Music was a very important part of the ancient drama. It was in the core of every performance, where recitation, music and singing formed a whole. The overall responsibility for the music was assumed by the poet who was also the composer of his plays.
The music of tragedies was dominated by the chorus singing, while there were also songs for the hypocrites. Instrumental music was only a brief interval between the verses of the chorus. In comedy also the chorus singing prevailed, but the songs of the hypocrites were scarcer. Sometimes, between the verses of the hypocrites the poets chose to put brief sounds of musical instruments that would provoke the laughter of the spectators. The rhythm of the comedy songs was simpler than that of the tragedy songs and reminded of the music of popular everyday songs.
Small perfume bottle (alabastron) depicting a female dancer with krotala or clappers (520 B.C.), National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Mainly the flute (aulos) was used in the ancient drama. It was associated with the Dionysian cult, it produced an acute sound and could imitate many other sounds. The flute-player entered the orchestra along with the chorus and remained there until the end of the play.
Other musical instruments, less used during the performances, were the lyre and the kithara (a stringed musical instrument related to the lyre). They were probably introduced by Sophocles. In some cases, along with the flute there were also percussion instruments, such as tambourines (tympana) or clappers (krotala).
Bronze male figurine of a flute-player (5he century B.C.), Delfi Archaeological Museum.