Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Box > Fretted.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Region: Scandinavia & Northern Europe.
Description: Although a variety of box zithers exists throughout Europe. The German scheitholt and the Swedish Hummel have been suggested as the predecessor of the langeleik. However, in 1980 a langeleik dated as early as 1524 was uncovered on a farm in Vibergsroa, Gjøvik, Norway. This instrument predates any documented occurrences of the scheitholt, the hummel or any other similar instrument.
History: The older Langeleik types were tuned after Pythagorean fashion, based on pure fifths and octaves, with variable smaller intervals. Thus, the pitches could easily be moved between more sombre “low” intervals and the more bright major ones.
The fixed Langeleik with a recognizable major scale is dated to after 1850. After this change intonation, many players had to change their melodies, or find new ones, as the older repertoire no longer fitted into the new system.
Varieties: Early langeleik are basically rectangular in shape, and often have an open bottom. They usually have five or six strings. They often had unique traditional scales other than the modern major scale [using 3/4 tones, etc]. Especially the third and seventh tend to be different.
The third is often neutral [between a major and minor third] and the seventh tends to be lower than the modern leading tone. Modern langeleik are somewhat curved, being wider at the middle, as it is the experience of modern instrument makers that this makes the instrument sound louder. They are all tuned to a major scale.
Construction: The Langeleik has one melody and up to eight drone strings. Under the melody string there are seven frets per octave, forming a diatonic major scale. The drone strings are tuned to a triad. The langeleik is tuned to about an A, though on score the C major key is used, as if the instrument were tuned in C. This is for simplification of both writing and reading, by circumventing the use of accidentals.