Runosong Melodies on a 5-string Kantele


March 21, 2020

The Finnish-Karelian 5-string kantele played with the old plucking technique was a part of the ancient runosong culture. The kanteleplayers played the runosong melodies, improvised, and the instrument could also be used to accompany the runosongs.

Old runosong melodies were published in two collections during the early 20th century: Inkerin runosävelmiä (Runosong melodies from Ingria, 1910, part I) and Karjalan runosävelmiä (Runosong melodies from Karelia, 1930, part II). These tunes can be found online at: => “Haku” => “tarkennettu haku” => “kokoelma”. When you scroll down from the “kokoelma”, you will find the two collections: “Runosävelmät I” and “Runosävelmät II”.

You can transpose the melodies, and you should also variate them: only one or two basic phrases are written down. According to the tradition you can also add the string #5 as an accompaniment tone randomly, as you wish. In addition, you can naturally also use other strings to create different intervals.

Here is one example of playing some runosong melodies on a 5-string kantele. The instrument is a replica from the museum kantele which was made by the famous runosinger Ontrei Malinen in 1833 in Vuonninen, Viena Karelia. The replica is made by Rauno Nieminen. It has bronze strings. The kantele is tuned with harmonics, and thus the scale is not in Equal Temperament.

Here are some easy steps on how to make melodic variations on runosongs, for example.