Two-row diatonic nyckelharpa (silverbasharpa)

Type: Two-row diatonic (silverbas-) nyckelharpa
Maker:
Thor Pleijel
Mensur: 400 mm
Wood: Swedish
Strings: Prim Nyckelharpa + 8 sympathetic
Tuning: ACGC
Price: >2000 EUR

The two-row nyckelharpa, or silverbasharpa, is a model that emerges in mid 19th century. It was probably the folk musician and music collector Matts Wesslén in Österlövsta parish who was behind this development. It was called dubbelharpa because of its two rows of keys, different compared to the present one-row instrument (kontrabasharpa or enkelharpa). An instrument is preserved after Wesslén; a one-row nyckelharpa transformed into a two-row chromatic instrument with strings tuned just like the silverbas (ACGC).

The body of the instrument was traditionally made from the log of a locally growing fir tree, which was carved out by hand. The bridge is almost flat, which allows the musician to play on many strings at the same time. Music played on nyckelharpa was in historical sources often described as buzzing and humming, because of the bass-strings that always worked as a kind of accompaniment to the melody. We call it a drone-instrument, just like the hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe. Even though the tuning of the strings is the same as in case of the modern three-row nyckelharpa, the way of playing is very different. The traditional, oval sound-holes give the instrument a very special appearance, not unlike one of a human (?) face.