The Kantele is a type of psaltery, played either on a lap
or on a table, by picking individual notes, chords, or by blocking and
strumming strings. It is a folk instrument that has deep cultural
meaning, and was considered a very personal performance
instrument. Many supernatural powers have been associated with it
over the centuries, in fact it has been said that a person cannot die
in a home where a kantele is being played.
Like early Lyres, the Kantele has a limited range of notes, and the
songs that were performed on this instrument are simple in structure,
the complexity added in rhythm and unique tonal interpretation.
Instruments such as these were often used to accompany lyric poetry and
epic prose, and the simple songs also performed were very folkish and
Kanteles were usually equipped with 5 strings, some with 6, although to
the end of the middle ages instruments could have up to 10
strings. Usually tuned in some form of diatonic tuning, rather
than chromatic, the use of semitones for accents did not apply to this
These examples were hand made by Dee herself. The first two
instruments were made of tight grained fir, carved out from the bottom,
and have an open sound chamber. The 10 string instrument is built
up, with an enclosed sound chamber.
head kantele was made for her daughter. It has a soundhole rose
is a closer view of the cat's head, with the simple square-headed
has a carved swan's head and a black and yellow lacquer finish
instrument was built for two purposes. First, to see the
difference in a fully enclosed soundbox, and second, to have an
instrument that had a larger range, and therefore more musical options,
than the previous instruments.
soundhole rose is made of purpleheart, the tuning pins are steel zither
pins, and the strings are wire like the other instruments. The
pin block and ponsi (tailpiece) are osage wood.
are a couple of shots of all three instruments as an idea of
Though all the
instruments are similar, they all have distinct character, and fit
different moods. And if you ever get the chance, ask the maker
about the instrument that refused to be. An interesting story.