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 · ·  Bowed Psaltery 




Bowed Psaltery

The bowed psaltery is a twentieth century adaptation of and addition to the family of zithers and other psalteries. It is an isosceles triangular shaped wooden soundbox with unstopped strings over the soundboard leading from a bridge at the shorter base end to the pegs running along either side of the longer sides. It significantly differs from the Mediæval plucked psaltery only in that its strings are arranged to permit bowing allowing each string to extend a little farther than the one before it, so that each can be individually bowed between the pegs. The soundboard has a soundhole or rose in the centre. It is normally played with a small bow, often made in the earlier semicircular style, rather than a modern concave violin bow. The conventional bowed psaltery is triangular in shape. Chromatic bowed psalteries have the sharps and flats on one side and the diatonic notes on the opposite. Mike's is made by Hopf of Germany and has thirty strings in all of which eighteen are naturals and the rest sharps and flats.


In 1925 a German patent was issued to the Clemens Neuber Company for a bowed psaltery which also included a set of strings arranged in chords, so that one could play the melody on the bowed psaltery strings, and strum accompaniment with the other hand. These are usually called violin zithers. After the Second World War, Walter Mittman, a primary school teacher in Westphalia, popularized the conventional triangular bowed psaltery.