, and cymbals. Their pipes were made from wood or reeds, with holes cut in them for your fingers to play the tune. Some were played vertically, like a recorder, and some were played sideways, like a flute. Sometimes people played more than one pipe at a time. Pipes and drums were played in a loud, lively way, for dancing, and people played this music when they were worshipping Dionysos, the god of wine and parties.

The Greeks also had lyres, which are like small harps, and might have sounded something like a guitar. According to the Greek story, the first lyre was made from a turtle shell by the god Hermes when he was a baby, and then Hermes gave it to Apollo. Apollo was the god of reason and logic, and the Greeks thought of music as a great expression of order and patterns. Lyre music was played calmer, and more soothingly, than the pipes and drums.

More about Ancient Greek music (page two)
Need a project about Greek music? How about making a lyre?

To find out more about Greek music, check out these books on or at your library:

Usborne Story of Music, by Eileen O'Brien (1998). For kids.

Music of the World, by Andrea Bergamini (1999). For teens.

Ancient Greek Music (Clarendon Paperbacks) by M. L. West (reprinted 1994). Not for kids, but it doesn't assume that you know a lot of music theory.

Music in Ancient Greece and Rome, by John G. Landels (2001). Mainly about the practical side of music rather than music theory - who played it, and where, and for whom?

Apollo's Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, by Thomas J. Mathiesen (2000) 0803230796 This one is more about Greek musical theory.

Music and the Muses: The Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City, by Penelope Murray and Peter Wilson (2004).

Main Greek Art page

Print this page
Upgrade to premium / Log in
Premier site / Log out