What is a nyckelharpa?

Crows bones

Crows’ Bones will be performing a set of beautifully intricate folk songs and melancholic ballads at our Winter Festival. The quartet will consist of:

Martin Green (accordion), Becky Unthank (vocals), Inge Thompson (vocals) and Niklas Roswall (nyckelharpa).

But what, I hear you ask, is a nyckelharpa?

Translated as a ‘key harp’, a nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish string instrument with similarities to a hurdy gurdy. To change the pitch of a string, you press a key. Strangely enough, the nyckelharpa and its tonal range are often depicted on the back of Swedish banknotes!

Sweden paper money 50 Kronor, 2004

Around the 1930s, changes were made to the instrument to enable a chromatic scale, resulting in the use of a bow to play with.

The nyckelharpa has been used in both early and contemporary music, following on from a surge in its popularity during the folk revival in the 1970s. Instrument makers like Jean-Claude Condi and Annette Osann continue to makes changes to the nyckelharpa to increase its expressivity and bring it into the 21st century.

To book tickets for Crows’ Bones, visit our website.


Crows’ Bones
Thursday 12 December
Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s)
Book now


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