This is a review of
The Lynda Lyre from Musicmakers.
This is my personal instrument; the review was not requested or sponsored in any way.
To get right to some original songs and other demos, you can listen to this playlist. Press Play to listen straight through, or click on a track to go directly to that one. These are the same songs demonstrated in my
so you can hear the difference between these two instruments.
I chose these original pieces because all but the last 2 were written for relaxation and sound healing.
You can find videos and a few sound samples on the Musicmakers website as well.
History and Purpose
I chose this instrument primarily for 3 reasons: Harp-like sound, portability, and the history and purpose for designing it. In a nutshell, the Lynda Lyre was designed as a sound healing instrument that can be played upright or horizontally. You can read the full story
I also sent some emails back and forth with both Musicmakers and Lynda Kuckenbrod, and everyone was kind, encouraging, and helpful.
As a blind musician, I sometimes have trouble picturing instruments if I can’t hold them in my hands. This one in particular is hard to describe, and I apologize if my attempt deepens any confusion for others!
The Lynda Lyre is a triangular shape with a rounded bottom. But not just any triangle. In order to accommodate the longest strings, there is a pronounced peak at the top. This slopes steeply downward and inward (toward you if you’re holding it upright) to the neck where the tuning pins are.
The side farthest away from you is straight, running parallel with the bass strings. On a harp, this would be the pillar. So, the top is a peak and a sloping curve, and the second side is straight.
This is where the similarity to a triangle ends. The lower part of the arms is covered by the soundboard and back of the instrument, forming the soundbox. There is playing space between the top of the soundbox and the curved neck. I.e. you can reach all the strings to play with both hands. This was unclear to me, and I confirmed it before choosing this instrument.
Let’s talk about the soundbox itself. The bottom is curved and slightly rounded on the bass side, and the top is called the soundhole arch. It’s a concave piece containing 7 small, round soundholes. This was also unclear, as I can’t see the pictures and videos provided. But when I felt and played the lyre, I found it a unique design that’s very well made. It helps get the most out of an instrument designed to be small and portable, but still very resonant. Truly a work of art!
With the top peak, curved neck, and rounded soundbox, my first impression was, “Hey, it’s shaped like a boat.” I asked my Navy veteran husband if he agreed, and he did.
The Lynda Lyre is 28″ long, from peak to bottom of the soundbox. It’s 14″ wide (front to back in playing position), and the frame is about 2″ deep. It weighs only 4 pounds, making it very portable. The shape is a little awkward to carry, but the gig bag makes that much easier.
The frame is solid cherry wood, and the front or soundboard is solid spruce. The back is a laminate/veneer. In theory I would prefer a solid wood back, but this doesn’t seem to detract from the sound.
The wood parts and finish are very smooth and comfortable to hold. I’ve known about Musicmakers for years, but this is my first instrument from them. Quality is one praise I’ve heard time and time again, and I’m glad to add my voice to that.
Toward the bottom of the soundboard is a wooden bridge, permanently attached to the lyre. The strings pass into and over the bridge, and are drawn upward toward the tuning pins.
Zither pins attach the strings to the curved neck. The pins are shorter than those on my zither, but my tuning wrenches fit both types. This is a nice bonus, as you know if you’ve ever lost a tuning wrench!
Strings and Range
The Lynda Lyre has the same range as my custom zither, C3 to C6. You get one octave below Middle C, and 2 octaves above. Have a listen in my “Scale” sample. I’ve heard many harpists claim you need at least 26 strings, not 22. But I’ve had 22 string instruments before and never had a problem. Then again, I enjoy composing and arranging for smaller instruments, not least because less strings means less tuning! I also appreciate having 3 full octaves, rather than, for instance, 3.5 where the highest note is in the middle of an octave.
Musicmakers offer this instrument with either nylon or wire strings. I chose nylon strings, which give the lyre a mellow, harp-like sound. Wire strings are brighter and have more sustain, similar to a zither. In the case of nylon strings, those from C3 to B3 are wound. You can feel this when you play, but it is comfortable. In fact, I use them as a guide. When I feel wound strings, I know where I am on the instrument.
For those who can see them, the nylon C strings are red, and the F strings are blue. This is also true for harps. Wire strings don’t offer this colored option.
Holding the Instrument
Now here is where the design of the Lynda Lyre really begins to shine! There are many ways to hold it, and here are just a few.
