Kantele is a stringed instrument of Karelian and Finnish peoples played by plucking. It has the centuries-old history. From time immemorial kantele played such a big role in the life of people, that its value leaves far beyond the frameworks of just a musical instrument. Kantele is not simply the musical instrument, it is the symbol uniting in such concepts, as culture, labour activity, and historical development of many generations of northern people.
The first instruments were totally hollowed and had five strings. The chest of the kantele was made of alder, the pegs were made of birch, the strings were made of the horsehair. In the process of development of musical culture the instrument was improved. They began to make the top deck of the fur-tree plate. On change to strings from the horsehair there appeared the tendon, and then the metal ones. The number of strings was also increased. The most widespread were 5-, 10-, 12- and 16-string kanteles which had the diatonic pitch. Now in Karelia the two versions of kantele exist, the diatonic and chromatic. The diatonic kantele is intended for performance of folk music. For performance of classical music it is necessary to have the instrument with chromatic sound, which has caused the necessity for improvement of the instrument. On chromatic kantele it is possible to perform both national, and classical music.
The first who has addressed to manufacturing chromatic kantele was Elias Lonnrot, founder of "Kalevala". In 1830-1840 he has made two chromatic kanteles, one of which is stored now in the museum in Finland. In the beginning of the 30th years of the XX century under the direction of V.P.Gudkov, the employee of folklore section of the scientific research institute, the masters Kluhin and Yamschikov have made kantele with chromatic pitch, and in 1936 the State ensemble of the KASSR "Kantele" was created under the leadership of V.P.Gudkov.
Now the chromatic kantele has been widely practised in Finland.
The significant work on manufacturing chromatic kantele was done by the masters Kluhin, Yamschikov, Crystal Cook.
Now there exist kantele-prima, kantele-alto, and kantele-bass.