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9-stringed kankl?s of northeastern Auk?taitija
String instrument
Other names Kankliai, kunkliai, kunklaliai, kanklos, kanklys, kanklus, kunkl, kankalai[1]

Plucked string instrument, chordophone
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 314.122
(Diatonic lute-type stringed instrument)
Inventor(s) Folk instrument
Related instruments

Kokle, kannel, kantele, gusli

The kankl?s (Lithuanian: ['kkles]) is a Lithuanian plucked string instrument (chordophone) belonging to the Baltic box zither family known as the Baltic psaltery, along with the Latvian kokle, Estonian kannel, Finnish kantele, and Russian gusli.


According to Finnish linguist Eino Nieminen, the name of the instrument, along with the names of most of its neighbouring counterparts (Latvian kokle, Finnish kantele, Estonian kannel and Livonian k?ndla), possibly comes from the proto-Baltic form *kantl?s/*kantl?s, which originally meant 'the singing tree',[2] ultimately deriving from the Proto-European root *qan- ('to sing, to sound'). However, Lithuanian ethnologist Romualdas Apanavi?ius believes Kankl?s could be derived from the Proto-European root *gan(dh)-, meaning 'a vessel; a haft (of a sword)', suggesting that it may be related to the Russian word gusli.[3]


Kankl?s of the Samogitian regional style

Although kankl?s vary both regionally and individually, there are some common characteristics in their construction. The body of the kankl?s is made from one trapezoidal piece of linden tree, ash tree, oak, maple or black alder, which is hollowed out to create a cavity. A thin sheet of softwood (usually spruce) is used to make a sounding board, which covers the body.[3] Sound holes, which traditionally take the shape of a stylized flower or star, are cut into the sounding board, allowing sound to project outward.

At the narrowest side of the body, a metal bar is attached to which the strings made of wire or gut are anchored. The opposite ends of the strings are attached to a row of tuning pegs inserted into holes at the opposite side of the body.

Kankl?s is usually rested on the player's lap and played with the fingers or a pick made of bone or quill.


Concert kankl?s used by a Lithuanian traditional dance troupe "Rasa" along with birbyn?

Apanavi?ius classifies the kankl?s into three basic traditional types, although there are variations within each type and some overlap of areas. Each type has its own playing technique.[4]

  • Kankl?s of Northeastern Auk?taitians: the simplest and most ancient form. Carved out of a single piece of wood into a boat or coffin shape.
  • Kankl?s of Western Auk?taitians and Samogitians: somewhat larger than those of Northeastern Auk?taitija, usually having between eight and twelve strings. They have a flat bottom, and in some cases, the shortest end is carved with the stylized figure of a bird's or fish's tail.
  • Kankl?s of Northwestern Samogitians and Suvalkians: usually the most decorated type, and kankl?s used in concert performance are most often based on this variety. The most prominent identifying feature is the addition of a carved spiral figure to the point of the instrument's body and sometimes, the rounding of the narrow end of the body. Typically these instruments have between nine and thirteen strings.[4]


  1. ^ Tarnauskait?-Palubinskien? 2009, p. 477
  2. ^ Williams, Roger, ed. (1993). "The Singing Tree". Insight Guides: Baltic States. APA Publications (HK) Ltd. p. 85. ISBN 978-9624-2118-2-5. Retrieved 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Romualdas Apanavi?ius. Ancient Lithuanian Kankl?s, Institute of Ethnomusic, Vilnius, Lithuania
  4. ^ a b Tarnauskait?-Palubinskien? 2009, pp. 478-480


External links

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