Making a Diatonic Bowed PsalteryThese are plans I had on my first website in 1999, I have converted them to PDF files. They will require a little work to scale to size.
This instrument is one of the easiest bowed instruments to play, and its eerie, icy magical tone is very enchanting, for me it conjures up the time time between autumn and winter, the first frosts, of Christmas and the new year.
This Chromatic version of this Instrument date backs to the 20th century where it was first developed as an easier violin like instrument for children to play in schools. Plans were available in the 1960s from people like Edgar Stahmer in Germany and his friend in England Ronald Roberts who published a book for making musical instruments. In the 1980's and 90's Zachary Taylor made and played and publicized these instruments by making the plans available in magazines and in his book "Making early instruments" The early Music shop in Bradford has also played a big part in the UK by selling instrument and bow kits.
Click here for the Yahoo Bowed Psaltery Forum group for players and makers alike.
Please note I am not currently taking orders for these, however I do have some unfinished instruments to sell as a kit, these were part of a batch of instruments I made 3 years ago.
DevelopmentBroader and shorter in length than the usual Chromatic Bowed Psaltery, with its distinctive Gothic shape, the Diatonic Bowed Psaltery was designed to be a more Harmonious musical instrument, like an irish harp.
The strings are arranged in a fan pattern, this was to make the bowing a little more fluid with the geometry of the human arm. Tuned to a white note scale rather like the old Irish harp, the instrument resonates sympathetically as different combinations are played. As well as being a bowed instrument, this psaltery, like its medieval ancestor, responds well to plucking and also hammering.( see playing notes ) This instrument is suitable for much folk, sacred and early music. The tuning Diatonic in the key of D is : D E F# G A B( bass side) and C# d e f# g a b c# d" e" (Treble) I have made these also in the key of G, C and F.
I designed this instrument in the early 1990's, mainly to play Scottish pipe music (there is a vast repertoire of tunes with nine notes!)
The Diatonic Bowed Psalteries I make now are a little different in detail, I angle my tuning pins now and attach them in the kantele way (midway) though I still make standard Chromatic models with the string going over the top,
**On the plans Ignore the braces, (overkill I feel now) with such a strong frame but if you have a centre joint on the back you can add a capping strip made up from cross grain.
***Please feel free to use these Diatonic Psaltery plans in the spirit of the creative commons licence agreement, If you copy the plans or make and sell these instruments all I ask is that you acknowledge their origin/designer. Thanks!