Hardanger Fiddle – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Musical Instruments Glossary

What is a Hardanger Fiddle?

The Hardanger Fiddle, also known as the hardingfele, is a traditional Norwegian stringed instrument that is similar in appearance to a violin but with a few key differences. It is most commonly used in the regions of Hardanger and Telemark in Norway, where it plays a significant role in traditional folk music. The Hardanger Fiddle has a distinctive sound that sets it apart from other string instruments, thanks to its unique construction and playing techniques.

History of the Hardanger Fiddle

The Hardanger Fiddle has a long and rich history that dates back to the 17th century. It is believed to have originated in Norway and was initially used in folk music and dance traditions. Over the years, the instrument has evolved and undergone various changes in its design and construction. The Hardanger Fiddle became increasingly popular in the 19th century, with many musicians and composers incorporating it into their works.

Construction of the Hardanger Fiddle

The Hardanger Fiddle is similar in shape to a violin but has several unique features that set it apart. One of the most distinctive characteristics of the instrument is its four or five sympathetic strings that run underneath the fingerboard. These strings are not played directly but vibrate in sympathy with the main strings, creating a rich and resonant sound. The body of the Hardanger Fiddle is typically made from spruce or pine wood, with intricate carving and decorations that are unique to each instrument.

Playing the Hardanger Fiddle

Playing the Hardanger Fiddle requires a different technique than playing a traditional violin. The instrument is typically played using a bow, but the player may also use a variety of techniques such as plucking and tapping to create different sounds. The sympathetic strings add depth and resonance to the music, giving the Hardanger Fiddle its distinctive sound. Musicians who play the Hardanger Fiddle often use a unique style of bowing and fingering to bring out the instrument’s full potential.

Traditional music and repertoire for the Hardanger Fiddle

The Hardanger Fiddle is closely associated with traditional Norwegian folk music, particularly in the regions of Hardanger and Telemark. The instrument is often used to accompany traditional dances such as the halling and the springar. Many traditional tunes and melodies have been passed down through generations and are still played on the Hardanger Fiddle today. The instrument is also used in various folk music ensembles and orchestras, where it adds a unique and authentic sound to the music.

Modern use and popularity of the Hardanger Fiddle

In recent years, the Hardanger Fiddle has experienced a resurgence in popularity both in Norway and around the world. Many musicians and composers are incorporating the instrument into their works, blending traditional folk music with contemporary styles. The Hardanger Fiddle is also being used in a variety of genres, including classical, jazz, and world music. Its unique sound and rich history make it a versatile and captivating instrument that continues to inspire musicians and audiences alike.