The kantele is the Finnish version of an instrument known throughout the world as either a zither or lap harp.

The Finnish kantele is basically a triangular shaped sound box with strings running across the top of the instrument. When the strings - usually tuned to a diatonic scale - are plucked, a kantele will produce ringing bell-like tones. It is similar to a harp in some ways, but because of the way in which it is built and the way in which the strings are attached, a compelling and unique sound is produced as it is played.

Kanteles are often divided into two categories: small ones and big ones. Small ones rarely have more than two octaves. The big ones usually have at least 32 strings and three to four octaves. Kanteles, especially the smaller 5 and 10 string instruments, are relatively easy instruments to learn to play. The larger kanteles of up to 36 strings require more effort to learn to play, but allow the player to perform more complex pieces of music.