Jouhikko/Tagelharpa

Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Today I had lots of fun buying a new bow for my two tagelharpas. Yes, I've decided to call them by their Swedish name, tagelharpa (which means tail-harp) rather than their Finnish name jouhikko, because I found that NOBODY could remember the name jouhikko. So now I'm calling them 'tagelharpas' which my friends seem much better able to pronounce and remember. I also like that it means 'tail harp', after the strings made from twisted horse hair.

Anyway, the two bows that came with my tagelharpas were becoming a little problematic for me- one was too small and lightweight ...skittered around and didn't give me a hearty tone. The other, which looked cool because it was made from a bent stick bark and all...gave a good tone but was a little too heavy- difficult to be agile with it when playing.

I went to my local music store and was able to try out about 7 bows for cellos and for violas- full sized ones and half sized ones, etc. None of them were very high quality or expensive, but that was fine- I was just looking for a good weight bow I could work with better than my current ones. I had also been borrowing an old cheap fiddle bow from Brian, but that was too light and a little too long again. that told me I should maybe look at the viola and cello bows.

After spending 45 minutes rosining and trying the bows back and forth in the music store, trying them on my tagelharpa (much to the amusement of the various teenage electric guitar customers coming and going).... I found the nicest feeling one with the best tone of the bunch was a full sized viola bow. There were two of them for sale- for $80 and $40, and oddly i liked the feel and tone of the $40 one better. It was made in China. I know it's not a very good bow, but it's a step up from what i've been using!

So I went home with a new bow to practice with, it was quite exciting for me!

I had been shamefully neglecting my tagelharpas over the past 2 months, but for the past two weeks I've plunged back into practicing them again. I found that changing my practice time from evening to morning really helped me, as too often in the evening I was simply too tired mentally to want to get practicing. It seems more inspiring and fresh somehow in the morning, so that change is helping me to better stick with it and progress.

I also ordered a book and CD of simple Finnish kantele tunes which are specifically for the 5 string kantele and will likely be perfectly suited to the tagelharpa which is based upon a 5 or 6 note note scale.

I am very slowly making progress. But more importantly, I am still really loving playing this instrument even though it's a great deal of work and a huge challenge for me.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Thanks guys! Yes randy, I shouldn't apologize so much- after all it does sound not so bad for only playing a month. I'll try to stop groveling!

robin, this instrument is really designed to play a drone constantly. I'm not so sure bowed dulcimer is, so it's possible you may well have to work harder than me to get the same drone effect.
Randy Adams said:

....what's Brian think of it? Does he offer a few pointers?....or disappear with the cats?... : ).....

He disappears with the cats.



--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

Lisa!!! You've been holding out on us.11.gif Doggies, that sounded good!

I can't for the life of me bow a decent drone on my bowed dulcimers on any consistent basis. 107.gifFor my own amusement, I'll keep trying, though. 15.gif3.gif




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
6 years ago
112 posts
Thx for sharing Lisa...& allowing us tovicariously experience your new instrument....you're getting it f'sure.....even if you are beginning to sound like the king of self depreciation himself..... : )....what's Brian think of it? Does he offer a few pointers?....or disappear with the cats?... : ).....
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Ok, here is my very first (rather embarrassing) recording attempt on my Michael King jouhikko. It's quite rough, and the intonation leaves a LOT to be desired...but hey there isn't even a fretboard! lol! It's a start!

This is a tune Michael played for me but he doesn't know what it is, neither do I.

So listen: here I am scratching away on it and scaring off the cats.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Robin, I am enjoying 'trying' to play just very old and very simple folk melodies. I have a few Finnish and Scandinavian type ones. They have to be really simple for me to even attempt them.

I plan to stick with mostly old European/Scandi folk tunes, and maybe find a friend with a (subtle) drum to get a medieval feel to it eventually once I can actually play the thing. :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Hey Randy thanks!
You are right on all counts except...right now it's anything BUT relaxing!!!

