I'd made an Anglo-Saxon lyre at this point, and somebody asked if I could make an ancient Greek style lyre. I didn't really know much about it at the time, so I tentatively said sure based on some pictures of reconstructions he was trying for, and went about looking up the information.

I found two books that were most instructive on the topic. Almost all the information here was taken from them:

Ancient Greek Music by M.L.West, Clerendon Press, Oxford, 1992. A very nice discussion of pretty much all Greek musical instruments, a good primer on Greek music theory, and a very helpful selection of all existing Greek music, transcribed in modern notation. The historical music selection in the video at the bottom of the page comes from West's reconstruction.

Stringed Instruments of Ancient Greece by Martha Maas and Jane McIntosh Snyder, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1989. Primarily a discussion of the art history of the instruments, setting the many copious illustrations in context and providing commentary on construction, depiction, use, and description. Not much discussion on the actual music or music theory, but that's not it's goal. Very useful for lots of excellent images.

There are a number of different kinds of Greek lyres dating from the dark ages through the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE and even later in to the Byzantine period. After a basic review of the information, I discovered they fall roughly into two categories: the box lyres and the bowl lyres.

The box lyres are best represented by the professional kithara instrument of the 8th century BCE onward. These were elaborately constructed instruments, very large with a large wooden assembled box, curving arms, and a complex spring mechanism to tension the crossbar, and generally ornate decoration. They were made by professional luthiers in the cities, and are much more than I wanted to deal with for this project. I also don't have the means to do the metalwork required for their construction.

The bowl lyres come in two varieties, the chelys or "tortoise shell" lyre and the barbitos. The chelys lyre is the older, "generic" Greek lyre seen in multiple example above. The barbitos is constructed the same as the chelys lyre, but the arms are about one and a quarter to one and a half times as long, and the pitch proportionately deeper. It was one of these types of lyre that I decided to try to reproduce.

The chelys (chelys means tortoise in Greek) lyre is considered the original lyre, and is the most pervasive, being used in a wide variety of music and by both men and women. The fourth Homeric Hymn describes how the god Hermes invented the lyre, constructing it from the materials near to hand to the herdsman. The body he made from a tortoise shell, scraping it out and drilling holes in it. Two pieces of cane wood were fit like a cross in the body of the shell. Two arms were thrust into the shell, braced in place by the cane bars, and a crossbar affixed to them. A skin was then stretched across the face of the body, and seven strings of sheep-gut were strung onto it. This becomes the base model of the lyre.

Historical analysis and the pictures of the lyres (see below) suggest that the tortoise regularly used was the testuda marginata native to Greece and having a very distinctive blocked shell with high contrast coloring. In modern times the animals' shells measure around 9-12 inches long and about 4-5 inches deep, so that, combined with the images, gives us some idea of the overall size of the instrument.

The arms of the instrument may have originally been made of horn (such as sabre or oryx horns) or even ivory, but far more common appears to be wood. Several types of wood are mentioned in the literature, including boxwood and holm-oak. There is a surviving fragmentary instrument in the British Museum called the Elgin Lyre, the arms of which are made from sycamore. Strings were made from gut mostly, though twisted sinew, flax or even horsehair may have been used.

The oldest depictions of the lyres (Minoan/Mycenaean) show instruments with as few as three or four strings, but four or five were more common. By the seventh century BCE the number seems to have grown and gotten pretty fixed at seven strings. By commentary from the age, Simonides (c.556-468) is credited with adding an eighth string to the lyre family of instruments, Phrynis (c490-420) with adding a ninth, and Timotheus to the tenth and eleventh. These strings were added mostly to the professional kithara instrument and were thought to be something of a bastardization of the instrument rather than purely innovation (Pherecrates speaks of Timotheus raping the muse Music with his dozen strings). The added strings weren't often seen on the smaller chelys style lyres, which even into the Roman period rarely had more than seven or eight strings (though pictorial examples show as many as 12). The majority number of images suggests that seven was the standard.

This makes sense given the standard playing style. The instrument was more often played not by plucking like a modern harp (which was used occasionally or for certain effects), but by strumming across all the strings, and dampening the ones the player doesn't want to sound with the fingers. The player holds the instrument in the left hand by a strap that allows his hand to rest in the open space between the arms against the strings. The right hand holds a pick, often depicted as tied to the other arm of the lyre by a chord, and strums across the strings with the pick. A lot of the pictures show the player in the gesture of having just struck across all the strings, with the right hand streched past the instrument, pick in its fingers.

