In addition to the organ, which has ancient roots, other musical instruments with a keyboard became popular during the Renaissance, prior to the invention of the piano. The clavichord is a stringed keyboard instrument, normally rectangular in shape with a decorated case. It was developed from the medieval monochord and was popular from late medieval times through the Baroque Age, and still has its share of enthusiasts today. However, it is a very soft and quiet musical instrument by modern standards. The harpsichord, another widely used keyboard instrument, probably first appeared during the 1400s, possibly in the Low Countries. The virginal was another, smaller member of the harpsichord family. In the Renaissance these keyboard instruments did not have legs or a stand, but were simply set upon a table.- - - - - - - - -
The pear-shaped plucked string instrument known as the lute was also very popular. It probably has an Eastern or Asian origin, historically. Most early string instruments were plucked. Bowed string instruments apparently didn’t become common until the Middle Ages. Their origin is uncertain, although quite a few historians suspect it to be found among the horse-riding nomads of Central Asia, from where it may have spread to China and to Europe via the Middle East. The Byzantine lyra probably influenced instruments in medieval Europe. It is the rough equivalent of bowed string instruments such as the rab?b in the Islamic world.
In Spain, two new fretted string instruments related to the lute emerged in late medieval times and spread around the Western world. These were the vihuela (Spanish guitar) and the viol. Our modern, classical guitar is a direct descendant of the vihuela. Because it was plucked it was often called vihuela de mano (hand guitar). Related to it was a Spanish instrument called the vihuela de arco (bowed guitar), better known as the viol. The viol was developed in Spain in the late 1400s. It had six strings and was fretted and tuned like the lute and vihuela, but it was bowed, not plucked. It came in different sizes and was played with the instrument resting on the lap and legs. It is often called by its Italian name viola da gamba (leg viol). Having entered Italy from Spain, it quickly spread from there throughout Western Europe.
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