The talharpa, also known as a tagelharpa (tail-hair harp) or the stråkharpa (bowed harp), is a four-stringed bowed lyre from northern Europe. It was formerly widespread in Scandinavia, but is today played mainly in Estonia, particularly among that nation's Swedish community.[citation needed] It is similar to the Finnish jouhikko and the Welsh crwth. The instrument is still known in Finland.[1]

Talharpa, by Charlie Bynum, Silver Spoon Music, Alkmaar NL, 2014

The name talharpa probably comes from tagel - horsehair - from which the strings were made.[2]

An Estonian man playing the hiiu kannel (or, talharpa), ca. 1920.


The earliest known Norse literary mentions of a harp or lyre date to the Eddic poem Völuspá, though not as a bowed instrument. However, visual representations from iconography show Gunnar charming the snakes in the snake pit with a harpa and a stone carving at the Trondheim Cathedral of Norway shows a musician playing a bowed lyre, dated around XIV century.[3] In Nordic countries the bowed lyre (as opposed to the plucked harp) has continued in Finland where it is called jouhikantele and Estonia where it is called Hiiu kannel.[4]

Construction TechniquesEdit

Talharpa were traditionally built by hollowing out a single block of wood, and gluing a soundboard on top, as demonstrated by various historical finds. In modern times, many tagelharpa makers continue to build their musical instruments from solid wood, such as Rauno Nieminen. Others began to make tagelharpas following the classical school of lutherie, with each part assembled and characterized by reinforcements, bands, counter-bands, figured bottoms and blocks.

Modern useEdit

The talharpa is sometimes used in modern folk music. Most notably by the Estonian nu-folk duo Puuluup[5] who use talharpas and modern live looping

Another band that usually uses the tagelharpa and the Kravik lyre is the neo-folk band Wardruna, with frontman Einar Selvik, which for years has been involved in rediscovering the Scandinavian and Baltic folk musical culture.

Puuluup on stage

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Montagu, Jeremy (2007). Origins and Development of Musical Instruments. Scarecrow. p. 174.
  2. ^ Andersson, Otto (1930). The Bowed Harp. Translated and edited by Kathleen Schlesinger. London: New Temple Press p. 111
  3. ^ Nieminen, Rauno (2020) The Bowed Lyre. p.16
  4. ^ Rice, Timothy (2017). The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Europe. Routledge. p. 730. ISBN 1351544268. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  5. ^ [1], Puuluup official website

External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Hiiukannel at Wikimedia Commons
  • "Einar Selvik of the band Wardruna demonstrates playing the tagelharpa". Archived from the original on 2021-12-14.