The crwth is an archaic stringed musical instrument, bearing a clear
resemblance to the classical lyre, with the addition of a bow. It is
associated particularly with Wales.
is a Welsh word, pronounced to rhyme with tooth.
The origins of the crwth go back into antiquity; it
is said to have been played in Wales for at least one thousand years. It
had gone completely out of fashion by the 18th century, or at the latest
the early 19th, supplanted by the more versatile fiddle (violin). Only
three 18th-century Welsh examples survive. These are held at the National
Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans
near Cardiff, and Warrington Museum (near Manchester in the North of
The crwth consists of a box construction with a flat,
fretless fingerboard and six gut strings, usually tuned Gg, Dd, Cc. The G
strings run parallel to the fingerboard, but not over it, so these are
used as drones, either plucked or bowed. The remaining strings are usually
bowed. One feature of the crwth is that one side of the bridge goes
through a soundhole and rests on the back of the instrument. There is no
soundpost and so it is much weaker than the belly of a violin.
The tuning referred to above is mentioned in several
manuscript sources of information about the crwth and is believed to have
been the standard tuning for the instrument. It is likely that different
tunings would have been employed, as still is the case with other stringed
The crwth can be played on the shoulder like a
violin, between the knees like a cello, or held vertically against the
chest, supported with a strap around the player's neck. However, the exact
manner in which the instrument was traditionally played, like the tunings
employed, will probably never be known.