New Nyckelharpas


Earl in his shopEarl now builds several different models of Nyckelharpas.

He builds 3-rowed chromatic nyckelharpas based on the Eric Sahlström model. The body has solid wood sides that are tapered to make the back a little smaller for ease of holding.  The nut-to-bridge length (mensur length) is 400mm.  His standard model has 22 keys on the A string, 10 keys on the C/D string and 7 on the G string.

He also builds a 3/4 sized nyckelharpa for youth and/or small adults. This instrument has 20 keys on the A string, 10 keys on the C/D string and 7 on the G string.

tenor nyckelharpaHe is now building a 4-rowed tenor nyckelharpa using the Johan Hedin plans developed in 2004.  This harpa has tapered bent-wood sides similar to what is used on violins or guitars.  The sympathetic resonation strings are below the keys.  The neck and keybox are tapered to account for the amount that the strings vibrate.  This instrument is tuned in fifths, one octave below a violin.  There are two key set options available.  The plans as designed have 70 keys including a number of ¼-tone notes.  Responses he has received indicate that this key set is designed for advanced players who are doing early/baroque music that includes the ¼-tone notes.  He has developed a second key set with 55 keys that does not include the ¼-tone notes. Pictures of both are in the photo gallery.

Earl is currently developing 4-rowed nyckelharpas. There is currently one alto-range being re-worked. The current issue is sound quality on the low C-string keys. He is working on resolving this.  The standard model has 7-10-10-22 keys on the CGDA/CGCA (alto) strings.

Earl did try a 4-rowed soprano on a standard nyckelharpa body, but the E-string did not sound good.  After several iterations, he decided to try a slightly shorter 360mm mensur length along with some other changes to the body.This worked to give good sound on all 4 playing strings with a slightly smaller body.

Earl has developed a beginner soprano-ranged instrument. intermediate soprano harpaThe strings are tuned GDAE, like a violin. The body is solid wood with vertical sides. The key set is: 7-10-10-20. The beginner model has 6-sympathertic strings set below the key box with the lengths on either side of the bridge set to get all 12 notes from the 6 strings. This provides less resonation sound and a narrower neck, which reduces instrument weight. This 6-string version appears to be popular with baroque/early music players in Europe. This instrument may also appeal to older fiddle players who are having arthritis problems. It is about 1 pound lighter than our standard Swedish style 3-rowed nyckelharpa.

There is now a second version of the soprano range 4-rowed nyckelharpa with the sympathetic strings moved to above the key box to increase the resonation.  The neck is wider than the beginner, which increases instrument weight, but is close to that of most traditional instruments. These intermediate sporano models are currently available.

Earl has developed an advanced key set (10-12-14-22) that allows for playing double stops up into 5th violin position. He has put this key set on an intermediate body with good success. We hope to have an advanced soprano nyckelharpa with tapered bent-wood sides and the additional keys by late 2017. We will end up with several versions of a violin-range nyckelharpa.

We have instruments in sopranto, alto and tenor ranges available. We also have a left-handed 3-rowed instrument available. Contact Earl for information and prices.

Other issue, humidity changes:  One of the big challenges to a nyckelharpa builder is seasonal changes in humidity and the key box.  The key guides and keys are made of wood.  Wood slightly expands and contracts with humidity.  Many areas have hot and humid summers along with cold and dry winters.  The goal is to have keys that do not stick in the summer.  The problem is that during the dry winter period, the keys and key guides shrink a little.  The winter conditions often lead to buzzing keys.  Starting with Earlharpa 31, he is trying a key guide/key treatment to stabilize them against changes in humidity. As of Earlharpa 39, he thinks he has something that should work very well, and is looking forward to getting feedback from players this summer.

Upgrade options available: Earl has stained the keys and keybox black on several instruments. He is willing to do that for others if requested, but it is extra work. Another option is a red tint with a glossy, french polish. This is also very time consuming. A third option is a more highly figured maple board for the back. Earl typically uses 2A to 3A grade maple on his soprano instruments, but has 4A or 5A maple on hand for more dramatic figuring. Any of these upgrades are available for a price.

Earl provides free adjustments and minor repairs on any nyckelharpa built by him, limited to normal wear and tear on the instrument. This warrantee does not include negligent damage due to dropping, being sat on, aggressive playing techniques (wears out tangents prematurely and can break keys), etc. Additional warranties may be included on specific instruments on a case by case basis.

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(Page last updated 5/06/2017)