Jouhikko: An Instrumental Evolution

Author: Rachel Bracker

Mentor: Dr. Timothy Smit, Department of History

The Jouhikko is a unique instrument from Finland that has been in use since around the twelfth century. The Jouhikko is a member of the bowed lyre instrumental family, and its origin is surrounded in mystery and uncertainty. However, references to the Jouhikko, and instruments which could be potentially related to it, can be found in the Finnish epic the Kalevala and in archaeological sites throughout the Scandinavian region. The first portion of this project investigates the evolution of the Jouhikko over time. This is done by examining the history of instruments with similar designs and/or construction, such as the Gusli and the Erhu, as well as looking into the evolution of the bow. The playing styles of instruments from the neighboring regions, such as of Novgorod Russia and the Asian Steppes, are also examined. The second portion of this thesis documents how I constructed my own replica of a Jouhikko and compares my construction method with the method used by a professional luthier. The final portion of this thesis will analyze different methods used to play the Jouhikko, and compares these methods to the playing styles of the Erhu, Gusli, and the Kantele.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 2017


Timothy Smit

Mentor Professional Affiliation


Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level




Department Name when Degree Awarded


Jouhikko_Finished Project_Rachel Bracker.JPG (1473 kB)
A picture of the finished Jouhikko

Jouhikko_Design on Yoke_ Rachel Bracker.JPG (1423 kB)
A close up of the design on the top of the Jouhikko