Posted on

Building the Prima Gusli

Building the Prima Gusli

by James H. Flynn

Originally published in American Lutherie #27, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

The Gusli is a very old Russian folk musical instrument. Most probably, it dates back to the 11th century. The gusli is a Russian version of the ancient dulcimer or psaltry. Also in the same family, although different, are the Finnish kantele and the Hungarian cymbalom. Over time, the gusli has changed to accommodate a wide range of musical situations. Today, with especial thanks to the great V.V. Andreev (American Lutherie #17, see Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Two, p. 180), one must be specific in describing the gusli because of the many styles.

The largest of the guslis, both in physical size and musical range is the piano gusli which is shown in Fig. 1. This instrument stands on four legs (which are detachable to facilitate moving) and has a musical range of five octaves. The keyboard, which is one octave wide, is manipulated with the fingers of the left hand while the right hand works over the exposed strings with a plectrum. Activating the keyboard lifts the dampers on certain strings in all octaves.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.