Nyckelharpas are musical instruments consisting of tuned strings and a keyboard. They are played by sliding a bow over the strings while pressing down one or more keys. The keys are attached to perpendicular tangents that tug on the strings when pressed, altering the pitch of each note. The strings are usually a combination of melody and sympathetic strings, which provides a full-toned resonant sound. Nyckelharpas originated from Sweden and are widely used in classical and folk music.
Types of Nyckelharpas
Kinds of Nyckelharpas include the following:
Enkelharpas have one row of keys, a melody string, and several drone strings.
Their scales are determined by the point of contact between the melody strings and the tangents.
Each key corresponds to one tangent, giving them a limited range of available pitches.
Mixturharpas have two or more tangents for every key.
They allow the use of fixed double stops and other rhythmic patterns.
Kontrabasharpas have three playing strings tuned to the a1, d, and g or a keys.
The highest string is located on the outermost part and connected to a single row of keys.
Newer versions have two extra drone strings and extra tangents on one to seven keys.
Silverbasharpas have two melody strings and two drone strings.
They have a second keyboard with four to six keys, which control the second melody string.
They are usually tuned to C major, and are often referred to as C major harps.
Choosing Nyckelharpas (Buying tips)
String material: Choose a nyckelharpa with stainless steel strings for a clearer sound and better resonance. These will also hold up better with constant use and retuning. Look for thinner strings to prevent rattling when playing the lower tones. Tuning: Choose a nyckelharpa that can be tuned to both high and low scales. Make sure the tuning pegs are functional and tightly screwed to the peg box.