Ancient Egyptian Music.

Can we tell what ancient Egyptian music sounded like? Well ... not with great accuracy. While they did leave behind their wonderful hieroglyphic writing for us to learn about their culture, the ancient Egyptians did not leave behind written forms of music like Greek or Sumerian.

Pluck it and see.

The best way for us to learn about how ancient Egyptian music sounded is through the discovery of instruments. Many examples have been found, including lyres, lutes, flutes and sistrums among others.

The notes on the flute show a simple five note scale used and perhaps by experimenting with the notes on the scale we could get a rough idea on what they were playing. Also by plucking the strings of an ancient Egyptian stringed musical instrument we could definitely hear the sound they were making.

Heavenly sounds

As you would expect, ancient Egyptian music was used for traditional religious purposes. The temple musicians and singers were the most revered of all. Some areas of performance were:

* Temple chantress or songstress- these ladies sang for the worship of gods such as Hathor, goddess of music * Funeral singers- who says the dead don't listen, these performers sang for the deceased.

* Priestly rituals- every priest needs good music to worship to.

* Festival singers- these angelic voices performed to many people celebrating at festivals. For instance, tomb drawings have been found that show rows of singers and percussionists making music at Amenhotep III's Sed festival which celebrated the Pharaoh's rule and the renewal of his powers.

The power of voice

While an array of musical instruments has been discovered, it seems the most commonly used were the ones the Egyptians were born with - the voice. Many depictions of music being performed has a singer included. While more modern Egyptian music can at times be very instrumental, in the ancient world they appeared to like vocals accompanied by different instruments.


One thing that cannot be doubted, is the fact that Egyptian music had rhythms that could be danced too. The many pictures showing people moving to the music means that the sounds were something that they could move their bodies too. Well either that, or they were in some kind of weird drug induced trance writhing around like a Woodstock hippy.

Some party scenes show naked girls twisting and turning in unison to the rhythm of the music.

Artifacts discovered include many percussive ones which also demonstrates the presence of a danceable beat. Some of these percussive instruments include.

* Hand held drums

* Bells.

* Castanets.

* Cymbals.

* Sistrums - this rattle type instrument was important to religious practice eg. priestly rituals.

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