1. Upright, like a harp.
With either the included strap, display stand, or both, you can hold the lyre upright. This puts your left hand to the left of the strings, and your right hand plays them from the right side. The lyre sits on your lap and leans against your chest. From other reviews, this is how most folks hold the Lynda Lyre. There’s also a video on the Musicmakers website if you need some tips.
2. Standing, with a strap.
Because the lyre is so light, you can stand and play it. It may take some adjusting, with the included guitar strap and/or stand, but it can be done, and it’s fun. I think Musicmakers has a video demonstrating this as well.
3. Upright in one arm, playing with your dominant hand.
This makes me feel like a Bard, which is just cool. 🙂
It’s hard to play with both hands in this position, but simple melodies sound lovely on this instrument. Try it for yourself!
4. Horizontal on your lap, with treble strings toward you.
This is how I usually play. It’s also like playing a harp, just flat instead of upright. It may be easier on the back and shoulders. I play with both hands, left hand bass and right hand treble.
This is also great if you’re letting others play. You can place it on their lap and let them pluck and strum away. I knew I would use this feature, but had no idea how much! Anyone with arthritis, carpal tunnel, or any other hand, back, or shoulder pain will really benefit from the ability to play horizontally.
With nylon strings, I only play with my fingers. I may purchase some felt picks to try and to share, but for now I’m playing with harp technique more or less. If you can pluck a string, you can play this instrument. As creator Lynda Kuckenbrod says, “There are no rules.” Play with both hands or one finger. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you enjoy playing!
String Spacing and Tension
I don’t know the exact measurement, but the string spacing on the Lynda Lyre was described to me as being narrow. Other reviews mention this as a difficulty. However, there is no standard for harp string spacing of any kind. Also, the strings are much farther apart than the wire strings on my zither. The spacing is comfortable and easy to play, and I don’t have any trouble switching between instruments.
Like spacing, there’s no standard in string tension. Each instrument builder has their own way of describing tension. The Lynda Lyre is said to be medium-light. It’s a subjective issue, but I like the feel of this instrument.
I’ve played small folk harps with lighter tension, so it takes less effort to pluck the strings. But, this also means the sound is often thinner, softer, or that the strings feel floppy or less substantial under your fingers.
On this instrument, the strings have substance in your hand. They’re easy to play, but offer some resistance. That is, they’re not floppy, nor do they require a lot of strength to play. The strings aren’t stiff either, so it doesn’t feel like they will break if you play louder passages.
In short, I was pleasantly surprised by the spacing, tension, and overall feel of the strings. For me, all these factors make the Lynda Lyre a joy to play.
Getting in Tune
This instrument is so much easier to tune than my zither! But, having played harp before, I knew it would be. Nylon strings stretch more than wire strings. While this means it takes longer for them to stabilize, it also means you have more leeway in tuning.
The slightest turn of the wrench produces a dramatic pitch change on wire strings. The same turn on a nylon string has less immediate effect. This lets you make fine adjustments to the pitch.
Resonance also makes the lyre easy to tune. I generally tune the octave moving upward, from Middle C, to B. Then, I tune the lower octave to match those strings, then the upper octave. This isn’t practical on the zither, where I end up tuning each string individually using a pitch reference. But on the lyre, with its nylon harp strings, the resonance allows you to bring the octave string in tune while the first one is ringing.
This might seem like a small detail. But believe me, when it takes 5 or 10 minutes to tune this lyre, and closer to 30 or so to tune the zither on a bad day, it is no small thing!
The Wrap Up
The Lynda Lyre has been available since late 2017. I researched it all I could for 6 months from the time I first heard of it until I could get one. It was very frustrating, as there aren’t many in depth reviews, videos, or sound samples. Also, it was hard to get a description of the shape, which having held it now, I understand why. I also didn’t know if I would be able to carry and hold it, as I’ve had hand injuries and joint issues over the years. Well, all my frustrations and fears were for naught! And the Lynda Lyre was worth the wait!
It is a well designed, beautifully crafted instrument, and I can’t over state the advantages of its light weight and ability to play horizontally. As I said it’s a sound healing instrument, so it has a natural place in my work as a minister, songwriter, and poet.
Thank you, Lynda Kuckenbrod and Musicmakers, for creating this wonderful lyre!