Bowed Psaltery friends,

I have a commission to build a Bass Bowed Psaltery, something I've never built.  What are the approximate dimensions?  The one I saw in a YouTube video looks about 36" tip to base, and maybe 10-12" at the base.

Also, what strings do you use to get that low-low bass sound?  

Do you use regular psaltery pins, or heftier piano pins, like the 5/0 (.296)?

I'm planning to use Purple Heart side rails and pin block, with a nice soft wood soundboard and back.

Thanks in advance.


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James Jones (James Jones Instruments-- his URL is on this site) has recently built me a bass bowed psaltery that is nearly 4 feet long, and nearly 15 inches at the base.  The range tops out at E5 and goes down to D2.  (I use  my son's cello bow on the lowest notes).

Ive only been playing this for a couple of weeks. (I had a soprano several years ago.)  So I am still trying to get the hang of the lower strings, but the tone is pretty amazing to my ears. 

I'd suggest reaching out to him and seeing if he's comfortable sharing the  specifics-- he struck me as the kind  of person that would not mind offering his experience.  The version I have is a variant of this monster:

I asked hm to do a variant which leaves off some of the upper strings, but goes down to D2.    I use a keyboard stand to hold it up when I am playing. It also has a built-in pickup for recording.

Hope this is of some help.


 Hello Alan, I am not a Bowed Psaltery builder but avid Bowed Psalterist and have some interest in how your instrument turns out. Some things to think about: If you look at Canadian group "Winter Hawk's" Youtube videos their Cello sized BP has a built for it weighted base that screws on and off for transit but allows the instrument to stand on its own. An option to consider is equipping your BP with the retractable stand they use on Cellos, now a days Master Works and other BP builders put in a single screw mount in the back so you can put it on a tripod on an instrument as big as your planning if you were to put in three, one on each corner, then adjustable camera monopoles, but back to playing in the cello position, put one of those screw mounts in the base of the pin block back from the tuning pins would facilitate what ever kind cello position mount the BP owner desired. Some larger BPs I've seen tried to keep going up higher and shorter, no, concentrate on the mellower lower notes a cello provides. Another issue, rail pin placement: The two options are 1. Like Omega Strings and some other builders have your rail pins further apart getting closer together higher up? Or 2. what is called "Equidistant", like my Dave Lucas built BP and most other builders. For to many reasons to go into I prefer evenish rail pins for sliding thru notes and other stuff that 1. doesn't work as well for. I have seen and tried out a few wound stringed BPs and noticed they have a tendency to ring on the higher octave accidentally, Rick Long built at least one big BP using flat wound string which did improve sound. I think regular size but long not short zither pins will work, your not going to put whatever strings up to that kind of tension. I'm attaching here a recent video that includes a good look at one of the Japanese Cello size BPs........


Featured Video

Amplified Psaltery with Cello Strings built by Rick Long

This video is a personal favorite because it shows a unique type of bowed psaltery with a gorgeous sound. When I heard it I broke out in goose bumps!

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Clergy's Lamentation




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Members who build bowed psalteries for sale

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to see his work visit

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Karla plays a variety of instruments and does workshops as well. Please visit her web site for additional information or contact her via the web site or the information below.
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