(Norwegian lap dulcimer)


Opera Omnia
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Around 1986 my then sister-in-law Andrea Een asked me to make for her a Norwegian langeleik. Andrea teaches violin at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and is a well-known authority in Norwegian folk music, especially as played on the amazing Hardanger fiddle.

Since Andrea is also an ethnomusicologist, she has occasion to teach Norwegian folk music to students at St. Olaf, she thought it would be useful to have a langeleik to broaden the experience of her students.

I had, by that time, built several Appalachian dulcimers and other instruments, so I felt reasonably confident that I could make such a device, but I needed specifications for an authentic instrument to use for a plan. Andrea new someone who could take measurements and drawings from several instruments in the Ringve Museum in Trondheim. The plan for my instrument is an adaptation of two or three of these instruments, with a few of my own touches thrown in.

I decided to use a two-headed design just because it appealed to it sense of playfulness. The geometry of the end blocks and scrolls becomes a bit complicated with this approach, but actually I think it might have been harder to do a single head with the width of the nuts/bridges.

I managed to scare up a matching set of rosewood violin pegs, so I used rosewood also for the single bridges on the soundboard. The nuts in these bridges are made of ivory nut - an actual tree nut that has similar hardness and color to animal ivory.  I couldn't find rosewood bridge pins at the time, so I ended up using ebony pins with shell buttons, but you have to look close to notice.

As you can see, the frets are made of wood (rock maple) and are glued directly to the soundboard. I was worried about placing these precisely and about the ability to replace them easily over time, so I used a hide glue. The instrument is over 15 years old and the frets are still in good shape. In terms of intonation, this is probably the best job of fretting I've ever done (I try not to make fretted instruments just because it's so hard to get perfect).

The only part I would do differently would be to put some mass under the bridge pins to balance the tone between the drones and the fretted strings. As it is, the drones are quite loud compared to the fretted strings. In addition to being bridged on the end block, the fretted strings have a reinforcement piece similar to a violin's bass bar running under the length of the instrument. They have plenty of sound, but are very weak compared to the drones.

I decided arbitrarily to use two soundholes - a simple round one and a quatrefoil design that had become a sort of trademark for me.

This instrument does not get used heavily or often. It probably hadn't been out of its case in the three years since I had seen it before making these pictures.





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