The bowed psaltery is a musical instrument that is relatively recent in origination, although it has very distant historical cousins that disappeared from view many centuries ago. The form that uses the bow is related to violins and similar instruments, but the plucked form is more obvious in historical documents and images. The musical device is easy to transport and small to handle. It can be home constructed by relatively inexperienced musicians with a desire to own a musical device.
Psalteries in the bowed form are different from the instrument by the similar name of plucked psalter. A bowed device similar to today's version has been compared to the violin zither. Other bowed devices from the 20th century include some sold for their similarity to Hawaiian music sounds. One brand name is the Ukelin. Some instruments which may have links to the modern bow performance device are the Orrota, bowed rote and Welsh crwth. A German schoolteacher may be the first to be officially recognized as the creator of the modern instrument.
The standard shape is an isosceles triangle with a series of strings, each one extending a little farther than the previous one. Each string can be thus individually bowed. A chromatic psaltery has diatonic notes on one side and the flats and sharps on the other.
The music is performed by drawing a small bow across the narrow end of the triangle and strings. Bows are shaped either in the older semicircular style or in the modern shape. Today's bow is more like a concave construction. The selection of which shape to use will depend upon the performer's preference.
Performing using the instrument is done in several manners. You could hold it with one hand and use the bow in the opposite hand, similar to the way you would play instruments in the violin family. Some performers place the psalter flat and use a double bow approach. The performer can use a bow in each hand or both in the same hand. Other ways to obtain music is to strike the strings, strum or pluck the strings.
The sound of bows on the wire strings has been described as medieval. This sound makes it a popular instrument to play with ensemble groups of true medieval instruments. Those who enjoy this type of music can learn to play relatively easy, and participate with groups if preferred.
Construction kits are available for those individuals who want to build their own instruments. The elements are easy to find. You can also find quality instruments for sale online or in some music outlets. The traditional element of the sound board is an open rose. Although the design is simple, the look of the wood makes for an elegant appearance.
When you are looking for a musical instrument that has good portability and is attractive to look at, the bowed psaltery is a preferred choice for many. It is simple to learn, yet can have a range of sounds that range from medieval to modern. As one of the few truly 20th century instruments to be developed, its roots still can be found in devices that disappeared from view more than ten centuries ago.
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