The psaltery is a stringed musical instrument belonging to the zither family. Psalteries are often depicted in the manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures of 12th to 15th century Europe. The psalteries of Ancient Greece resembled small harps. Modern psalteries are based on the guitar zither and the autoharp.
Psalteries have appeared in a variety of forms and styles throughout history. On the earlier instruments that resembled harps, the strings were plucked. On subsequent versions, the strings could either be struck or bowed.
The bowed psaltery was introduced in the early 20th century and is the style most frequently seen and played today. Modern psalteries are triangular in shape, played with a bow, with strings running down both sides of the soundboard. This unique triangular shape allows the end portion of each string to be bowed.
Here’s another great thing about modern bowed psalteries. You don’t need to learn fingering positions. Each string produces a single note. The bow plays just one note at a time, so the psaltery is primarily a melody instrument. Its haunting sound is well suited to folk songs, hymns, and carols.
More Psaltery Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a psalterist.
Notable psalterists include Satis Coleman, James Jones, Rick Long, Lowell Mason, Eric Meier, Donna Missigman, Ann Tucker, and George James Webb.
King David Playing a Psaltery
Girolamo Da Santa Croce
Listen to the Bowed Psaltery
Introduction by James Jones
James Jones has been building custom musical instruments in his rural Bedford, Virginia shop since 1978. He produces an entire line of fine string instruments, including bouzoukis, hammered dulcimers, Appalachian dulcimers, harps, mandolins, zithers–and of course, psalteries. Visit his website, James Jones Instruments to see what’s available now. This introduction to the instrument is played on one of his 2-1/2 octave alto bowed psalteries.
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Roosebeck Alto Rounded Psaltery
- Spruce soundboard on a body of sheesham wood
- Single sound hole features an intricately carved sheesham rosette
- 30 strings, ranging from F4 to Bb6
- Includes psaltery bow, natural rosin, tuning tool
- Overall dimensions: 7.2 inches (W) x 20.2 inches (L)
- Longest string length: 13 inches
- Ideal instrument for anyone interested in learning music
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Keep an eye on this automatically updating gallery of psalteries and accessories available on eBay. Find bargains on all kinds of stringed instruments including psalteries.
Since 2012 Baltic Psalteries has manufactured more than 2,000 unique handcrafted instruments. Sharing music is a passion–more than 200 psalteries have been donated to orphanages, music institutions, and large families.
Our psalteries are designed for both professional musicians as well as people with no special musical education. We have had some fabulous reviews from folk groups and famous musicians.
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- 1 Psaltery Facts
- 2 More Psaltery Facts
- 3 King David Playing a Psaltery
- 4 Listen to the Bowed Psaltery
- 5 We Love Psalteries
- 6 Shop for the Best Psaltery Gifts
- 7 Find a Psaltery Online
- 8 Psaltery Deals Online
- 9 Baltic Psalteries
- 10 Shop for Psaltery Gifts
- 11 Shop for Psalteries and Accessories
- 12 Explore String Kings Music