Finished the psaltery.

I’d say the experiment was inconclusive; it doesn’t sound much different than the other BPs I’ve made.   I’ll try again sometime and do things different.

But here’s the final round of pictures, anyway.

Shooting lacquer:

Drilling pin holes and adding markers.  C’s and F’s are marked.

Put the pins in:

The hitch pins have grooves cut on the ends, to keep the strings where they’re supposed to be, like so:

And they all need to be facing the right way, obviously.

I’ve used loop end strings before, but ball end are so much easier to work with, it’s worth the extra $.  There’s 144 strings here, but I’ll only use 25, if I don’t break any.

The first string.  Rinse and repeat, 24 times.

The finished instrument.  Stringing can be a real pain.  I think it took me about a half an hour.  But I didn’t break any.

Here’s a couple sound clips.  In the first clip, I play with an old psaltery, then the new one.   Second clip, just the new one.

Scarborough Fair



8 thoughts on “Finished the psaltery.

  1. Hi Phillip

    When and how did you ever become interested in these things and have you sold any? If so who are your buyers? Can you use hammers on these? Where do you bow it?


    • Hmm, well I think I first heard of bowed psalteries a little over a year ago, and saw some youtube videos. They sounded interesting, so I made some. ;D I’ve only sold a couple, and they were to family. I do have a couple I’d like to sell, though.

      I think using hammers would be do-able, but awkward.

      You bow it between the hitch pins. Next time your here, I’ll be happy to demonstrate.

      It has a very, sort of, medieval sound to it. I guess I’m attracted to old instruments. It’s one of the easiest to play too. 🙂

  2. Well, maybe this is a dumbe blonde kind of question…but how do you only hit one string at a time when you bow it? Like on the fiddle, the bridge is curved so that the strings aren’t all level, you know… I guess I don’t understand how the instrument works. 🙂

  3. I watched one of these being played by a woman (very well) and I think it looks hard to do when played quickly like a two step. Not only does it appear to require lots of upper arm coordination but the attack has to be spot on.

    What’s the history of the Psaltery? B.C., A.D., medieval, early American? What part of the world?

    • That’s probably Celeste Ray you saw. She is pretty good, and she uses two bows. That does take some extra coordination. And a tripod, unless you have three arms, which would really be nice sometimes. 😉

      Psalteries are mentioned in the Bible, but I think those were plucked, not bowed. Could be wrong. Bowed psalteries as they’re known today go back at least to Renaissance times.

      • Yes it was Celeste Ray. Very pretty. It has a ghostly sound. It would be good for scary movie soundtracks. Prior to reading your blog I’ve never heard of psalteries.

        Three Arms……mmmmmm!? The possibilities are endless.


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