Using that style of play, the hand only has five fingers, and the fingers can at best stop a total of six strings (the thumb bracing across two). So having more than seven strings makes it difficult to strum across all of them without having too many sound at once. Having eight or nine strings means at least two or three are going to sound as notes unless the player is very careful not to strike all the strings when he or she plays. Descriptions of the music suggested that the melody was played as doubling to the vocal, with some other notes added in for effect. One model suggests that the melody was plucked with the fingers doubling the vocal line, and then the strums were used to fill the spaces between the vocal line, as bridges or as rhythmic beats. Apuleius describes a scultpure of a youth playing a kithara "his left hand, fingers apart, sets the strings going, while the right hand moves the plectrum toward the kithara as if ready to strike it when the voice has paused in its song." Without getting into a length discussion of ancient Greek music theory, they tended not to use chords the same way we do in modern music. It was more like a bass note and a melody note with the other strings providing a deadened rhythmic "thud." It also was used as a rhythm instrument to accompany pipes. For examples of the different styles of play, see the video at the bottom of the page.

In doing the reconstruction, I wanted to take a look at a number of examples of the instrument and how it looked, and then draw up some plans.

The first image from above - a red-figure cup by the artist Duris from the early fifth century BCE, presently in Berlin. These three examples show a nice base version of the instrument from a couple of angles. First the body is the slightly oblong shape of the shell. The arms extend from the corners (sort of about where the front legs would be), and curve first outward wider than the width of the shell body, then gently inward to end about the width of the body or slightly narrower. A crossbar is placed at about twice the length of the body. So if the body/shell is about ten inches long, the crossbar is roughly at about 20 inches from the base of the body. The arms continue past the crossbar and are rounded points. The crossbar itself extends past the arms a short space as well. How the crossbar is attached is left somewhat vague. The front view of the instrument shows the crossbar in front of the arms, but the back view ALSO shows the crossbar in front of the arms, so either it is slotted over them, appearing both in front and behind, or the artist was lazy. The one existing side view we have doesn't clarify it much unfortunately. All three examples here have seven strings. The strings are mounted to some kind of squarish tailpiece that sits on the end of the instrument, run over a bridge on the lower half of the face (about 1/4 or 1/3 up the face), and then procede uninterrupted to the crossbar, where they are wrapped around a piece of cloth around the crossbar and tied to perpendicular stick. How the tailpiece is attached is not depicted, and the bridge is pretty much just a straight line.

Titonis pursued by Eos, an Attic kalpis. Hillsborough Hearst 21. One and only good side view, showing upcurve of the arms and how the arms emerge from the body. Crossbar is shown behind the arms. The bridge and tailpiece are out of frame.

Man offering youth a gift of a rabbit on an Attic pelike. Athens 1413. Clean back view, showing a lip around the edge of the instrument that might be the skin wrapped around the edge of the shell. Note, in the constant confusion, that the crossbar is shown now in FRONT of the arms. The proportions of the instrument are consistant with the first image above, as are the normal seven strings.

Orpheus attacked by Thracian woman on Attic lekythos. Boston 13.302. This view has a couple of interesting details. First is that the confusion of the crossbar in front of or behind the arms continues with this artist, who puts it behind the lower arm but in front of the upper on. The bridge is particularly interesting, as the artist has attempted to show that it has either feet (going down) or arms (coming up), placed narrower than the full width of the bridge but at the width of where the strings meet the bridge. Also the pick chord is shown clearly, with the plectrum held in the same hand as holding the instrument. Again a square tailpiece indeterminately attached, and seven strings.

Apollo at altar on Attic amphora. New York 07.286.78. Another clean image. This instrument seems to have the arms not coming out of the front of the face, but from behind it, which is unusual. The arms are also a little longer in proportion than the other depictions, being closer to almost one and half times the body length to the crossbar. The bridge is shown to have little feet at the corners. Again we have a square tailpiece and seven strings. The crossbar is one again unclean in position, behind the lower arm but drawn through the upper one. This also shows the plectrum very cleary in the players right hand, with the chord dangling from the end and tied to the lower arm in the picture. The wrist strap for the left hand is also shown attached to the lower arm, so that the instrument is "hanging" from his left hand and braced against his torso.

