Norway’s National Folk Instrument

The Hardanger fiddle (Hardingfele in Norwegian) is structurally similar to the violin. But a Hardanger fiddle looks different from a violin. It has black pen-and-ink drawings, elaborate mother-of-pearl inlay, and its scroll is topped with the carved head of a dragon.

A Hardanger fiddle also sounds different from a violin. What makes the sound of a Hardanger fiddle distinctive is the set of four or five additional strings that run underneath the fingerboard. These sympathetic strings are not bowed, but add echoing overtones to the fiddle’s sound.

closeup of a Hardanger fiddle’s bridge and the understrings

This instrument originated in the area around the Hardanger fjord in western Norway. The oldest known Hardanger fiddle dates from around 1651. Learn more about Hardanger fiddles at the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America.

The instruments we play include both early twentieth century fiddles by well-known Norwegian makers and recent instruments by makers in the U.S.