These things are pretty wild and uncontrollable at the moment- screeching whiney sounds aren't too relaxing. YIKES! lol!

But i am having fun making a mess of it all and trying hard. It'll take me weeks to be able to do a little ditty like michael whips off. Meaning he's busy apologizing for his playing....

Randy Adams said:

I love the sound of it in the video. It has to be such a relaxing instrument to play....ya know....you don't have to be Perlman or Paginini right?....just play some nice little melodies.....fun!

And it looks to be a very well made instrument...horsehair strings!....curly maple!....2 piece back!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
6 years ago
112 posts

I love the sound of it in the video. It has to be such a relaxing instrument to play....ya know....you don't have to be Perlman or Paginini right?....just play some nice little melodies.....fun!

And it looks to be a very well made instrument...horsehair strings!....curly maple!....2 piece back!

Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

Since YOUR jouhikko is already a star, your own stardom can't be far behind, Strumelia!8.gifDo you have particular ideas about how you wish to use your new instruments-- say, do you plan to focus on tunes in a particular regional tradition(s) or in accompaniment to another player's instrument(s)?

Seriously, Lisa, if I ever get to your neck of the woods, I'd love to give one of those instruments a go.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Yes, Michael just put up the video of MY jouhikko today! And MY jouhikko is featured in the photos right on his website home page too! My jouhikko is famous already!!! lol!
Now i just have to figure out how to play it as well as Micheal does already. D'OH!!


Robin Thompson said:

In the YouTube video on Michael's website, it looks to be your new jouhikko & case that are showcased!?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

Strumelia,

Wonderful slideshow! I'd love to give a pull of the bow or two on each of your bowed lyres-- they're so lovely and your case with the leather handle, forged latches, and knitted interior are neat.

In the YouTube video on Michael's website, it looks to be your new jouhikko & case that are showcased!?




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

OK, I got my other jouhikko today! (Remember I sold a banjo and was able to buy TWO jouhikkos with the money...wooHOOO!)

This one is SO DIFFERENT from my other one- and that's what I wanted- to try two completely different setups, tunings, and modes of playing. They are both very very cool.

Here is an album of pix of my new beauty.

They are both challenging to play in their own ways...but I got a head start of 3 weeks on the other one so now I have to work at this new one. The case is almost as wonderful as the instrument!

This jouhikko (bowed lyre/Talharpa) was made by FOTMD member Michael King of the UK. What a great guy and artistic craftsman! Here is his website: http://www.michaeljking.com/

I'm so excited! I have lots of new stuff to work on all winter now!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

It's so neat that you have Swedish ancestors, Lisa! And bowing is a ton of fun. 69.gifExcept for when it isn't.63.gifSmile.gifGrin.gif

PS-The discussion about being able to drag smiles should've been able to be seen by everybody but me! 8.gif




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

I have taken a little time off of doing patent drawings for a type of spray gun today, to work on getting a couple of interesting new tunes to try to play on my new jouhikko (Finnish/Swedish/Estonian folk fiddle-thingy).

I bought a CD of old recordings of Finnish folk songs and have been picking out a couple of tunes to transcribe and play. Wow, talk about non-chord based archaic music!

Some of the singing is really 'out there' and spooky/beautiful, from recordings made as far back as 1920 or so. Much of it is impossible to even pin down a melody for, but I did find a couple of simpler tunes that were good candidates. I transcribed them to a pitch playable on my jouhikko and wrote them out note by note. Now I can start learning to play them.

This will now give me a total of 6 old simple traditional Finnish folk tunes to work on. I can look into Swedish tunes as well (my Swedish grandfather would have loved that, maybe even my Swedish ancestors played the jouhikko/tagelharpa!)

Now if only I could fret the thing in tune...no fingerboard makes it pretty interesting.

The good news is that after about 2 weeks of playing now i do sound a little bit better- less squeaking and scratching with the bow, and a little less horribly out of tune. Just needs few more years of playing now!

But if you ask me if I'm having any fun...YES, a TON!