Given all of that, I decided to try to construct a chelys lyre. There were a couple of material considerations though that would change the design a little bit from the historical.

First, using an actual tortoise shell would be problematic. First, the species of tortoise originally used for these instruments is now endangered, and in general my vegan wife strongly objects to my using animal parts in the instruments. I didn't want to waste a lot of real and rare animal parts on experimenting with how to build with the actual shell, so decided that I wouldn't use tortoise for the body, but would use something else instead. I had also toyed with the idea of using oryx horns for the arms, but again rejected that as being perhaps not in the best animal-friendly interests.

The two options that came to mind for the body then were wood and gourd. I'd recently made a couple of gourd instruments (a drum, rebab, and a saz), and thought that it might work nicely as a substitute. It had a natural feel, was light and relatively sturdy, and was generally pretty quick and easy to work. Carving the bowl out of a piece of wood would require a very large and expensive piece, and would take a very long time given my limited access to power tools.

The gourd, however, as sturdy as it might be isn't nearly as solid as tortoise shell. It would not directly support the stress of the tension of the strings. So bracing the arms of the lyre against the gourd walls, and then using the end of the gourd as the tailpeg wouldn't work. The stress against arms would collapse the walls, and the end of the gourd would just snap off with the string tension. As a compromise then I decided build the arms as running through the gourd, with the tailpeg being the ends of the arms, and attaching the gourd as a resonator to the arms. Thus the arms end up as a single piece "yoke" instead of the two arms with two brace crossbars in the original historical design. This does change the design of the instrument in a couple of ways. First, the arms would then end up being far more parallel to the plane of the face of the instrument, rather than curving out away from it, as they would if they were jammed into the shell. This changes the shape of the instrument a bit, and also means that the bridge is going to be lower. It also means that the resonation of the strings is transmitted to the body just through the skin and not through the arms as well as it might have in the historical construction. The historical tailpieces were just hooked onto the end of the shell with bent wires, the shell itself being strong enough to withstand the tension. The gourd is not, so I will have a kind of tailpeg of wood sticking a little out the end of the gourd to accommodate the tailpiece and the strain it will put on the structure of the instrument.

The last technical problem was how to attach the skin to the body. Nobody seems to mention this detail anywhere, and the pictures do not show a clean side view to see how the joint might be accomplished. No ropes are shown on the backsides of the instrument however, so they were not tied on, which lives nailed on or glued. I'm not horribly comfortable with trying to figure out how to cleanly glue the thing on, so I decided to use a row of tacks to hold the head to the body.

From all of that, I came up with a set of basic plans. The individual who wanted the instrument wanted one with eight rather than seven strings, so I added on the eighth string to the plans.

It seemed pretty good, so I went about acquiring gourd about 10 inches or so long and 4-5 inches or so deep, to match the rough dimensions of the tortoise shell as described.

This gourd is pretty big (about 10 inches across), and was acquired from the Amish in Lancaster County, PA. For some reason, that was NOT where I was expecting to find good gourds.

The body of the lyre will actually be only half the gourd (the other half probably becoming a barbitos, but that is another story). I draw a line around the gourd, lining up the stem and base carefully.

Using a very small saber saw, I carefully cut the gourd in half. This gourd was obviously pre-dried and had it's outer shell rather cleaned up. The inside however is still needs a bit of cleaning. There are a number of seeds, and much of the fibrous soft inner tissue that forms chambers for the seeds. All that is quickly removed with a broad head scoup chisel.

Which basically gets us down to the "wood" of the gourd, looking something like this.

The wood of the gourd is then thinned down and smoothed out so that very little to none of the "flesh" remains. The gourd at this point is about 1/16th to 1/8th inch thick in most places. I leave the top edge closer to a 1/4 inch thick to support the skin head.

This is the skin head - it's a thin piece of goatskin about 22 inches in diameter. I need it large enough to fully cover the gourd opening with about a 3 inch fringe all around. The head will initially be tied on and tightened with ropes. Once I've gotten enough tension on it, the head will then be tacked down all around the perimeter of the gourd, and the excess trimmed off. That is why it's starting out so large.

The remaining structuring elements of the lyre were constructed out of wood. Here I've decided to use the last usable bits of the cherry board that made two of the citoles and a pochette. The arms are drawn onto a paper template, which is then traced onto the wood. The crossbar will be cut out of the remainder below.

