The nyckelharpa is an ancient instrument with its origins going back into the medieval period. It is a violin like instrument where instead of the fingers of the player stopping the notes a wooden key pushes a tangent against the string to change the pitch. There are four bowed strings and sixteen sympathetic strings. The sympathetic strings add resonance, amplification and and ethereal ‘zing’. It is thought that these resonance strings were added to the instrument in the 17th century. Although the origins of the instrument are unclear it appears that although it was prevalent in central Europe in the Medieval period it died out everywhere except for a tiny region in Sweden. The Swedes kept it safe and sound and developed it from the original two string Moraharpa to its current 16 string version. The word nyckelharpa translates as keyed-fiddle. (It is keyed and a fiddle).
For more history go to the ‘harpa history page!