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Psaltery

The Pasltery is an ancestor of the Zither and is one of those stringed instruments which has strings stretched over the body (rather than up a neck like a Guitar or through the air to a frame like a Harp). The Psaltery is fretless and is strung with one string per note typically in a two or two and a half octave range.

It is chromatic with the 'white notes' on the right and the 'black notes' on the left. The shape is (nowadays) normally triangular and the playing technique is by plucking or bowing.

Also known as a saltere and by various derivations of both names, it is an ancient instrument which has travelled and evolved much over the centuries. There may have been two forms or two similar instruments - an Eastern one which arrived via Turkey and a Greek one which at some point fused into one instrument. The Psaltery arrived in the courts of Europe and stayed until ousted by Keyboard instruments from the later middle ages.

Strings became doubled, trebled and even quadrupled and the shape changed through square to trapezoidal, semi-circular or wing shaped. It was played with the fingers or a quill plectrum and may also have been bowed. The instrument gave rise to the Zither and thence the Autoharp and Appalachian Dulcimer.

Bowed Psaltery

psalteryThe bowed psaltery is a popular modern 'revival' instrument and by all accounts relatively easy to play.
The special short bow is played between the pegs of each note requiring rapid movements along the length of the instrument as melodies are played.