Hardanger Fiddle

Edited: May 3, 2021, 2:18 PM · Curious if anyone here also plays the Hardanger fiddle? I did check out the archive and it's been mentioned a few times in the past. I've recently been taken by the sound of that instrument, and am exploring the idea of eventually obtaining one. Such a beautiful sound and of course they are visually striking.

Replies (10)

May 3, 2021, 2:26 PM · I've had a go on one, really good fun. If you can, I recommend giving it a try :)
Edited: May 3, 2021, 4:46 PM · If you haven't already, take look at hfaa.org. They have a fiddle loan program that could be worth looking into. I believe they also have an active Facebook group. Some areas have local Scandinavian music and dance groups that are still meeting online, so you can join from anywhere. I know the one in Seattle is hosting online jam sessions. If you have a contact in your profile and are interested, I can PM you some additional resources.

There's an article in the most recent issue of Strings Magazine about Hardanger Fiddles that you may have seen. I find Hardanger Fiddle music challenging because it doesn't conform to my general understanding of melody and how melodies work. The hardanger fiddle melodies are beautiful and meandering, and I can never remember them.

I highly recommend the books, "To Be Nothing" by Benedicte Maurseth and "Aural Thinking in Norway" by Pandora Hopkins. The latter is out of print and rather difficult to find, but a really interesting read.

Edited: May 3, 2021, 4:42 PM · Only got hold of one once, when I was relatively fresh into the violin world and not a competent judge at all. It was made by Salve Håkedal from Birkeland, Norway, was a handsome and well made piece of wood, and great fun. And 54000 NOK seem more than reasonable prized for a fully handmade instrument. Keep in mind that reselling a 10-20k USD folk instrument might give you a hard time...

My local luthier once made something similar on commission - a "normal" Quinton (Violin with 5 strings) with scroll and everything, but 4 sympathetic strings. Very nice. The owner died and I don't know what happened to it. Maybe it remained within the family.

Some experiences with other makers out there?

Edited: May 4, 2021, 8:01 AM · I've always loved the sound of this instrument, and the Scandinavian fiddle music associated with it, but I've have never had the chance to play one -- good luck in your search! There's an excellent Quebec musician, Jean-François Bélanger, who plays both traditional Hardanger fiddle and Nyckelharpa -- I think you'd enjoy his performances on Youtube. . .
May 4, 2021, 8:28 AM · Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I also love the Nyckelharpa and would love one, but figure I've more of a shot with the Hardanger. Basically I want to take on another bowed instrument and I do enjoy various world folk music.

The HFAA does have a very nice adult loan program. It's for a full year startingin June, the only requirement is to take weekly lessons. I'm pondering, unsure I'm ready for that commitment given my violin lessons but am pondering.

May 4, 2021, 1:21 PM · Does your area have an active Scandinavian music/dance community? I highly recommend reaching out if there is one, as I'm sure you'll find very welcoming people who may be able to help you try out a Hardanger Fiddle and provide other Scandinavian music resources.

Another idea is starting to play some Norwegian tunes on your regular fiddle. The Hardanger Fiddle tunes don't always translate too well, but the regular fiddle/violin is popular in some areas of Norway--Roros for example, so there are plenty of tunes that would work well on the instrument you have and play right now.

If you are looking to buy a fiddle and are located in the US, there are a few US based makers (listed on the HFAA website) and sometimes people post fiddles for sale on the HFAA Facebook Group.

May 4, 2021, 3:12 PM · I would be vary of the Chinese hardanger fiddles on ebay, too many things could go wrong, and need expensive maintenance IMHO
Edited: May 4, 2021, 3:50 PM · Lyndon, 100% agree. And chances are high you won't receive anything like a Hardanger fiddle, but rather a bastard violin if you are lucky. Note that several construction characteristics are quite different from those of a classic violin. Not only in the top plate around the f holes, where it may be most obvious. And only a hardingfele will own the special sound of a hardingfele...

The Chinese have become pretty good at mass producing really pleasing instruments in an affordable price range, and they're great in producing VSOs for the price of a haircut. But Hardanger fiddles are something very specific, and there isn't a market for mass production. So what you'll get will most probably be a mass produced violin with ornamentations and a hardingfele style neck. When you'll get tired of it or move on to the real thing, it will be a decorative object without any significant resale value. It's hard enough to get rid of a good real hardingfele outside of the Scandinavian folk community...

May 5, 2021, 4:09 PM · I live and work in Ballard, WA, a small Scandy enclave in Seattle. I have restored many, presently have 4 in the shop, just shipped one out for purchase, and occasionally have one for sale.
I get Chinese Hardangers in the white and correct and finish them. If you purchase one off Ebay and other similar sites you will need to bring it to someone who know how to set them up and adjust them. I would consider the Chinese ones a "kit", as in not remotely playable as you get them.

They are fun and frustrating. I can help if you want one. Anyone.

May 5, 2021, 4:54 PM · The need for caution is noted. Come late fall I may reach out to you Duane. Pretty sure I want one, time will tell when.


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