Lyre vs Guitar: Complete Guide

Music has been an integral part of human culture for centuries, and different instruments have emerged over time to produce various sounds that express a range of emotions. Two popular stringed instruments that have captured the hearts of music enthusiasts worldwide are the lyre vs guitar. Although they share similarities, however, they differ significantly in design, history, and sound.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between the lyre vs guitar, their origins, and how they have evolved over the years to become the beloved instruments they are today.

Lyre vs Guitar


The history of the guitar can be traced back to the Renaissance. Here it was first developed as a string instrument. The first guitars were used in Spain and Italy and were known as vihuelas. These early guitars had four strings and were tuned in a similar fashion to the modern guitar.

The first evidence of the lyre being used as a musical instrument comes from ancient Greece. The Lyre was likely developed from earlier Mesopotamian instruments and became popular among the Greeks around 1400 BCE. The Lyre was used in a variety of music genres including secular and religious music.


lyre vs guitar
ShapeU-shaped or bowl-shapedHourglass-shaped or flat-top/rounded-back
StringsTypically made of gut or nylon, 7-10 stringsTypically made of metal, 6 or 12 strings
TuningUsually tuned to a diatonic scaleTuned to a chromatic scale or alternate tunings
FretsNo fretsFrets to accurately determine pitch
SoundboardUsually made of animal skin or thin woodUsually made of thin wood or composite
SoundholeUsually has no sound holeTypically has one or more sound holes
Playing techniquePlucked or strummed with fingers or plectrumPlucked or strummed with fingers or plectrum
Historical usageUsed in ancient Greece and Rome, medieval EuropeDeveloped in Spain in the 16th century


The lyre and guitar are both musical instruments that are played by plucking the strings. They also share some similarities in terms of their basic structure and the way they are played. Here are some similarities between the lyre and guitar:

  1. Stringed instruments: Both are stringed instruments. It means that their sound is produced by the vibration of the strings when they are plucked.
  2. Tuning: Both instruments require tuning to ensure that the strings are at the correct tension and produce the right pitch. The tuning process is usually done by adjusting the tension of the strings with tuning pegs or knobs.
  3. Playing position: Both instruments are typically played in a horizontal position. Musicians hold the instrument in front of them
  4. Range: Both have a wide range of notes that can be played, allowing for a variety of melodies and harmonies.
  5. Chord playing: Both instruments can be used to play chords, that are played simultaneously to create a fuller sound.
  6. Amplification: Both can be amplified using pickups or microphones, allowing them to be played in larger venues

Types of Music Played on Lyre and Guitar

Here are some examples of music genres that can be played on each instrument:


  1. Ancient music: The lyre has a long history. It was commonly used in ancient music from Greece, Rome, and other civilizations.
  2. Folk music: The lyre is also popular in folk music traditions, particularly in Europe. It can be used to play traditional songs and dances from these regions.
  3. New Age music: The lyre has a soft and soothing sound that makes it a popular choice for New Age music. It is often used to create relaxing and meditative music.


  1. Rock music: The guitar is perhaps most commonly associated with rock music. It can be used to play a wide range of rock genres.
  2. Blues music: The guitar is also popular in blues music, where it is often used to create soulful and emotive sounds.
  3. Folk music: The guitar is a popular choice in many folk music traditions, particularly in North America and Europe. It can be used to play traditional songs and ballads.
  4. Classical music: The guitar is used in classical music, where it is often used to play solo pieces or as part of an ensemble.
  5. Jazz music: The guitar is a popular choice in jazz music, where it is used to create complex and improvisational sounds.

Overall, both the lyre and guitar are versatile instruments that can be used to play a wide range of music genres.

