Bowed Psaltery

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,018 posts

Keltia, try thinking of the bowed psaltery more like a piano rather than a dulcimer.

You pick a range of the piano keys you want on your psaltery- usually between 1 and 3 octaves somewhere. Then you will have all the notes within that range. There is one string for every note. Each string will only play its one note- just like on a piano.

On a dulcimer or guitar, each string plays many notes through fretting it- therefore you can choose 'tunings' based on the kind of fingerings you are going to use.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,018 posts
a draw showing what note is what string could be fine.

Here are a few different tuning charts. Your string notes really depend on what high/low range you would like, on the size of the psaltery in terms of string length, and on how many strings you want:

http://www.juneappledulcimers.com/pages/BowedPsalteryTuningChart/

http://www.apsimplepsaltery.com/tuning_scheme.JPG

http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s225/nigelum/Hodge-Podge/Psaltery_tuning_chart_resized.jpg

http://tuckasee.com/howto1.jpg

http://www.dulcimershofar.com/skin1/images/psal_notes.gif

As you can see there is no one correct way to tune a bowed psaltery, as they are all different depending on what strings they have.

A 25 string tenor like you show would be a nice typical psaltery. 25 or 32 strings or so, you'd be able to play various types of music on it. I would suggest you get at least 1 1/2 octaves to start with.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,018 posts
Keltia said:

Well, true... XD

My questions are about the whole....

1 - strings name/tuning?

2 - specific stuff to do/not do with (to know) ?

3 - hows big is the difference between one from a luthier & one from industry for that instrument (Indeed i wonder for that one) I'd like to hear both & see the differencies but I can dream about...

4 - Where to find tabs about ?

I think those questions are the common ones for any instr. heh Quite normal when yr pretty new at a new instrument... But I thought it was a thread about bowed psaltery but sure as I said: I'll dig more that
psaltery website later.

Keltia, yes your questions are normal for any new instrument, but they require a lot of in depth answers that could easily take days of typing. Donna suggests correctly that all this information is already there for the reading on her site totally dedicated to bowed psalteries- no need to try to explain everything about BP's here. This is a good place for discussing a few specific questions and for having fun comparing our BP experiences here, from the standpoint of being mountain dulcimer players. I do recommend that anyone who wants to learn about bowed psalteries in an in depth way would do well to look at Donna's comprehensive site http://psalterystrings.ning.com/ .

But to try to address some aspects of your questions:

1 - strings name/tuning?



Psalteries can have varying numbers of strings, all tuned to various notes. Mine has 32 strings and is approximately 2 1/2 octaves. Basically, there is a string for every note. I won't name all 32 notes/strings on my psaltery here, but if you like I can point out an online chart for tuning a 32 string psaltery. You do not fret any strings to make notes, you just bow each open string. There are some people who use specific 'tunings' to achieve effects that are not the norm, but mostly the strings are not tuned in 'tunings'- they are just an array of notes (whole and half steps) going up the scale.

2 - specific stuff to do/not do with (to know) ?



To do : practice a lot, concentrate of getting a smooth sound from your bow and a light touch. learn a simple melody line.
Not to do : saw away on it roughly with a heavy hand which produces unfortunate sounds. Be impatient. Try to play 1-3-5 chords.
Not really sure what you mean by this question, but tried my best to answer it. If I'm missing what you meant by your question, please specify and clarify further what you are wanting to know.

3 - hows big is the difference between one from a luthier & one from industry for that instrument (Indeed i wonder for that one) I'd like to hear both & see the differencies but I can dream about...



On Donna's site there are quite a few descriptions and comparisons from various people owning psalteries amde by different people. She also lists some of the makers on the left column of her site, you can look at their sites and what they offer- most of them make nice psalteries that are good quality. Many of their sites offer photos and sound clips. Donna's site also has LOTS of videos of people playing thier psalteries, and you can watch and compare them.
Much depends on how many strings you want - that largely determines what size psaltery you would like to buy. Some are very small with less than a dozen strings- others have over 30 strings. Some have a high sound, some have longer strings and a lower sound. If you want to play very simple tunes then a smaller one with fewer strings might be fun to try. There is no one single type that is best for all people- just like with mountain dulcimers, a lot depends on what kind of music you are wanting to play- knowing that can help others make recommendations. Naturally larger psalteries with many strings are more expensive than small psalteries with only one octave of strings or less.

4 - Where to find tabs about ?



