The Gusli is a Russian instrument very similar to the Anglo-Saxon Lyre in function and purpose.  One of the earliest specific mentions of the instrument is that it was played by the eleventh century court bard Boyan in "The Lay of the Host of Igor".  Several instrument fragments have been found from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and a few nearly complete instruments exist in collections from the fourteenth century.  These fragments and extant examples show strings from five to eleven, common are five and nine, similar to a kantele.  The instruments we build are based on these finds, especially the bird-headed large gusli and the five string 'slovisha' gusli from Novgorod.

We base our instruments on archaeological evidence, historical art and written documentation, but we do not replicate these instruments.  Instead, we choose to take what we know from these sources and our own experience, mix in the imagination of the customer, occasionally add in a drop of technological magic, and create what a Gusli builder of this era would have created, a unique piece for his client. 
So drop us a message or give us a call.  We promise, we won't charge to answer your questions.

Example of one of my gusli

'Slovisha' Style

One of the most famous legends of Novgorod is the set of stories of the medieval merchant-bard Sadko.  Epic poems, songs and stories about his life, his conflicts and victories, focus on his creative cunning, often involving music.  This example is based on an instrument shrouded in mystery because of it's simplicity.  It had but one ornament, the carving of the word 'Slovisha' on the side.  This means 'nightingale', but the meaning was unclear.  Was this a reference to the guslar's voice?  Or just an affectionate label for a sweet sounding instrument? Or maybe a gift for someone extremely special?  It is unknown.  This is a quiet lap gusli, it's lack of volume has to do with the fact that the ears for the string bar (this assembly acts like a bridge in this kind of psaltry) are one with the soundboard, and they are directly over the edges of the body.  In most instruments the soundboard vibrates most right at the feet of the bridge, but when that point is imobilized by glue and nails there is a significant drop in sound.  But when this instrument is laid upon a resonant surface like a desk or a wall, it acts as a large bridge and the voice is incredible.  This kind of Gusli was used in religious ceremonies where the instrument was played on an alter table, or used for courting, playing music using the walls of a home as the sounding board.

Large Gusli
Example of one
                of my gusli

This larger instrument may have been originally strung in gut or horsehair, but it became quite popular strung with brass and bronze strings.  This is a larger, and much louder instrument, owing to the fact that the stringbar holders now fit into windows on the unsupported area of the soundboard, allowing much more free vibration.  This is quite the powerful instrument, fitting a large voice.