Plectrum [pick, flat-pick] (Fr. médiator, plectre; Ger. Dorn, Kiel, Plektrum, Schlagfeder; It. plettro)
- Vladimir Ivanoff
[pick, flat-pick] (Fr. médiator, plectre; Ger. Dorn, Kiel, Plektrum, Schlagfeder; It. plettro)
A general term for a piece of material with which the strings of an instrument are plucked. Tinctoris called the plectrum of antiquity ‘pecten’ and that of the Middle Ages ‘penna’ (quill). Ancient Greek sources used the terms ‘plectron’ and ‘pecten’. Plucked instruments with stopped strings and more specifically lute-type instruments – such as the biwa of Japan and the Western lute itself up to the late 15th century – have often been played with a plectrum, in some instances a rather large one ( see Japan, fig. ), in others a more delicate type.
Sources since the Middle Ages describe plectra made from eagles’ talons as well as ones of wood, metal ( see Sitār, fig. ), ivory, bone, tortoiseshell, parchment and quill. The use of synthetic material, such as nylon or plastic, for plectra is now almost universal. Medieval Arabic writings describe the use of plectra on the lute. In muslim Spain the musician ...