There is quite a bit of truth in the stories that Leonardo was a skilled poet, singer and practiced musician. Vasari described him as an "excellent musician" and tells us that Leonardo attended other schools apart from Verrocchio's workshop, one possibly being a music school.

We know he played a number of musical instruments including the lira da braccia and the lyre. Time and again biographers speak of how he designed a silver lyre in the shape of a horses head which was said to be more resonant and have a more beautiful sound than conventional wooden lyres.

There is no sound basis for the belief that Leonardo invented the violin though he certainly drew up plans for many new musical instruments including various flutes and the viola organista (a complicated keyboard instrument with strings which were sounded by the means of a wheel, horsehair strap and a bow). This was never built.

Another area explored was that of how to improve musical instruments. Leonardo created a mechanism which would allow drummers to tighten or slacken skins with one hand and move the drumsticks using a system of cogs. He worked very extensively on the mechanisation of the hurdy-gurdy and designed improved mechanisms for keyboards so they would be easier to play. This also enhanced the tonal quality of the instruments.

It is considered Leonardo thought music second only to painting in his range of artistic talents, however history has left us with little in the way of written evidence regarding his music. There is certainly no evidence he was a composer though he did write a few very short musical phrases.