Three-row nyckelharpa – “Europa”

Type: Three-row chromatic nyckelharpa
Maker: Thor Pleijel
Mensur: 400 mm
Body width: ~170 mm
Weight: ~1780 g
Wood origin: World wide
Wood selection: Flamed maple, walnut, cherry
Strings: D’Addarío Helicore + 12 sympathetic
Tuning: (highest) A D/C G C (lowest)
Number of keys:
A-string – 21
D/C-string – 10 (15)
G-string – 7 (10)
C-string – none

The three-row nyckelharpa took many different shapes as it spread over Sweden in the 1970s an onwards. Many of the new and amateur makers used their knowledge from other areas, like carpentering and furniture- or violin-making in the search for better sound, function and look. Experiments with four and five rows of keys were made, and often with new wood-types.

What makes nyckelharpa-making a living tradition is this constant development, and it is a great privilege to be able to produce – and not only reproduce – as an artist and instrument-maker. With my model Europa, I use less traditional wood and have invented several design features on my own. The body of the instrument is made from Swedish spruce (Picea abies), except the top which is spruce from Germany. The keys are made of Swedish birch (Betula pendula/pubescens) or beech (Fagus sylvatica), and the rest of the keybox, string-holder, nut and bridge are made of flamed maple (Acer pseudoplantanus) or walnut (Juglans regia) from continental Europe.

While some characteristics of sound seem to be dominant among folk-music players, the model Europa aims at approaching a sound ideal that is appreciated by musicians playing mainly art-music. As many of these musicians have a background as violin, cello or viola players, the tuning is slightly different and the strings softer.

The instrument can be bought with case and bow.