Pastoral origins of the spelpipa
Emma Grut defines spelpipa as the Swedish term used to refer to a fipple flute generally made of wood with a varying number of finger-holes, which is utilized particularly in folk music practice. It is an instrument that through the ages remained in the darkness, with only a few literary references seemingly referring to any kind of wind instrument.
The first time the term spelpipa was documented to refer to the fipple flute was in the 1846 book “Svenska vallvisor och hornlåtar med norska artförändringar” (Swedish pastoral songs and horn tunes with Norwegian mode changes) by the folklore collector Richard Dybeck. He describes a “späla-pipa”, also called “fingerpipa” made of willow bark or peeled wood, with six holes, which hailed from Jämtland and Hälsingland.
Dybeck stresses the connection between the spelpipa and the pastoral environment and may be the explanation as to why the piping tradition survived in those regions of Sweden where the pasture management system went on the longest.
Tonality and intonation
Most of the music we listen to nowadays is performed under the equal temperament system standards, to such an extent that not so many people know there are other musical temperaments. In an equal temperament scale every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio, which is more or less perceived by the ear as if the “distance” between every note to its nearest neighbor is the same for every note in the system.
The most common equal temperament is the 12-TET (twelve-tone equal temperament system). The interval used in this system is the octave, and can be expressed as the interval that comprehends the unison, minor second, major second, minor third, major third, perfect fourth, augmented fourth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, major sixth, minor seventh, major seventh and octave is expressed, or in a C scale C–C#/Db–D–D#/Eb–E–F–F#/Gb–G–G#/Ab–A–A#/Bb–B–C.
Something common to the majority of the wooden flutes in folk tradition is that their scales often are not consistent with the modern tempered scale. There are plenty indications that these scales with hovering notes or so-called blue notes bear traces of an older type of tonality, which is also present in older fiddle and vocal traditions. Therefore, the spelpipor that are extant to-date are interesting evidence of a tonal language that apparently resounded long before the harmonic and chord-constructed ideals that to great extent characterize modern music.
The spelpipor manufactured by Jonas Jönsson (1864-1961; also known as Jonas uti Basa, a furniture carpenter and instrument maker) had all a non-tempered scale. All with the exception of one, a baroque-looking recorder, to which he decided to give a tempered major scale, indicating that he was quite aware of the difference between the older tonality and the more modern ideal.
In 1989, the renowned folk musician Ale Möller did an analysis of one of Jonas Jönsson´s pipes which has since then become a kind of standard tuning for the new-built härjedalspipa. According to this analysis, if we are to start from the flute´s bottom tone and raise one finger at a time, the 3rd tone sounds 25-30% lower, the 6t tone 25% lower, and the 7th tone 25-30% lower than what they would sound in a tempered major scale. Also the interval between the flute´s 1st and 2nd tone differs from the tempered scale because it oscillates a bit more than expected.
The oscillating interval makes it possible to have several interesting scales depending where we place the keynote. In those songs where the keynote is place on the lowest tone, we get a major scale with somewhat lower second, third, sixth and seventh. The same relation can be observed if the 4th tone is taken as the keynote. If the 2th tone is used as keynote, it is possible to get an intriguing minor scale with a somewhat low second.
 Möller, Ale 1989. Spelteknisk analysis. Spelteknisk utvärdering av spelpipa enligt inspelningar av Olof Jönsson, Överberg (1867-1953). This analysis remains unpublished but a copy can be found at Svenskt Visarkiv.
 Also given in the following way: Aiss, C-20%, D+35%,Diss, F, G-20%, A