Jouhikko / The Bowed Lyre

Rauno Nieminen
Publishing year: 

Sibelius Academy Folk Music Publications 28


The lyre was played with a bow in Europe as early as the Middle Ages. In the area around the Baltic Sea, there is historical evidence of both bowed and plucked lyres. In Estonia and Eastern Finland the bowed lyre survived into the 20th century.

This book contains 98 tunes transcribed by music collectors on the Estonian mainland and islands, as well as in the Finnish provinces of Savo and Karelia. They are complemented by a CD of 46 bowed lyre tunes originally recorded on phonograph and parlograph cylinders, or direct-to-disc. These recordings give us a unique opportunity to listen to the performances of seven traditional players from as long as a hundred years ago. The book provides information on the history of the bowed lyre, musicians and their playing styles. It also offers an introduction to playing technique, advice on maintenance of the instrument and an overview of its contemporary use.



Bowed lyre history
From plucked lyre to bowed instrument
The bowed lyre in Northern Europe
The bowed lyre in Finland
Tales of jouhikko playing
Transcribed jouhikko pieces
The bowed lyre in Estonia
The talharpa
The hiiu kannel
The talharpa and hiiu kannel in performance
Transcribed talharpa and hiiu kannel pieces
The bowed lyre in Russian karelia
Named parts of the bowed lyre
The jouhikko
Tuning, scales and fingering
Playing posture
The left hand
The right hand
Use of the bow
Improvisation and ornamentation
The talharpa and hiiu kannel
Tuning, scales and fingering
Playing posture
The left hand
The right hand
Playing the talharpa and hiiu kannel
Musical transcriptions
Jouhikko pieces
Feodor Pratšu
Juho Vaittinen
Pekka Lamberg
Juho Villanen
Nikodemus Hirvonen
Talharpa and hiiu kannel pieces
Hans Rengvist
Anders Ahlström
Georg Bruus
Unknown performer
Mart Kaasen
Peeter Piilpärk
Instructions for maintenance and use
Storage of the bowed lyre
Temperature and humidity
Tuning pegs
The strings
Changing strings and bow hair
Tuning pitch and string height
String characteristics
Tuning pitch and string dimensions
Making horsehair strings
Making plastic strings
New trends in bowed lyre playing
The bowed lyre in the 21st century
Extension of pitch range
Fine tuners

Sources and references

CD contents


2nd revised edition
© Rauno Nieminen, 2017
Rauno Nieminen Publications 2, ISBN 978-952-68365-2-2
Sibelius Academy Folk Music Publications 28, ISSN 2242-8054
Finnish Folk Music Institute Publications 61, ISSN 0355-9270
Editing, and English translation: Jim Landon ja Horst Bernhardt
Layout: Joppe Kirsikka-aho (Graafinen Viestintä Kyly Oy)
Transcriptions: Otto Andersson, Carl Collan, Väinö Lamberg-Arjava, A. O. Väisänen
Transcriptions from the CD: Jouni Koskimäki, assisted by Joona Koskimäki and Rauno Nieminen
Transcriptions layout: Jouni Koskimäki
Printing: Hämeen Kirjapaino Oy
Cover photo: Hannu Häyhä
CD mastering: Matti Kontio (IMU)
Digital sound restoration: Jens von Weissenberg

ISBN 978-952-68365-2-2
Rauno Nieminen, Ikaalinen 2017