Several hours with my new japanese saw (SAMURAI SAW!), and the arms and crossbar have been roughed out. The two arms will meet in the body of the body of the instrument, and the end of the arms will form the endpin to which the tailpiece is attached.

The gourd placed onto the arms to see how the layout will mostly go.

Next I shape down the arms. If I had a band saw this would be pretty simple. As it is, I use a saw to "comb" cut the wood, so that I can chisel off the undesired bits more quickly.

The completed roughed out arm. This is then repeated with the other arm.

The two roughed arms are matched up and the joint between marked cleanly.

The gourd body is then laid on it to mark the points where it intersects the arms on the backside. The idea will be to thin the arms from behind (so they are flush with the top) while thinning the yolk from above (so it is not in contact with the skin head).

The arms are marked in pencil (you can see the greyed out areas to be removed in the near arm). This shot also shows the chisel work that went into shaping the arms. On the far arm it really looks like rough wood bark furrows!

The lower section of the arm is sawn off, while the area to be hollowed out (and the tapered end of the arm) is comb-cut to be removed with the chisels. This is done for both arms.

Both arms have now had the hollowing done, and the two parts are lined up to make sure the joint is still clean.

Now that the full basic shape has been determined, I use a hand planer like a spoke shave, and round off the arms into an oval cross-section. The sides, top and bottom of each of the yoke areas is also cleaned up. There were a couple of small knots in the arms just at the bend in the arm, which made it a little difficult to clean up, but doesn't look like it will weaken them any.

With both pieces now filed cleanly to shape, the joint between them is cleaned up until it is nearly perfect and solid.

The two arms are glued together and clamped. This required some creative clamping, including using a couple of small scrapwood wedges to keep the pressure even over the whole curve of the joining.

With the arms completed, now I start on the crossbar. The crossbar is a roughly cut piece from the original chunk. It's not particularly square even from the initial cutting out.

Using the chisels and hand planes, the crossbar is squared off at approximately the right initial size. This takes a while.

The crossbar is then laid across the arms about two inches from the top of the arms and centered. Both the arms and the cross are marked in pencil where they intersect with each other so the joinery slots can be cut. The overhang on the crossbar is a little long, so I'll probably cut it down. Originally I had the crossbar at three inches down from the top of the arms, but that had assumed a "rounder" gourd. Since the gourd is more tapered, I will have to move the bridge up a little higher on the body to get good resonance from it, and that in turn, to maintain string length, means moving up the arm a little bit. Since the arms converge, the crossbar is now a lot longer than it needs to be (as it was originally spanning a longer opening).

The slots for the cross-bar have been cut out and cleaned up. They are about 2/5th the thickness of the arm.

The crossbar is test-fit into the slot, and the thickness noted. The crossbar is a little too thick in cross-section, so needs to be overall thinned down.

The slots where the arms intersect are marked in pencil.

Before I cut the slots, however, I shorten the ends of the crossbar, and thin it down a bit more. This has been planed down to the appropriate thickness and cut down to the right length.

The slots for the arms have been cut out and tested (and shaved and tested and shaved and tested) until the fit is good. You can also see the pen markings for the other shaping of this. The ends will be tapered and the central area thinned where the pegs will pierce it.

The ends have been rough cut, and the central area comb-cut to be chiseled out.

The crossbar has been chiseled down, and all the filework on it done to smooth out the shaping. It's ready to be attached to the arms.

Gluing and clamping the crossbar to the arms. This is much easier to clamp than the two arms together.

And now we have a particularly weird shaped yoke. My wife was commenting that it looks like a plow-yoke of some kind. But it is now ready to have the gourd body attached.

The gourd is laid onto the yoke, and basic slots cut to fit the yoke into.

The yoke is test fit into the slots, and then both are reshaped, and retested, etc.

The final gourd slotted.

The arms final shaped - the tail end has been rounded and shaped to be the "endpeg" to which the tailpiece will be attached. The arms have a slight raised notch against which the wall of the gourd sits to hold it firmly in place.

Final fitting of the gourd and arms - the arms are now flush with the top of the gourd. There is slight gapping around the arms that I might fill with wood slivers.

Before I glue the gourd into place, there are two other things to do to the yoke. First, it's easier to brace the piece while it's still flat, so I mark where the pegholes will be.

And drill the starter holes for the pegs. These will be tapered with the reamer once I finish the pegs, but it's much easier to drill the holes straight when I can brace the piece flat.

