I posted this video of a 5 part Hornpipe, which I wrote for a friend, over on the Mandolin Group's thread, as I also play, Mandolin, Tenor Guitar & Banjo on this track.

However, I actually composed it on my Nyckelharpa & as I have since received a couple of questions about it, I thought I should perhaps start a discussion, in case anyone else might be interested in it.

For general info. check good old Wiki:


If you'd like to see close up, how these beasties work, check out this video:

Bach on a Nyckelharpahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs3aUCM8BX8

Here's a video of Scottish Trad tunes I put together, featuring my Nyckelharpa:

Air, March, Strathspey & Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjNMQAsL4UE

To see Scots Trad being played on one, check out Gavin's video:

Gavin Pennycook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=227Knbzvhyo

However, there is growing interest in these Keyed Fiddles & both the UK & America now have sites you can visit, to learn more:

UK Nyckelharpa Societyhttp://s399774740.websitehome.co.uk/wordpress/


American Nyckelharpa Associationhttp://www.nyckelharpa.org/

Unlike the Bouzouki being introduced to Irish Trad from another tradition, I don't imagine we will see the Nyckelharpa working too well in Irish Trad, as the whole point of these Fiddles, is really the fact that they have 12 Sympathetic strings which hum in the background to give that characteristic sound and as this is lost, when you play them alongside other instruments, I don't reckon they make the perfect Session instrument. Also, they are strung & pitched a bit like a Viola, so it would be a bit of challenge.

You'll get an idea of how the effect is lost with other instruments in this video of a Carolan tune:

Charles O'Connorhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTUh3KRi5mE

For this reason, I try & include solo Harpa in my videos now, as in this one, which I wrote with a wee Swedish flavour to it:

Causeway Sunsetshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFZWy-Nsgtk

Also, here's an Irish style 5 part Hornpipe I wrote on my Harpa ~

 The Trip to Cultra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV5bbj1G1bE 

I only know of two other Nyckelharpa in ireland, Dublin & Donegal, so if anyone knows of any others, I'd really like to hear about them.



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this is my very last posting in this matter.

Have you even tried A,C,G,C at all? If so, in what keys did you play and for how long did you try it? To have an educated opinion you would need to try  any tuning for some time. And as far as I know you haven't even had a nyckelharpa for that time...?

I've said this from the beginning, very clear, TUNE ANYWAY YOU LIKE! But don't tell me the advantages with "your" tuning, in my experience (sorry, there it is again) there aren't any advantages.
You have decided, after playing an instrument a couple of months, what's the best tuning for Irish music? Interesting. That's like telling me (btw, I play fiddle too, I know the differences in tuning this or that way...) that my experience isn't worth much. At all. Also quite interesting.

Over and out.


Hi Peter,

Your comment that there "aren't any advantages" to tuning that C to a D, makes me think of all those thousands & thousands of Traditional Irish & Scottish Fiddle tunes that exist, which were composed on an instrument which did have a D string in between the A & the G string. So surely there must have been a very good reason for the instrument to be tuned that way, for the past few hundred years?

As I've said before, I'm sure there is a very good reason too, for this Swedish instrument, playing traditional Swedish music to be tuned in the traditional way of A, C, G, C, but just the same as my tuning my own C string to D is not going to convince anyone in Sweden to change their tuning pattern, I think you'll find you will have a rather uphill struggle on your hands, if you were thinking of trying to convert all Irish & Scottish Fiddlers to tuning their D strings down to C.

Peter, I've also said before, a few times now, that I am certainly & absolutely not trying to teach you anything here. I'm not an idiot & I know you are an expert on this instrument, but as a musician myself, all I'm saying is that although I am only just a beginner on the Nyckelharpa, I still cannot understand why you will not let me have my own opinion? I am quite happy to accept that I may well be completely wrong about this, but instead of not even allowing me to have my own opinion, I think it would be more helpful if you were to instead, OK tell me I'm completely wrong, but then explain & perhaps even demonstrate why the C option makes more sense, when playing Scottish & Irish Trad. I think this would earn you far more credit & respect here, than simply always reminding us that you are an expert & that I am so inexperienced that I shouldn't even be allowed to comment.

How can two people possibly have a discussion on this or any other matter, if one of them is not allowed to express their opinion & really, that's all I'm doing here, expressing my opinion. In any discussion like this, opinions, whether right or wrong, help to stimulate debate & encourage others to take part & freely express their opinions too. However, if only one of us is allowed to have an opinion, then that's going to end up as just a lecture, not a discussion. 

The fact is, despite my asking, you still haven't offered any explanation as to why you feel that tuning my D to a C would be an advantage for me, when it came to me playing Irish Jigs & Reels with other musicians here. I have experimented with the C tuning, but I'm sorry, I just didn't feel comfortable in that tuning & I could see no advantage to me, by playing that way in the keys & fingering I am used to.

As to alternative fingering on instruments, I already play the Anglo & English Concertinas & the finger patterns are not only completely different on those two instruments, they are what you might describe as Worlds apart ;-) so the idea is not alien to me, but in this case, I found no sense to keeping the string in C.

I think I can speak for all members here, when I say that your playing expertise goes before you, with all the excellent music you have produced in recordings & on YouTube, so it'd be very helpful for myself & anyone else here, who may be hiding in the wings, but thinking of trying a Nyckelharpa, if you were able to impart some of your hard earned knowledge & enlighten us, even just a little.

Who knows, the Nyckelharpa could, one day, become a very popular instrument over here in Ireland, but for that to happen, I think we would need to know a lot more about it & who better to introduce it to the Irish than yourself. However, you will need to understand that there is a history in this country of foreign instruments only being assimilated into the tradition, once they have been customised, like Mandolins & Bouzoukis being given flat backs, Bouzoukis & Banjos being retuned etc. etc.

So if the traditional Nyckelharpa tuning really is the best tuning to use, for playing Irish Traditional Music, I think it'd be much more helpful all round, if you were to show us & demonstrate why & how, instead of simply just telling us that it is.

It's unfortunate that no local Irish players of the Nyckelharpa have joined us here, to add their perspective. It might have been very interesting indeed, to hear about their experiences playing Irish Music on their Harpas & how they tuned them, but who knows, perhaps they will .... in time.



With a C string we have the leading note available to us without a string crossing.  Job done!

Hi Vicki,

Given the fact that we're talking about playing Traditional Irish & Scottish Music here & remembering that most Scottish tunes are in A & most Irish tunes are in D & G, are you saying that C is really the leading note in those keys?



;) lol, what do you think I'm saying?

I'm just joshing with you.

The C is the flattened leading note if I play my pipe tunes down a fifth in the key of D, which as I have a lovely D chanter on my SSPs, I play in that key very often.

Obviously if you are in G, then the leading note is the F natural.  If you're playing in G, then by tuning with a C string we have wonderful opportunities for playing the tonic note with our little fingers and then playing the tune on the A string. If you tune with a D string, this is lost. :)

Thanks Vicki ... Mmmmm .... maybe I'll just have to start exercising my Pinky a little more! ;-)



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