As far as it is possible to judge from the existing information, kokle is an
ancient musical tool of the Baltic origin. The first written data on it has
been kept from XV century. From Baltic tribes kokle has been borrowed by the
neighbouring Finno-Ugric (Livonians, Estonians, Finns and others) and Slavic
Kokle is strummed string instrument. Kokle is put on knees or on a table.
By the right hand the vibration of strings is created, and by
the left hand the unnecessary strings are muffled. Kokle tunes vary, basically
they are diatonic. The bottom string has a role of a burdon - it sounds constantly.
Kokle has a hollowed trapezoid case, covered with a thin plate - deck.
The string pins are made from wood and are inserted into apertures in the wide
end of the case in parallelly to the edge. At the narrower edge there is
a metallic bar, on which the other ends of strings are reeled up. The strings
from plants, brass and steel are applied. Traditionally, there were 6-9 strings,
later more than ten strings have also been used.
In Kurland kokles without a wing have been used, with many ornaments and
Latgalian kokle has a wing, amplifying the sound and serving
as a stand for hand. In contrast with Kurland kokles, Latgalian kokles
are decorated less accurately, they are bigger and harder.
In Augszeme and Vidzeme kokles of both kinds have been played,
but in the same time there have been also intermediate types, for example,
kokle with a beakly wing.
At the end of XIX century the traditions of making kokles have come under the
influence coming of the West European zithers.
Thus have appeared so-called
zithertype kokle - kokle with a large, zithertype case, metallic pins and many
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