There are two basic styles of lyra fiddles:
- a pear-shaped instrument with a vaulted back which is found in the Greek islands – in particular, the Dodecanese and Crete - and the northern mainland regions of Macedonia and Thrace;
- an instrument with a narrow rectangular cylinder body of the Pontic Greeks who trace their roots to Pontos (Pontus), the Black Sea region of northern Asia Minor (Turkey). The Pontic Greek lyra is also known as kemenche.)
Both types of lyra typically have three strings. They are held vertically upright and bowed horizontally; if the player is seated, the instrument's tail end rests on the upper left thigh. The Cretan lyra is traditionally played in a duo with the laouto, a long-neck fretted lute that's strummed like a guitar.