The Gusli

The gusli is a member of the zither instrument family. It orignates from Russia and was invented in the 6th century.

The Gusli is one of the oldest musical instruments that have played an important role in the Russian music culture. Vertkov states that the first mentions of the Gusli date back to 591 AD to a treatise by the Greek historian Theophylact Simocatta which describes the instrument being used by Slavs from the area of the later Kievan Rus’ kingdom. The first documented gusli were recorded in 1170 in Veliky Novgorod in Novgorodian Rus’. The gusli are thought to have been the instrument used by the legendary Boyan (a singer of tales) described in the Lay of Igor’s campaign. The instruments were used by the wandering Skomorokh musicians and entertainers. Preserved instruments discovered by archaeologists in various digs have between five and nine strings with one example having twelve strings.

Folk Gusli have from eleven to thirty-six gut or metal strings, tuned diatonically. There were two main forms: helmet-shaped (Shlemovidnye gusli) and wing-shaped (Krylovidnye gusli): Shlemovidnye gusli is a variety of Gusli held by the musician on his knees, so that the strings are horizontal, the resonator body under them. Krylovidnye gusli is much smaller, and has more resemblance to Baltic psaltery such as the kankles, kokles, kannel and kantele. They are held much more like modern guitars.

The gusli was maily used to play russian folk music

How do I play the instrument?

The gusli is played by resting the instrument against you and plucking at the strings

How long does it take to learn?

It takes a few months to learn

Is there special equipment needed for the instrument?

No

Rock with a Star!

Let’s enjoy the sound of this instrument through this wonderful performance by Kirill Bogomilov

Information of the person playing the music