Tuning and Strings Used for Lyre and Guitar

Lyre Tunings:

  • C major: C4, D4, E4, F4, G4, A4, B4, C5
  • D major: D4, E4, F#4, G4, A4, B4, C#5, D5
  • E major: E4, F#4, G#4, A4, B4, C#5, D#5, E5
  • G major: G4, A4, B4, C5, D5, E5, F#5, G5

String Types:

  • Gut strings: These were traditionally used on lyres and produced a warm, rich tone.
  • Nylon strings: Nylon strings are also commonly used on lyres and produce a brighter, more articulate sound.
  • Metal strings: Metal strings are less commonly used on lyres, but can produce a bright and clear tone.

Guitar Tunings:

  • Standard: E2, A2, D3, G3, B3, E4
  • Drop D: D2, A2, D3, G3, B3, E4
  • Open G: D2, G2, D3, G3, B3, D4
  • Open D: D2, A2, D3, F#3, A3, D4

String Types:

  • Steel strings: These are the most common type of string used on acoustic guitars, and produce a bright and clear tone.
  • Nylon strings: Nylon strings are commonly used on classical guitars, and produce a warm and mellow tone.
  • Coated strings: Coated strings have a protective coating to help prolong their lifespan and prevent corrosion.

Different Playing Techniques for Each Instrument

The Lyre:

The most common way to play the lyre is by plucking the strings with your fingers. However, you can also strum the strings with a plectrum or bow the strings with a bow.

The Guitar:

The most common way to play the guitar is by strumming the strings with your fingers. However, you can also pluck the strings with a plectrum or pick, or you can fingerpick the strings.

Popularity in Modern Times

lyre vs guitar

The popularity of the lyre vs. guitar has been a topic of debate for many years. While both instruments have their fans, there is no clear consensus on which one is more popular in modern times.

There are a few factors that can be considered when trying to determine the popularity of these two instruments. First, let’s look at sales figures. According to The Music Trades magazine, acoustic guitar sales have steadily increased over the past decade, while sales of electric guitars have remained relatively flat. Accordingly, In 2018, acoustic guitars accounted for 18 percent of all guitar sales in the United States, while electric guitars made up just 10 percent. This trend seems to indicate that acoustic guitars are more popular than electric guitars in today’s market.

However, it’s important to consider that these numbers don’t necessarily reflect the popularity of each instrument among musicians. Many electric guitarists play acoustic guitars as well, and vice versa. Additionally, some people may own multiple types of guitars (acoustic and electric) or even multiple instruments within each category. Therefore, sales figures alone don’t provide a complete picture of an instrument’s popularity.

Another way to gauge the relative popularity of lyres vs. guitars is by looking at how often each type of instrument is used in popular music genres. For instance, acoustic guitars are commonly used in country music, while electric guitars are more prevalent in rock and roll.

Benefits/Drawbacks of Learning to Play Either Instrument

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of learning to play the lyre or guitar:

Benefits of learning to play the lyre:

  • Historical and cultural significance: The lyre is an ancient instrument with a rich history and cultural significance, making it an interesting instrument to learn for those interested in history or cultural studies.
  • Portability: The lyre is a relatively small and lightweight instrument, making it easy to transport and play in a variety of settings.
  • Versatility: The lyre can be played in a variety of musical styles, from traditional folk music to modern compositions, making it a versatile instrument to learn.

Drawbacks of learning to play the lyre:

  • Limited availability: The lyre is not as widely played or available as some other instruments, making it more difficult to find teachers or resources for learning.
  • Limited repertoire: There are fewer compositions written specifically for the lyre, which can make it more challenging to find music to play or to develop a diverse repertoire.
  • Technique: The lyre requires a unique playing technique, with strings typically plucked using fingernails rather than a pick, which can be difficult for some players to master.

Benefits of learning to play the guitar:

  • Popularity: The guitar is one of the most popular instruments worldwide, making it easy to find teachers, resources, and other players to collaborate with.
  • Versatility: The guitar can be played in a wide range of musical styles, from classical to rock to jazz, making it a versatile instrument to learn.
  • Creative expression: The guitar offers many opportunities for creative expression, from composing original music to improvising and experimenting with different playing styles.

