Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Bowl > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.22.71
Tuning: G D a
Country: Finland & Karelia, Russian Federation.
Region: North Eastern Europe.
Description: The Jouhikko is a bowl-lyre that is played in Finland and neighbouring Karelia, Russia. The Jouhikko is both strung with horsehair and its bow is made with horsehair. The jouhikko is a member of a family of bowed lyre type instruments that stretches from Russia in the east, through Scandinavia, to Britain and neighbouring Ireland. Most of these regions have only very sketchy evidence about their extinct bowed lyre traditions.
Etymology: The Jouhikko is also called jouhikannel or jouhikantele, meaning a bowed kantele. In English, the usual modern designation is bowed lyre, although the earlier preferred term bowed harp is also met with. There are different names for the instrument in different languages.
History: The earliest documentation of the jouhikko is a depiction of a stone carving from the Trondheim Cathedral in Norway. Dating back from the second quarter of the 14th century. 18th-century writers in Latin mention instruments that seem to be a jouhikko, but the first illustration comes from c. 1830 CE. Folk music collectors in the late 19th and early 20th century visited players in Finland and Karelia, and collected instruments, noted tunes, made field recordings and took photographs.
The four-stringed Estonian talharpa and hiiu kannel have a wider hand hole and can play a wider range and shifting drones. The Welsh crwth is the most developed of this family to survive, with six strings, a fingerboard, and a complex playing style.
Extinct or obscure variants include the Shetland gue and the English crowd. Other instruments are perhaps less closely related, including the bowed zithers such as the Finnish harppu, Icelandic fiðla, and the North American Inuit tautirut.
Playing techniques: The strings are stopped by touching them with the back of the fingers. the knuckles or nails, as there is no fingerboard to press the strings against. This fingering method is rather similar to the igil or the sarangi which also lack fingerboards. To touch the melody string the hand is inserted through a hole in the flat wooden board that makes up the top third of the instrument.
On a 3-string instrument tuned G / D / a, the first note of the scale is played on the g string, which cannot be fingered as it lies on the far side of the drone and out of reach of the hand hole. The second note is the a string played open. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth notes of the scale are played with the backs of the four fingers, stopping the a string. Whilst it is possible to play higher notes by moving the hand further up the string all the traditional melodies are within a compass of six notes, the first six notes of either a major or minor scale.
Repertoire: The jouhikko repertoire was mostly collected in the field by A. O. Väisänen from 1913. To 1931. Traditionally the jouhikko was used for playing dance music. The collected melodies are very short, and they were largely improvised. The scale of the jouhikko is only 6 notes, with a constantly sounding drone.
Tuning: The two stringed jouhikko is played with only one string being the melody string and the second string a drone. For a three stringed jouhikko the playing string has two additional drone strings. It is generally tuned to a D par Nieminen’s charts although absolute pitch is not fixed.
The upper or right hand string, passing over the finger-hole, is fingered to give a scale, and this scale typically runs upwards from the note a 4th above the drone, or in Nieminen’s charts, G A B C D E. The third or left hand string can be tuned down to a lower drone, or up to provide one of the melody notes.
Citations: Bibliography: Andersson, Otto. The Bowed Harp. Translated and edited by Kathleen Schlesinger. London: New Temple Press, 1930 ; Andersson, Otto. The Bowed Harp of Trondheim Cathedral and Related Instruments in East and West. The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 23, Aug. 1970, pp. 4–34 ; Nieminen, Rauno. Jouhikko — The Bowed Lyre. Kansanmusiikki-instituutin julkaisuja, Vol. 61. 2007 ;