Springers museum......

Hardanger and related fiddles........With sympathetic strings


Hardanger fiddles or Hardingfele is a traditional stringed instrument used originally to play the music of Norway. Usually with 8 or nine strings, the extra underneath the fingerboard known as sympathetic string which resonate with the playing of the top melody four giving a reverberating echo like sound.

     The traditional form of the Hardanger with much decoration dates from about 1850, but earlier forms from the 17th century. The fingerboard decorated with bone and horn inlay as is the tail piece. The body with much intricate pen-work. The body is standard violin shape but with a flat high table and high cut f holes. The wood on many traditional fiddles is much thinner, and the necks shorter, baroque style and with a carved troll/lion finial gold painted crown. They will not generally take the strain of standard violin strings and tuning(some more modern instruments will) but have there own style, tuned to A D A E commonly the under-strings tuned B D E F# A. There are 20 different tuning variations depending on the region. There is one called Troll tuning A E A C# used for the strange fanitullen tunes also called devils tunes. There are regional variations of the Hardanger such as the plainer Setesdalsfele fiddle (A standard violin body) a more modern development.

 From left to right dates 1840    1972    1925

 The earliest know Hardanger fiddle is thought to be 1651 an instrument with a rounder narrower body. One Scandinavian fiddle thought to be of Norwegian origin has a square ended body circa 1720 or earlier with a flat headstock and decoration only to the edges. Another circa 1756 by I N Botnen/Skaar has only minimal pen work. Some think that the Hardanger is the folk fiddle derivative of the viola d'amore which has various varieties of 12 or 14 strings and violin or viola proportions.

There are all sorts of more recent variations of the Hardanger to be found from various European countries and further. With standard necks, old style plain bodies with some degree of decoration. Many of these can be used with standard fiddle strings and tunings. Some viola d'amore style headstock and finial. All play with the tradition haunting sound of the sympathetic strings.

 18thc 1765 Viola D'Amore German c1870

 Viola D'Amore 1920s French JTL


VIOLA D'AMORE or Italian love viol of the viol family but thinner proportions. First developed pre 1650s sometimes without sympathetic strings. Tuned to the key to be played in such as D minor. By the end of the 18thc tuning became standard at a d a d f# a d. The finial was often caved as a blindfolded maiden.

 NYCKELHARPA.  Adjoining Norway is of course Sweden also with its traditional fiddle the Nyckelharper or keyed fiddle. These are thought to date back to about the 1350s variations depicted in church carvings. Originally with 2 rows of peg keys one for the melody and one drone. By the19thc 2 melody strings with modern variants of 4 rows. Up to 12 sympathetic strings. Held with a strap and bowed from below.

 Sarangi from India              more to follow

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