Nyckelharpa # 5
is back and up for sale once again.
(More details coming soon)
This time I went back to
experimenting with a design from my first 2 Harpas: Brass rods connect from the
end of each key and run thru a hole on the key box. This is an attempt to keep
the cost down by saving time and also you can see which note your playing when
the little brass end pops out. (Almost like a tiny light flashing to help you
see where you are)
And instead of running the
under strings through the tailpiece, these are attached directly to the end
block. This was an attempt to relieve pressure on the tailpiece, and of course,
save time on the construction.
The top 4 strings are Viola
strings, and tuned: ADGC.
There are 10 under strings, 6 on the right and 4 on the
left, and consist of various sizes of Guitar strings.
The under-strings are tuned AAA-DDD-GG-CC.
I've modified the thumb
rest too.Made of 2 pieces of Ebony
The Ebony is glued onto a piece of Maple which is then screwed onto
the edge of the neck.
(Easily removable if you don't like it)
The case is made of Plywood for the top and back
and carved Pine 2x4's for the sides.
(Case and bow included)
The Nyckelharpa (or "Keyed Fiddle") is the national
folk instrument of Sweden.
I made my first Nyckelharpa in 1999 thanks to a grant from the Prairie Lakes
Regional Arts Council.
The design is based on the blueprints from the book I
bought from Soren Ahker. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the original 1998 copy
and was somewhat surprised (?) that the text was printed in Swedish! A bit of a
barrier that for some reason I either didn't think about at the time or simply
knew that the numbers, measurements and dimensions would be the same...
which thankfully they were.
(A few years later, this fine instruction manual was printed in English but I
have Yet to see a copy of it!)
Anyway...This is how it turned out. I was quite pleasantly surprised that it
turned out as well as it did. For at the time, I had never seen one in person
and certainly had Never played one before.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------- My next project was to build a
This is the
old medieval form (or ancient ancestor) of the modern day Nyckelharpa. There is
a stone carving on a church in Gotland, Sweden.
is an excerpt taken from the American Nyckelharpa Association web-site:
The oldest "evidence" of nyckelharpa use is a relief (left picture) on
one of the gates to
Kallunge church on Gotland from about 1350 depicting two nyckelharpa players.
I built this one from photographs off the internet. Its a very simple design and
also has a very limited playing range.
(It must have been more of an accompaniment to some sad, droning vocal
lament...so common in Medieval Scandinavia)
It turned out real nice, too but it was like driving in only one gear. A friend
of mine, who is part of a local Medieval reenactment group, bought this one.
My next attempt was to build a "Fiddleharpa".
The standard size Nyckelharpa is tuned like a Viola and I wanted
something that could be tuned and played like a Violin.
I experimented a little with the design, as this one has a carved arched
top and back. I have found that this didn't necessarily add to the sound of the
instrument, as the first one I made (with a flat top and back) actually sounded
better! I also added in a 4th row of keys for the 'G' string. (This was
apparently nearly un-heard of at the time, as I recall very few builders had
tried this) Times have changed though and it is now quite common to see several
different varieties and experimentation going on with the making of these
Made of highly figured Maple for the back, neck and keys. Walnut for the sides, tailpiece, peg box and top lid.
The soundboard is made of Western Cedar and is adorned with an intricate grapevine design in soft lead pencil.
key is attached to the left side peg box by little brass rods that are
easily visible when you press in a key. This makes it easier to see
where you are with the lid down.
keys are rounded to make it easier to slide up and down the scale. The
lid is a non-traditional addition that can easily be removed if it gets
in the way of seeing the moving keys.
'E' string tangents are made of pieces of oblong aluminum rods
(actually model airplane parts) It was an experiment that worked. The
rest are pieces of Cherry wood stained black.
Ebony 1/8 size Cello tuners for the main strings and a set of Gotoh
Mandolin tuners for the under strings. (I added in a piece of tree
branch as a thumb rest) Scale length, from nut to bridge, is 14 inches. (About the same scale length as a Mandolin)
The case is made of Pine and Plywood and is padded with foam
and lined with felt.
There is a small storage compartment with a lid. A half-size Violin bow an a leather strap is included.
The back of the case will have 4 black rubber furniture bumpers, as soon as I get them installed.
The lower side of the case has rubber furniture bumpers to keep the hinges from scratching up the furniture
Nice soft braided leather belt for the strap.
Here's something you'll probably want to know:
the years, I've actually had to re-build this thing twice. Over time,
the pressure of the strings (and a less than solid neck joint) has
caused the 'Harpa to bow up until it looked like a Swedish Cod Boat! The solution to this was to
re-angle the peg box, raise the bridge and re-align the strings with
the tangents. I've done this twice now, and I'm positive it has
'settled' and bowed up about as much as it can.
can see by the blue line down below that the line between the nose and
the tail is not perfectly straight, but ever so slightly bowed. This
will not affect the sound or playability of the instrument. It's just
one of the unique and quirky things about it that makes it special.
sound sample or price tag yet. I'm still finishing up some minor
details and adjustments. Hopefully those will up soon and the
FiddleHarpa will be available by the end of November.
TheFiddleHarpa is currently on hold, awaiting the inspection of a potential customer.