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

Cool, Lisa! You get a few weeks under your belt and keeping the bow perpendicular to the strings will come easier, I'd bet. I have a ball bowing (my BD's) and have learned that just feeling more comfortable, relaxed with a bow in my hand helps yield better sound. Well, most of the time, anyway. lol

I can't look at jouhikkos much because I want one and don't need to feed that monster right now.Grin.gif

Flint, I'm listening to sample music from Nordisk Sang right now-- really fine. Thanks for the recommendation.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Well I've spent about 45 minutes to an hour each day so far for 4 days. I am excited because i actually see a little improvement just from that short time practicing.

I am only working on 2 VERY simple Finnish folk ditties that came with the instrument- one is in minor mode and one in major. That's all I need to work on for now, because I'm using these two simple tunes like exercises. They each only have 8 measures in them, and only six notes. It's weird to get used to rocking over onto the far (unfretted) drone string for the tonic melody note each time you want it, but I'm starting to get used to that idea. The main melody string is tuned to the second note (Re) of the scale! It's tuned AEB - the B being the melody string (the other two strings played open as drones and/or tonic note) in the key of A.

Still sounds like squeaky train brakes, but that's expected. Every once in a while I accidentally hit a couple of nice clear notes and that's enough excitement to keep me motivated! lol!

Mostly trying to hold the bow perpendicular to the strings and move it fast enough to catch the strings well instead of skreeking.

But I'm having tons of fun!!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

Lisa, I use an underhand grip on the bow for BD and have used my middle & ring fingers to make some tension adjustments.

I'll keep my eyes open for a progress report from time to time. It's a mostly wonderful experience to be a beginner.Smile.gif

Randy, I love fiddle music and know I couldn't play a fiddle due to neck problems. Darn trouble's curtailed my music playing-- especially MD-- over the last several weeks.102.gif




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Thanks Randy. I guess I like the challenge. I really respond to the primitive folk sound and the drones, so even the scratchy out of tune practice is pleasing to me in a strange way.

Sounds to me like you should try fiddling with the fiddle held down low against the ribs instead of in 'classic violin' form. brian plays that way often- he says it's the 'lazy' way to play, but it sure sounds good to me!

Randy Adams said:

I admire you for taking on the challenge Lisa. I was 41 (1992) when I started playing the dulcimer...had been playing guitar & banjo for 20+ years.... and I remember thinking I never wanted to learn another instrument....it's a huge undertaking. But I have enjoyed the journey.

The only instrument I would have liked to learn in my life is the fiddle. I have tried 3 or 4 or 5 times and never made it more than 2 weeks!... : (....I just can't do it. Hurts my left wrist to be in the position....my face, and ears, are right next to where the bow is squeaking and scratching... : ).....

Anyways...have fun! This is inspiring! Hope you check in ever so often with a progress report and trials & tribulations!... : ).....




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Hi Robin,

i figure it will keep me out of trouble...sometimes.

Yes the strings are made of pretty firmly twisted horsehair. My strings have 6o strands for the low drone and 40 strands for the two higher strings.

Yes, you can make your own strings as they wear and get too thin. I bought extra bowhair hanks which can make the strings too. The bow is horsehair too, but straight not twisted, and somewhat loose- you create extra bowhair tension with your fingers as you bow (underhand grip). you are almost always playing two strings at once.


Robin Thompson said:

Lisa, I'll wait-- got nothin' but time.

Glad Randy started the thread because I was wonderin', too. You probably haven't had it long enough to tell much about the horsehair strings. . . Are the hairs twisted? Do they have to be replaced often? Can you buy hanks of horsehair and make your own strings?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
6 years ago
112 posts

I admire you for taking on the challenge Lisa. I was 41 (1992) when I started playing the dulcimer...had been playing guitar & banjo for 20+ years.... and I remember thinking I never wanted to learn another instrument....it's a huge undertaking. But I have enjoyed the journey.

The only instrument I would have liked to learn in my life is the fiddle. I have tried 3 or 4 or 5 times and never made it more than 2 weeks!... : (....I just can't do it. Hurts my left wrist to be in the position....my face, and ears, are right next to where the bow is squeaking and scratching... : ).....

