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Psaltery Facts

Psaltery Facts

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

Fun Fact
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
Fine Art Reproduction on Canvas

King David Playing a PsalteryKing David Playing a Psaltery

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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Psaltery Facts

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Roosebeck Alto Rounded Psaltery

Product details:

  • 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

Roosebeck Alto Rounded Psaltery for Right Handed PlayersRoosebeck Alto Rounded Psaltery for Right Handed PlayersPsaltery Rosette DetailPsaltery Rosette Detail

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Psaltery Facts

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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.


End Date: Saturday Nov-11-2017 11:17:26 PST
Buy It Now for only: $20.80
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song of the wood Psaltery

End Date: Thursday Oct-26-2017 11:26:45 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $169.99
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End Date: Thursday Nov-2-2017 5:13:30 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $18.91
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World Famous Luthier (William Rees of Rising Sun IN)made Psaltery w/ Wolf design

End Date: Monday Nov-6-2017 14:45:01 PST
Buy It Now for only: $200.00
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James Jones Alto Psaltery

$49.99 (0 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday Oct-25-2017 18:20:30 PDT
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