Estonian instruments

The Estonian Zither


The Estonian zither is the oldest of the stringed instruments in Estonia. It’s typically made of wood, usually from hollowed spruce wood, with six or seven strings. The strings are made of either horsehair, catgut or metal. Modern zithers of the new generation have 20-30 strings.

The Estonian zither was legendarily played by the Estonian god of song Vanemuine, and the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg begins with the line: Laena mulle kannelt, Vanemuine! ("Vanemuine, lend me your zither!").


Parmupill – The Estonian Jew's Harp


The name does not indicate any connection to the Jews. The name is a consequence of some publishers mixing up a few letters at one point. The initial intention was to name the instrument "jaw's harp" but somehow, when the text was published, "a" was replaced by "e" and since then even scientific publications have consistently been using this inaccurate name.


Producing sound with a jew's harp is easy. One only needs to know the basics - how to take the instrument in one's hand, place it on the mouth, hold it against the teeth and make the reed of the instrument sing.

The earliest jew's harps found in Estonia was a jew's harp dug out from Otepää town hill dating back to the beginning of the 13th century. There are also several findings from the 15th and 16th century and it can be suggested that at that time jew's harp was a popular instrument among peasants.

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