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?vairias auk?tai?i? ir ?emai?i? kankl?s (LNM).jpg
Various Auk?taitian and Samogitian kankl?s in the National Museum of Lithuania, made at the end of 19th century - beginning of 20th century
String instrument
Other namesKankliai, kunkliai, kunklaliai, kanklos, kanklys, kanklus, kunkl, kankalai[1]
Classification Plucked string instrument, chordophone, zither
Hornbostel-Sachs classification314.122
(Diatonic lute-type stringed instrument)
Inventor(s)Folk instrument
Related instruments
Kokles, kannel, kantele, gusli, zither, psaltery, dulcimer

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 kokles, 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 kokles, 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] most likely deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *qan- ('to sing, to sound'; cf. Latin "canto, cantus, canticum", Italian "cantare", French "chanter", English "chant, cantor", Arab qanun.

A 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]


Samogitian kankl?s made in 2002 by Egidijus Virba?ius

Although kankl?s vary both regionally and individually, there are some common characteristics in their construction.

Kankl?s belong to the zither family, which means that their strings are parallel to the soundboard (not perpendicular, like in a harp) and do not extend beyond it (not like in e.g. a guitar, where they extend to the neck). 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 soundboard, which covers the body.[3] Soundholes, which traditionally take the shape of a stylized flower or star, are cut into the soundboard, 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.


According to Birut? ?alalien?, psaltery, coming from Western Europe, could have been used in Lithuania to accompany church singing since the 15th century, and later in folk music in Lithuania Minor and Samogitia.[4]

The word "kankl?s" is first used in writing in 1580 by Jonas Bretk?nas in his Bible translation.[5] Vincas Kudirka published two collections of folk songs adapted for choirs, titled Kankl?s, in 1895 and 1898.[6] In 1906, Pranas Puskunigis established an ensemble of kankl?s players, mostly from the students at the Veiveriai Teachers' Seminary, in Skriaud?iai [lt]. This ensemble, known simply as "Kankl?s" since 1984, continues to this day. A school for kankl?s players was opened in 1930 in Kaunas.[7] Kankl?s are taught at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre since 1945. Concert kankl?s were first constructed in 1964.[5]


29-stringed concert kankl?s with a music stand

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.[8]

  • 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.[8]

Concert kankl?s, with an expanded range of more than four octaves (29 strings) and added chromaticism, provided by means of metal levers at the side of the instrument, similar to the ones used in a Celtic or lever harp, were constructed in 1964 by P. Kup?ikas following the design of P. Stepulis and D. Mataitien?.[5] They followed the lead of Latvian concert kokles constructed in 1951.[]


  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. ^ ?alalien?, Birut? (2011-06-06). "Psalteriumas". Visuotin? lietuvi? enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). Mokslo ir enciklopedij? leidybos centras.
  5. ^ a b c Apanavi?ius, Romualdas (2006-01-17). "Kankl?s". Visuotin? lietuvi? enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). Mokslo ir enciklopedij? leidybos centras.
  6. ^ Ramo?kait?, ?ivil? (2008). "Vinco Kudirkos "Kankl?s" - pirmasis harmonizuot? lietuvi? liaudies dain? rinkinys" (PDF). Tautosakos darbai (in Lithuanian). XXXVI. ISSN 1392-2831.
  7. ^ Alenskas, Vytautas (2016). "Pranas Puskunigis - kankli? ir kankliavimo propaguotojas" (PDF). Gimtasai kra?tas (in Lithuanian). 2: 63-65. ISSN 2029-0101.
  8. ^ a b Tarnauskait?-Palubinskien? 2009, pp. 478-480.


External links

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