The Nyckelharpa

(Key Fiddle, Schlüsselfidel, viola d'amore a chiavi, vièle à touches, viola de teclas)

The nyckelharpa is a string instrument played with a bow, with keys that change the pitch and resonance strings which contribute to its unique sound. In the Late Middle Ages pictures of the nyckelharpa appear along a north-south axis running through the three participating countries Sweden, Germany and Italy. The instrument belonges to a pan-european cultural heritage. Since the Baroque era it has only been played in Sweden as a folklore instrument mainly around Uppland in a continuous tradition. Thanks to some innovative musicians in Sweden, notably August Bohlin (1877-1949) and Eric Sahlström (1912-1986), and a few inspired musicians in Continental Europe starting about 1980, the nyckelharpa is now being rediscovered all over the world and used in increasingly many musical styles.

Parts of the nyckelharpa

The Nyckelharpa in the CADENCE Project

By Esbjörn Hogmark

This document is intended to answer some of the questions which have arisen about the nyckelharpa during the course of the CADENCE project. Unfortunately very little is known of the earliest history of the instrument but from the 17th century onwards we have a good idea of its history in Sweden. It is fascinating to learn that the instrument has been played there in an unbroken tradition, which also includes the making of the instrument, a process predominantly carried out by the players themselves.

The document gives an overview of the history of the instrument from late medieval time until today with a conclusive visionary view into the future

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Esbjörn Hogmark (Sweden)

Esbjörn Hogmark is a professional nyckelharpa manufacturer and nyckelharpa player from Uppland. He was a scholar and friend of Eric Sahlström. He was one of the founders of the Eric Sahlström Institute and is now member of the board. Together with family members he plays in the ensemble “Hogmarkarna” (the Hogmarks).