There are some tabs on Donna's site that you can find (Donna can point you to them perhaps).
But TAB is not as useful or applicable for bowed psalteries as it is for mountain dulcimers. Why?- because there is no fingering/fretting involved . No fingering positions to indicate, so basically any tab for the bowed psaltery consists mostly of just indicating which strings to play for each note in the melody. In a way, I feel it's just easier to pick out a simple tune by ear and practice playing it until you 'know' the tune on the psaltery. Once you can play one very simple tune, you can build on that and slowly play other tunes and get better.
In my view, TABs are mostly useful for instruments with fingerings and fingered fretted notes and chords - like mountain dulcimers, guitars, banjos, etc. Otherwise, you can simply use standard notation or else just learn the tune by ear. Start simple .

Hope this helps?


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
John Henry
John Henry
@john-henry
11 years ago
259 posts

Keltia, from what I see of your abilities with other instruments I do not think that the psaltery would offer any problems to you. As Strumelia says above, ask away here, I am sure you will be answered.

JohnH
Keltia said:

I was closed to get one the last time I went to Brittany.... beautiful instrument but still, I wonder about tabs, strings, tuning, etc...
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,018 posts
Keltia, if you have a specific question it is easier to answer... :)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Sue Simms
Sue Simms
@sue-simms
12 years ago
29 posts
Donna, I recall that the maker was Tish Westman. It was smaller than the one strumelia has shown. Wonderful sound ! It seems to keep on ringing. Donna Malus said:
Hi Sue, where did you try one? Do you know who the builder was?

Sue Simms said:
I had the opportunity to play one last week ! so beautiful , I will check out Tish's site.
Sue Simms
Sue Simms
@sue-simms
12 years ago
29 posts
I had the opportunity to play one last week ! so beautiful , I will check out Tish's site.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
Sue Simms said:
OMG , The Bowed Saltery is such a Beautiful Instrumment. I had the oppertunity to play one last week and Just fell in love with it ! Just a beautiful sound and now I want a new toy ! Maybe Christmas
Sue, be sure to join http://psalterystrings.ning.com/ ....where you can drool over b.psalteries to your heart's content!


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
I recently got a little too busy with all kinds of stuff in my schedule, and I sadly stopped playing my bowed psaltery altogether for about four weeks. I picked it up a couple of nights ago, dreading how i might sound. But NO!- after about five minutes of shaking out the cobwebs, I was almost back where I had left off. What a kind and forgiving instrument it was!I happily played my favorite practice tunes for an hour, and I seem to have wound up pretty much back where I was again. What a relief. Now hopefully I can get back into more regular practice.


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
Suzanne,I think you should talk to our member Tish: http://mountaindulcimer.ning.com/profile/TishWestman She and her husband make wonderful bowed psalteries, and they make smaller ones for beginners as well. http://www.westmaninstruments.com Also, go have a look at Donna Malus' whole other online community just for bowed psalteries! : http://psalterystrings.ning.com/ I don't think you will have a lot of luck just walking into a music store hoping to find one. they are not that common.So, Donna and/or Tish are both very knowledgeable, and they are both members here. They can give you some excellent guidance on getting your mother a well made and lovely psaltery that likely won't break the bank. :)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
I just wanted to mention that one of our members here, Donna Malus, has started a new NING network community just for the bowed psaltery, located here: http://psalterystrings.ning.com/ Great going, Donna! :)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
I practiced again last night after not playing for about 5 days. I noticed a definite improvement! I didn't have as much trouble changing intervals between 3rds and 4ths, which seems to happen a lot in my medieval-y tunes.


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
12 years ago
1,249 posts
Bowed psaltery players are welcomed to join the Rosin the Bow group here at FOTMD. Please feel free to come share your music, ask questions, answer questions. . .Robin
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
Anthony Fama said:
I feel truely blessed to be able to get together almost every Wednesday & play music with my other psaltery friends.
Ooooh, I would love that too! Your psaltery is very very beautiful!Have you ever been able to see or try a 3 octave psaltery? Are they around? Are they too awkward to play?


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Well Walter that is a reallly beautiful psaltery you made...impressive!Today I practiced again. Every time i practice I can hear myself get a tiny bit better. I usually practice for about 20 or 30 minutes.Today I set aside several hours and put all new strings on my 12 yr old B.psaltery. That's 32 strings I changed! ((whew)) But the old ones were all too thin (.009) and they were rusty. It just deserved new ones. The new ones were in three gauges- .010, .011, and .012 for the low strings. James Jones the maker suggested that and sent me a tuning chart to know which strings used which gauges.Frankly, I don't hear a huge difference, but nice shiny new strings are nice to have on anyway. ;)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Here is mine, made by James Jones of VA, 2 2/1 octaves with a redwood top:




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
I just dug out my 12 yr old bowed psaltery last week and am starting to learn to play it now. I wanted to start this thread as a place where others could talk about their bowed psalteries too! I would love to hear about and see other people's BPs. :)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 02/18/19 10:43:53PM