Unprofitable Instruments

Monochord

Monochord

The monochord is a teaching instrument, revered throughout the Middle Ages as a tool to understand the relationship between number and sound. My monochord is designed to allow you to be the theorist and comes with a full set of tools and instructions to explore historical tuning systems in a new way.

  • Basic long resonating box, approximately 100 cm long and 9 cm wide and high.
  • Deluxe instruments have carved eagle heads and/or decorative soundholes.
  • The monochord is equipped with division sticks representing Pythagorean tuning, chromatic Pythagorean, an anonymous just tuning, and equal temperament. Deluxe sticks are made with inlayed wood and embossed letters; basic sticks are inked lines.
  • The instrument can be made with one, two, or three strings to allow chords.
Monochord, front view
Monochord, side view

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Sources

A 12th century image of Boethius using dividers on a monochord. Trinity College Cambridge, R.15.22

A 12th century image of Boethius using dividers on a monochord. Trinity College Cambridge, R.15.22 (detail)

Guido teaching with the monochord

A monochordist working with bells. Early 12th century, St. John’s College Library, Cambridge, B.18, f. 1

Boethius using a monochord