Drawbacks of learning to play the guitar:

  • Physical demands: Playing the guitar requires physical dexterity and endurance, which can be challenging for some players, especially when first starting out.
  • Expensive: High-quality guitars can be expensive, making it more difficult for some people to access the instrument.
  • Noise: The guitar can be a loud instrument, which can be a drawback for those who live in shared spaces or noise-sensitive environments.

Future Prospects

Future Prospects for the Lyre:

While the lyre has a long and rich history, its future prospects are less certain. The instrument’s unique sound and cultural significance ensure that it will continue to be valued by enthusiasts, but it may struggle to gain wider recognition and acceptance in the broader musical landscape. However, the growing interest in world music and traditional instruments may provide new opportunities for the lyre to gain a more prominent place in modern music.

Future Prospects for the Guitar:

The guitar’s future prospects are more certain, given its enduring popularity and adaptability to changing music trends. The instrument has shown its ability to adapt to new genres, from the electric guitar’s role in rock and roll to the acoustic guitar’s place in contemporary singer-songwriter music. As technology continues to evolve, the guitar will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in shaping the sound of popular music.



Both the lyre and the guitar are stringed instruments, but they differ in several ways, including the number of strings, the tuning, and the playing technique. Here are some tips for using each instrument:


  • The lyre is typically played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum and is held upright with the soundboard facing the player.
  • Lyres usually have fewer strings than guitars, with 7-10 strings being common.
  • The tuning of a lyre is typically diatonic, meaning it follows a seven-note scale with a pattern of whole and half steps.
  • When playing the lyre, it is important to pay attention to the placement of the fingers on the strings, as the instrument can be more sensitive to intonation than a guitar.


  • The guitar is played by plucking or strumming the strings with the fingers or a pick and is typically held horizontally with the sound hole facing the player.
  • Guitars usually have six strings, although 12-string guitars are also available.
  • The tuning of a guitar is typically chromatic, meaning it can play all 12 notes in an octave.
  • When playing the guitar, it is important to develop a good sense of rhythm and to practice strumming patterns to create different textures and styles of music.

In general, the choice between a lyre and a guitar will depend on the style of music you want to play and your personal preferences. Lyres are often associated with classical and folk music, while guitars are popular in many different genres, from rock and pop to country and jazz.


What is a lyre?

A: A lyre is a stringed musical instrument that dates back to ancient Greece. It typically has a yoke or crossbar with strings stretched between it and a resonating chamber.

What is a guitar?

A guitar is a stringed musical instrument that is commonly used in modern music. It typically has a flat or slightly curved body with a neck and strings stretched between the headstock and bridge.

Can you play the same music on a lyre and a guitar?

A: It is possible to play some of the same music on a lyre and a guitar, but they are not interchangeable instruments. The lyre has a unique sound and range that is different from the guitar, so certain pieces of music may sound better on one instrument than the other.

Which instrument is easier to learn, the lyre or the guitar?

A: Learning to play any musical instrument takes time and practice, so it is difficult to say which instrument is easier to learn. However, the guitar is a more popular and widely used instrument, so there may be more resources available for learning how to play it. The lyre, on the other hand, is a more niche instrument that may be more challenging to find resources for.

Which instrument is more expensive, the lyre or the guitar?

Which instrument is more expensive, the lyre or the guitar? A: The cost of a lyre or guitar can vary widely depending on factors such as the quality of materials, craftsmanship, and brand. Generally speaking, high-quality guitars tend to be more expensive than high-quality lyres. However, there are many different models and price ranges for both instruments, so it is difficult to make a general statement about which one is more expensive.


In conclusion, the lyre and guitar are two distinct instruments with unique histories, designs, and uses. While they share some similarities, such as being stringed instruments, their differences in sound and playing techniques make them distinct from one another. Both instruments have their own strengths and limitations, and the choice between them ultimately depends on personal preference and the type of music one wishes to play. Whether you choose the ancient and classical lyre or the modern and versatile guitar, both instruments have the power to create beautiful music and bring joy to those who play them.

also read: cello with fingers

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