Nyckelharpa - Encyclopedia




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NYCKELHARPA (Swed. nyckel= key, harp y = harp; Ger. Schliisselfiedel), a kind of bowed hurdy-gurdy, much used in Scandinavia during the late middle ages, and still in use in some parts of Sweden. It consists of a body some 2 ft. long, shaped like an elongated viol, with sloping shoulders and highly arched sound-board glued over a less arched back, and ribs cut out of a single block of wood. There is no fingerboard, but along the neck, arranged like frets, are a number of keys or wooden tangents, which when pressed inwards bring a little knob or stud into contact with the first string of thin catgut, thus stopping it and raising the pitch as in the hurdy-gurdy. At three points these keys also act upon the third string. There are in the comparatively modern instruments usually four melody strings of catgut and three drones of fine spun wire. The bridge is quite flat, so that when the bow is passed over the strings, they all sound at once. The tailpiece is very long, extending over half the length of the body, and the two oval sound-holes, far removed from the strings, are at the tail end of the instrument.

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