Anyways...have fun! This is inspiring! Hope you check in ever so often with a progress report and trials & tribulations!... : ).....

Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
840 posts

Lisa, I'll wait-- got nothin' but time.3.gif

Glad Randy started the thread because I was wonderin', too. You probably haven't had it long enough to tell much about the horsehair strings. . . Are the hairs twisted? Do they have to be replaced often? Can you buy hanks of horsehair and make your own strings?




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
1,700 posts

Hey thanks Randy for starting a thread.

Heck, I've only had it about two days and we've been doing various other stuff so I haven;t been able to paractice it as much as I'd like yet, but getting some practice in today.

Here's a good example of a simple tunes played on a jouhikko:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iw7zyyVRAw

It will take me many months before I can play something that well!

So how's it going. You luvin' it? Is it what you thought it was gonna be?


I'ts not easy- very challenging. Mostly because you are frettin the string in mid air, no frets or fingerboard to guide you. Also bowing is an art in itself and takes a LONG time to get decent. I'm sounding very scratchy and very out of tune- as I expected! It is what I thought it would be, perhaps a tad quieter than I thought, but then it's got horsehair strings, not steel fiddle strings. a nice 'chewy' textured sound.

<Are you taking to it like a duck to water?.. : ).....Are you having fun? Is it hard to play? Do you like the sound? >>>


It's GREAT fun, but not something I can just slip into doing- will take much work, but I kind of knew that going in. Yes, i love the sound, and as you know I love drones. The bowing is what will be the greatest challenge.

<How do you pronounce it? Is it a well made instrument? What type of songs are you going to play?>>>



Pronounced YOO-hee-koh. It's a very simple instrument, not refined like a guitar. Sturdy and wll put together, but primitive, like it was designed to be. (The other one that's almost done will be a little more delicate and refined).

Best suited for simple older folk tunes and some medieval tunes. Played in either major or minor. It uses only 6 notes in the scale, so the tunes must be very simple. On this one, the middle string is a low drone below the tonic note, a fifth. So this one is tuned to key of A and the low drone is an E.

My other one coming soon will be strung and tuned differently and will be played in G. It's low drone string will be on the top side rather than the middle.


<Any one else have/play one of these?>>>



Pristine (Richard) has one from this same maker- I think he got it a year and a half ago, but I don't know if he's been playing it much.


FlintHill said:

<Can't wait to hear you play these.>>>


Believe me, you can wait. lol!


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
6 years ago
88 posts
Can't wait to hear you (Lisa, I guess) play these. I've heard one -- on youtube IIRC -- and thought it sounded cool.

Not exactly related, but check out an album called Nordisk Sang if you like this kind of music. It's modal singing and Hardanger fiddle (AKA hardingfele) not jouhikko, but the music is eerie and beautiful.
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
6 years ago
112 posts


I thought this subject deserved it's own thread?...hope you don't mind?

So how's it going. You luvin' it? Is it what you thought it was gonna be? Are you taking to it like a duck to water?.. : ).....Are you having fun? Is it hard to play? Do you like the sound? How do you pronounce it? Is it a well made instrument? What type of songs are you going to play?

Any one else have/play one of these?

----------------------------

Lisa Said:

"Like Dennis, my positive thing for today was getting a new instrument too!

Last official 'real' new instrument was my Galax dulcimer about 6(?) years ago, so this is quite an event.

I got my first of two jouhikkos-- Finnish/Swedish archaic rectangular 3-stringed drone folk fiddles. I sold a nice banjo which paid for them (love when that can happen). I will keep them in two very diff stringing arrangements and tunings.

So tonight I started making some really awful bowing sounds, trying to pick out some notes...fun!

Thank goodness Brian doesn't mind the screaky scratches...and neither does the new kitty- she just snoozes nearby like it was nothing!"


updated by @randy-adams: 06/11/15 07:26:50AM