Encyclopedia > Kantele

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A kantele is a traditional Finnish plucked string instrument. The conventional kantele has five strings (pentatonic scale) and a wooden body. Modern concert kanteles can have up to 36 strings and can be tuned on the fly. The kantele player holds the kantele in her lap or on a small table, plucking the strings with her fingers. One can also play chords, traditionally with a matchstick. In The Kalevala (Finland's national epic), the magician Vainamoinen invents the first kantele with the jawbone of a giant pike and a few hairs from Hiisi's gelding. The music it makes draws all the forest creatures near to wonder at its beauty. The kantele has a distinctive bell-like sound. Around the Baltic, its near relatives are the kankel and the kannel.

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