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"In the 20th Century, the bowed psaltery has come into wide use. It is set up in a triangular format so that the end portion of each string can be bowed."

Have electric versions been produced?

RE: Certainly they have, as one could determine with a quick Google search, but it seems not on a mass-production level, unsurprisingly. (talk) 01:19, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

Could anyone elaborate on the uses of the psaltery as it relates to the music theory of the medieval period (c.100-1377)? Was it used mainly in secular music accompaniment or did it eventually enter sacred music during the time of Machaut or the Notre Dame School? Any other specifics about the role of the psaltery in medieval music, like its place in the rhythmic modes or isorhythmic structures would be appreciated. Thanks. 23:41, 15 February 2006 (UTC)


The merge was requested for the following reasons:

hammered dulcimer and psaltery... in the first page's discussion there are propositions for merge with dulcimer or with cymbalum, that are completely different instruments... while "psaltery" is exactly the same thing (notice that in many languages they have the same name, and in English the choice between the words "psaltery" and "hammered dulcimer" usually depends only from the geographic location or from use - picking strings or hitting with small hammers). Toobaz —Preceding unsigned comment added by Leviel (talkcontribs) 09:57, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

I definitely see no reason to merge these two articles—psalteries and hammered dulcimers are very different instruments. Psalteries are not played with hammers, and thus could not be said to be "hammered dulcimers" at all.  –Benjamin  Texas 02:29, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Hammer dulcimers and psaltries are different, they sound different, look different, are played differently! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:27, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

These are different instruments. Though perhaps related, there's no more reason to merge these than there would be to merge banjo and guitar (for example). Dsreyn 13:03, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

yes, there is no reason to merge, two extreamly diffrent instuments. 15:40, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

I received a note on my talk page [1], detailing the reasons against merging. There appears to be a clear consensus against merging. If there are no further objections, I'll remove the merge tag in a day or two. Personally I see no reason to merge; these seem to be very different subjects. --Fang Aili talk 19:32, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

"The Psaltery as a form"[edit]

The section below was added to the article, but is perhaps more of a talk page discussion, so I have moved it here - not sure if it's any use or not. Rob (talk) 00:58, 9 January 2011 (UTC)


The above article refers to the Greek origin of the name, from a translation of "plucked". That could cover a myriad of instruments, but it is the name that has come down to us in history for a particular one. The stringed instruments are of three classes (neglecting the "gut bucket"). Two classes have fixed strings with a string for each ounote, they are the zither and harp groups. The other group is that of the "stopped" or "necked" instruments, commonly called the lute group. These latter include the guitar, violin, lute and all others where the note can be changed by pressure on the string.

The harp and the zither group are separated by the way the strings are mounted. On the harp the string pulls directly away from the soundboard, whereas in the zither group the strings are parallel to the soundboard and cross a bridge that is mounted on the soundboard. It is here we separate the ancient nomenclature and get into the woods. The harp and the "zither form" and the necked/stopped instruments are seen in Babylonian carvings and Egyptian tomb paintings - they are all ancient. But in the Greek and Roman culture the harp disappears in representations, and the stopped instrument is rare. The Greek Kithera is the heir of the psaltery, and the zither is the heir of the name.

In Grout's treatise on the history of music the psaltery is referred to as sometimes plucked, but mainly hammered, in medieval times. The parallel between the psaltery and the hammered dulcimer has been noted, and in the Illustrated History of Instruments there are baroque psalteries shown with the double bridges of the hammered dulcimer, the strings passing over and under to make the separate courses.

A personal note, as one who has played both hammered dulcimer and psaltery, the word dulcimer implies "sweet". I was very surprised to find that when I hammered my psaltery the sound was sweeter, i.e., softer, than when I plucked it. The mountain, or Appalachian, dulcimer is in the group of stopped instruments - yet is a dulcimer. The obvious conclusion is that dulcimer is merely a word for the sweeter playing instrument, rather than a category.

The bowed psaltery is a modern invention, as noted in the initial article. It is a psaltery in that it could be plucked - but is played with a bow which wasn't possible in previous designs.

In summary, there is no such single instrument as a psaltery in history - the lyre with its open arc of stings is more a psaltery than a harp, as the strings cross a bridge on the soundboard. From the musical point of view the zither, psaltery, lyre, kithera and the rest of the bridged stringed instruments are of a group. The harps are another group, as there is more resonance of the sympathetic strings through the tensioned soundboard. The lute group has another quite different sound, whether bowed like the violin or plucked like the guitar. It is not the method of sound production (bow, finger, plectrum, or hammer) that defines the instrument - it is the form of transmission. The harp transmits from the strings to the air, with the fullness coming from the sympathetic strings. The psaltery, and lyre and dulcimer, make more uses of the body as a sounding device. The violin, lute and guitar group are the ultimate in using the body of the instrument to send the music. JWM

Bowed Psaltery as a 20th Century Invention[edit]

This seems to be the prevailing haughty wisdom on Wikipedia, but Groves (psaltery, section 3. Baroque, classical, and modern by Beryl Kenyon de Pascual) mentions a large body of baroque and classical works for "psaltery with bowed strings." Wiki also neglects to cite any sources for the claim other than discussing the 20th century patent for such things on Bowed Psaltery; keep in mind the patent system is a mess and rarely indicates innovation outside of pharmacology.

Please clear this up. (talk) 01:20, 2 January 2013 (UTC)