I have just added five videos showing a tenor bowed psaltery played along with an Appalachian dulcimer and an upright bass.  We have played together a few times in the last year.  Our first jam for the three of us was at the Cumberland Gap rv campground.  We just all happened to be staying there in Oct. 2010.  It is lots of fun to play with Terry and Jim, and I really enjoy it.  I had played with Terry for years and met him when he was in the process of building a home in VA, close to Cumberland Gap.  We seemed to be able to play well together and liked a lot of the same tunes.  I first met Jim at Terry's dulcimer festival the second weekend in May every year.  Jim is a very solid bass player and keeps great timing.  It's a pleasure to jam with them.

I play a tenor psaltery that I have converted to play in the key of D.  It is a little more advanced than the D Tenor with notes only along one side.  The D chromatic also has all the half steps in the scale along the left.  A simple way of putting it is, imagine you could put a capo on a bowed psaltery to raise the pitch one whole key, from C to D, similar to what you can do on a guitar, playing the same chord patterns, but in a different key. 

It works very well to play with dulcimers in the key of D.  The best part is being able to double bow playing a melody with my right bow and a harmony or drones with my left.  A feat that is pretty much impossible on a C Chromatic, without ending up with your bows crossed up most of the time, reaching across to the left for the C# and F# notes you need..  I'm not saying it can't be done, I just know I couldn't do it.  The times the dulcimer players go to the key of G, I still have the C natural I need on the left side.  I have just found the majority of tunes played at a dulcimer jam to be in D.

I have only built three like this, two were converted from my standard tenor model, and Terry Butler's was built from scratch for this purpose.  Just a little more explanation of what Terry is referring to, when whe writes of the D Chromatic.

Just another example of how versatile the bowed psaltery can be, with a little thinking outside the box.  I don't ever say something "can't be done", just that I need to experiment to find out for myself.

Please be aware that you can't just tune your standard psaltery up a whole step without breaking a bunch of strings.  There have to be some modifications made to allow that to happen.

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What I love most about the D chromatic is you can play a song the same way on the D as you would on the C without having to  learn how to play it with the sharps on the left.  No relearning anything.  You're just instantly  in the key of D and can play along with Dulcimers easily.  I find a LOT of music on CDs is played in D too.  

Sounds great Rick!  Have you ever done a tenor with the 'Irish' D/G tuning we worked out for my soprano (the diatonic with C nat and C# both on the right side)?  The soprano works very well for the purpose, but a tenor would be nice too.


P.S.  Has anyone else ever ordered that tuning, or is my instrument still unique?

Thanks Tim.  Your Irish D/G psaltery is still a one of a kind and very much unique.  A tenor version would work with two additional strings added to give you the two C natural notes you would need in the two and one half octave.  I think it would be a minor change from a standard D Tenor, if there's enough room to fit the two extra tuning pins.  Email me if you want to discuss more details on it.

All too technical for my brain to wrap around.  You and Rick would have fun discussing interesting modifications.  He's always figuring ways to modify psalteries.  He has one baritone he's fitted with bass notes (cello strings) along the left side of the instrument.  Lots of extra bracing for that.  I just play the psalteries and leave the technical stuff to others.  

Hi Jeremy, Tim's D/G psaltery doesn't exactly fit into scordatura, or alternative tuning (I had to look that one up).  The design for it was basically a modification of my little D psaltery.  That modification required the addition two extra hitch pins and tuning pins.  This added a C natural between the B and the C#.  Being a whistle player, this made perfect sense to him, and a quick way to play in either of the two keys.  

I love the idea of the concert harp semitone fork.  I could envision the two pins being more like rods across the entire surface of the strings, just in front of the bridge.  Maybe even a separate fork on each side to connect the rods would give enough pressure to eliminate any buzz.  The adjustment would be critical to eliminate any need for retuning when moving from one key to the next.  This would be limited of course, by the space between the bridge And the shortest string.  I can see it working great for changing keys between C and D.  

I have always joked that no one makes a bowed psaltery capo, maybe in a limited sense it would be possible.  

Not really overkill if you have ever experienced playing at a dulcimer jam and 90% of the songs are in the key of D.  This is especially significant when you love to double bow and play melody/harmony at the same time.  Terry definitely knows what I'm talking about here.  She took to that style of playing quicker than anyone I've seen, even me.  This is hard to do on a standard chromatic psaltery when you are constantly having to reach across for the C# and F# you need.

I don't want to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, but there's a backstory to the Irish diatonic psaltery.

I had worked with David Lynch (aka Harpmaker) on just the idea we're discussing. We were attempting to adapt the folk harp's sharping-lever concept to the BP. After more than a year's effort, numerous prototypes, and several hundred wasted dollars, we had to give up the idea. Adding harp technology to the bowed psaltery is one of those things that really sounds like a good idea. The bowed psaltery is actually a zither, and we needed to think in zither terms.

The funny part is that just as we abandoned hope I stumbled across the new Ringing Strings site where Rick Long had introduced his D chromatic and diatonic instruments.  The solution to my problem was obvious:  Start with a diatonic in D,add two extra strings tuned to C natural, and just skip over them for tunes in D.  Thus the "Irish diatonic" was born. 

That's the great thing about discussions like this.  Bouncing ideas about can lead to something very new, and just a slight tweak of an idea can be very big coming up with the perfect solution.  

Heck, even a misunderstood idea or concept could lead to something of value when looked at from all angles and each person's perspective.  

The internal workings of my psalteries came from an idea that is used on other instruments, but wouldn't work on a bowed psaltery, the first trials went really sour.  A modification through several experiments proved it worthy enough to me to incorporate it into all the psalteries I build.  It was more trial and error, but it really paid off in that instance.


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