The last thing to do before attaching the body is to sand the whole yoke smooth. Can't really see this so not really any picture, but the yoke is much easier to handle without the gourd attached for sanding purposes.

After final sanding, the yoke is then oiled down with finish, as this is basically easier to do without the gourd in place.

The slots in the gourd weren't a particularly tight fit, so I added small wooden wedges into the opening to get a snugger fit, and to close the gapping. These were glued into place.

The gourd is then finally sanded, stained, and finished. The original idea had been to stain it green like the faerie saz, but the green dye did not take to this gourd at all for some reason, being very streaky and uneven (I did a test on the other half, not the half that I used for the instrument). The other color I originally was going to use on the faerie lyre was a burgundy red (which looked nice on the test piece there), so I decided to take that route with this one. It's a rich dark red, and blends very nicely with the ruddy cherry wood. With the oil finish on it, it almost looks like leather.

The finished gourd is then matched up and glued into the body of the finished yoke. I didn't need to use clamps here, as it was a rather snug fit.

Once that was dry, the top edge was leveled and cleaned up, so that there was a smooth continuous edge to mount the head to.

Next part is the "soundboard" which in this case is a thin piece of goatskin. I first traced the gourd body outline on the skin, and give it a two inch margin all around.

The idea is to tie the head onto the gourd, stretch it into place, tack the edges and then cut off the fringe. To tie the head on, I need to create a slightly firmer edge, as this skin is rather thin and will tear under the pressure of stretching. So I have a thick hemp string that will be laced to the edge of the skin, and then the tensioning ropes will be laced behind that edge to tighten the head. To do this, I have to make a lot of lacing holes in the head (about 140 or so).

The skin is then soaked in warm water to make it flexible (it's like a wet rag then), and I lace the thicker rope into the edge.

The finished skin with edge lacing (the paper towels are there because the skin is still wet). I'm now ready to mount it to the gourd.

The head has to be laced to something, so I have this brace that I used for the head of the faerie saz. This is a double strand of thick wire, around which has been wrapped the heavy string. It works as a good anchor, and can be shaped to match the form of the gourd.

The head is then positioned against the gourd, and I start lacing it up.

The lacing is pretty much done at this point, pulling the skin tight against the gourd. There still was a fair amount of tearing, but it didn't prove too much problem. If I do this again, though, I'll probably only lace the sides to the ring, and just "corset" the bottom tip, as I ended up having to do that anyway to get the stretch right.

That's allowed to dry, and it tightens a bit more as it dries. This is what it looks like now from the top. The duck tape is to hold the flap over that arm that started to tear, and I wanted it to dry in shape.

Once it had dried more or less thoroughly, it is tightned a little bit more by driving wooden wedges under the strings. That was as tight as I could get the head without significant further tearing.

With the head on as tightly as possible, the bronze tacks are then used to hold it into place. Each tack first has a small pilot hole drilled with the finger drills, and then is tapped lightly into place to keep from splitting the gourd.

The tacks go all around the top edge, carefully pulling the skin tightly over the arms and tail of the yoke.

Once all the tacks are in place, the tensioning part is cut away with a sharp knife. I will salvage the tightening ring from this - otherwise the rest has to be cut up to get it off.

That leaves the head clean on the body, with the skin ending just below the edge of the tacks, neat and clean. The overhang on the arms and tail is trimmed back as well.

The body is now done. I'm ready to start with the fittings for the instrument.

The fittings for this instrument are the pegs, tailpiece, and bridge. All were kind of experimental, as I hadn't made this kind of instrument before. The pegs were probably going to end up too close to turn easily by hand, so like with the Anglo-Saxon lyre, they will be square headed and will be tightened with a key. The tailpiece I'm going to raise a little high. The original ones were pretty much a hollow bar with a heavy bronze or copper wire running through it and "hooking" onto the edge of the turtle shell. The gourd couldn't take that pressure, so it's being looped into the tailpiece, though I will probably use bronze or copper wire rather than tailgut. The bridge should have broad feet (soas not to puncture through the skin head), and otherwise will be about an inch tall. The strings originally were natural gut, but for a variety of reasons (from cost to stability) will here be nylgut. The desired tuning will be a diatonic scale from C below middle C to middle C.

