Dee's Kanteles

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 storylike. 

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 instrument.

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.

This cat's head kantele was made for her daughter.  It has a soundhole rose of padauk

Here is a closer view of the cat's head, with the simple square-headed tuning pins

This instrument has a carved swan's head and a black and yellow lacquer finish

This 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.

The 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.

Here are a couple of shots of all three instruments as an idea of scale. 

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.