Instruments of the LOTR Soundtrack



The Hardanger fiddle was used for Rohirrim thematic elements, most often, the Rohan Theme. The double fiddle seems to have been a whim of fiddler Dermot Crehan who conceived its creation and used it specifically for ROTK.



Hardanger Fiddle

This is the national instrument of Norway and is similar to a violin but more decorative. The Hardanger fiddle has sympathetic strings that lie underneath the finger board, creating a distinctive drone.


The Hardanger Fiddle was paired pretty much exclusively with the Rohan Theme.


Dermot Crehan played Hardanger fiddle for TTT and ROTK..


See below for an anecdotal account of two Hardangers associated with the score that were built by Mr. J.E. King.

1. Sample from Mountain Man's Girl, Norse Fiddle at Home, Karen SolgŚrd (almost a neighbor of mine)

2. Sample from CR-TTT, Disc 2, Track 1, Edoras 3:10-3:24

Double Fiddle

This fiddle, which has double the normal 4 strings on a fiddle, was created at the request of Dermot Crehan especially for ROTK. With the Hardanger, one string would be bowed and another would resonated under it. I believe, with the double violin, the strings within a pair would both be bowed.

Image from bonus DVD that came with the ROTK LE Soundtrack CD.


The double fiddle was used for …owyn and Aragorn's theme when Aragorn tells …owyn that her attraction to him is "but a shadow and a thought that you love... I cannot give you what you seek." as he prepares to leave the Rohirrim to travel the Paths of the Dead.


Dermot Crehan played double fiddle for ROTK..

1. Sample from CR-ROTK, Disc 2,Track 8, The Passing of the Grey Company 0:38-1:07


LOTR Hardangers

- an untold story . . . by Andrew J. King

The use of the Hardanger fiddle in parts of the LOTR score sparked a lot of interest in this Norwegian folk-version of the violin, with its unplayed 'sympathetic' strings under the fingerboard adding a ghostly resonance to the sound, and its characteristic patterned decoration.

If you were to encounter two of the Hardangers involved in the recordings however, you might be surprised. Neither was made in Norway, or by a Norwegian maker, nor are they decorated in the traditional style. Both were in fact made by my father, Mr J E King, an English luthier. Now retired, but still making, Mr King has produced a wide variety of stringed instruments for classical, folk and early music players, all with his own distinctive sense of design. An instrument-maker with an engineering background, he has an intuitive sense of the mechanics of sound-production, ensuring that his instruments have strong and distinctive 'voices'.

In the hectic schedule of rehearsal and recording, memory of the details of exactly what happened quickly becomes hazy. What seems certain however is that when the LOTR music-makers were looking for a Hardanger for The Two Towers, they approached English folk-musician Heather Brown with a request to borrow the instrument called 'Martha', (For some reason, my father's Hardangers seem to acquire names!). When the time came to record the soundtrack for The Return of the King however, 'Martha' was out of the country, touring the USA with Heather. Mr King recalls receiving a phone call from an anxious Dermot Crehan: 'Do you have another fiddle like 'Martha' available to borrow?' He had to record the next day. Train timetables were consulted and it became evident there was just time for both parties to meet up at Derby for a handover.

While Mr King did have a second Hardanger called 'Bellflower' available, it had only recently been finished. As he tells the tale:

"'Bellflower', though completed, was not strung, and needed a new bridge. Duly fitted up and tuned to pitch, it was hurried to meet Dermot in the station car-park, where he charmed the homebound commuters into 'slow-step' from 'hurry home'".

My father remembers his playing as emotional, but controlled, "Dermot is the kind of chap who can make you cry with a fiddle -if he wants to". A few weeks later, 'Bellflower' was returned together with the hire fee. The film makers had apparently admired the looks of 'Bellflower', and considered using it in shot, but in the event it did not get a screen role.

Andrew J. King