These are the spalt maple pen blanks that will be used for the pegs. Unfortunately, in turning then, the spalting ended up creating fracture lines, and pegs kept breaking given any pressure. So I decided spalt maple = bad for pegs!

So, instead I went back to the olive wood. Probably a better choice anyway for a Greek lyre, as olive wood was obviously local and common. These were pen blanks I had left over from the cantiga citole (where I made the pegs from this wood).

The blanks are measured out, then I rough carve out the center spoke ("gerbil barbelles!) and then put them on the mini-lathe I have. The turned centers are then cut in have to make two small mallets.

All eight mallets are now done - the grain patterning on the olive wood is quite wild and neat.

I then carve one master peg. The head is thinned down, and the peg shaft tapered with the peg shaver. This will then be used as the model for the remaining pegs.

The master peg is fit into the crossbar using the peg reamer, to make sure I'm happy with the seating, depth, and clearance around it. All is well, so I go on to duplicate it with the other pegs.

All eight pegs are completed and fit into place in the crossbar. They still need to be drilled for the strings, but that will be done when I'm actually ready for the setup.

Next is the tailpiece. That and the bridge will be made out of the hard maple (I thought about using olive wood, but I didn't have a big enough clean chunk in the scrap I had, and the maple is considerably lighter, probably generating a better sound). Here is the rough cut out piece.

The tailpiece completed, with holes for the strings and tailwire drilled.

Next up was the bridge. My original measurements indicated an inch high bridge. Unfortunately, I forgot that there were THREE rises - first, the skin was going to stretch a little, and be pushed downward, losing probably a quarter of an inch. The crossbar had another 1/4-3/8 of an inch rise over the level of the top of the skin. The tailpiece had a 1/2 inch rise or so, so I had originally calculated an inch high bridge. Unfortunately, I forgot that the PEGS also add a rise, and that was just enough to have the test string lift off the bridge. So this is actually bridge number two, which is here about two inches tall, though I will probably cut it down a little. It is made from the same maple piece as the tailpiece.

The finished bridge. The idea is to make it as thin and light as possible where it intersects the strings, but to have a rather broad surface contact with the skin so it does not puncture through it, or stretch it too much at one point. So the the feet are about 1/2 inch wide and about one and a half inches long each. That still stretches into the skin, but does not appear to be threatening to puncture it.

The last thing to do before actual stringing was that I needed to make the key to tighten the pegs. This was made out of a scrap of the cherry that I used for the arms and crossbar of the lyre.

The finished key. It's a simple "I" joint to connect the top crossbar with the shaft. The shaft was drilled out, and then the opening squared off with the mini-chisels until it fit the master peg snugly. Finally it was sanded and oiled.

We're now ready for the actual stringing. The first thing to do is to test to make sure everything fit and the heights and positioning is good. So using nylon cord, I tie on the tailpiece and then run two strings up the middle to test the fit of the bridge, spacing, etc. That is all good (with the second bridge - this is the step where the first bridge failed), so it's on to the actual strings.

The tailpiece is held on not with tailgut, but with wire. Here I'm using red bronze, which is bronze with a very high copper content (I had some I had used to string a wire-strung harp). I doubled it up through the holes, and pulled it as tight as possible. I know there will be some stretching, but it seemed pretty solid.

Now I add the actual strings. The strings historically would have been made of gut, but here I'm using synthetic strings called "nylgut" acquired from Aquilla USA. They have similar accoustic properties of gut, take a while to stretch out to pitch, but once there are "set" they are much more stable than natural gut, and are less prone to breaking. I start stringing in the middle and work my way outward, to keep the tension even and not torque or warp any of the parts in the process. The tuning for this will be C below middle C going diatonically up a C major scale to middle C.

After putting on all the strings and tightening them up to pitch, I discovered that the tailwire was stretching a bit too much, and the tailpiece was carving into the bottom of the skin and slipping forward. I undid everything, and redid the tailwire with three passes rather than two. That seemed to do the trick, and it hasn't stretched too far this time.

The finished instrument. It came out surprisingly well, and the tone is very warm and deep. It doesn't have the "twang" I'd expect from the skin head (no banjo sound), and is surprisingly loud (louder than my Anglo-Saxon lyre, which is tuned a fifth higher, but otherwise has the same string length).

And finally, a short video of me playing the instrument. The first piece is from West's reconstruction of a Hymn. The others are freeform playing, just demonstrating technique and sound.