Three-row nyckelharpa – “Europa”

Type: Three-row chromatic nyckelharpa
Thor Pleijel
Mensur: 400 mm
Wood: Swedish + Mittenwald, Germany
Strings: Cello + 12 sympathetic
Tuning: ADGC
Price: >2500 EUR

The model Europa is under development.

The three-row chromatic 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 looks. 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 (but not less aesthetic or functional!) and have invented several design features on my own.

The discussions about a nyckelharpa’s sound tend to be limited to the idea of a single, ultimate sound. My impression, talking to different musicians, is that the people’s preferences are very different, and a number-one sounding nyckelharpa for person A can be considered only moderate sounding by person B. I want to present variety of construction and sound, without deciding on one that is the right one for everyone.

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 of the stings is done in order to suit their background. The strings are also softer.

The body of the instrument is made from Swedish spruce, except the top which is spruce from Mittenwald. The keys are made of Swedish beech or birch, and the rest of the keybox, string-holder, pegs, nut and bridge are made of flamed maple, cherry or walnut from continental Europe.