Hi.  Newbie here. I'm looking to buy a psaltery. Have my eye on a Unicorn Strings but saw this one on the builder's list from    Cricket Fiddle      It is refurbished but looks nice. 


I see that Unicorn uses two pins/one string ... does  this make it difficult to tune? Any thoughts on these two builders?





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Depends on what you are willing to spend and the sound you prefer.  There are high pitched ones (soprano)

and nice rich low pitched ones (tenor and baritone).  I'm addicted to the lower pitched sounds - which are more like

violin range or lower.  Rick Long makes WONDERFUL low pitched ones.  Will you be playing along with anyone with dulcimers?  If so, something tuned to D would be best.   I would stay away from anything made in Pakistan - as I've heard the pins don't stay in tune well and some require a weird tuning wrench.  If I were only buying ONE and liked lower sound, I'd get a Rick Long regular tenor - tuned to D if you're playing with other instruments.  But I've heard many love their Omega Strings psalteries too.  I don't have one so don't know.    I haven't heard psalteries from all the makers like some have - but you can't go wrong with either of these.  

Thank you Terry for your thoughts. I do ... play the dulcimer ... but am not restricted to D. While I will be playing the psaltery, I have the hopes that my wife will find the joy of music in a shared instrument and I will have a partner to make music with.


So if a psaltery is tuned to D is that the first note of it's scale?

Not sure on that one.  The dots on C psalteries are usually on the Cs and Gs.  On a D psaltery they would be on the Ds and As.  The C and the F on the right side would be tuned to C# and F# and then the plain C and F would be on the left side of the psaltery.  It's like playing in the key of C on a piano and not needing to use the black keys much.  If a psaltery is TUNED to D you are mostly playing on the right side of your psaltery if your song is in the key of D.  Great if you're playing along with dulcimer music, hammered dulcimers and many music CDs.  Seems a lot of my music I like is in D.   Psalteries start at different notes depending on how many strings.  Personally, I now prefer psalteries with at least 30 strings.  That gives you a lower range of notes and enough notes that double bowing is more possible later.    That's why a tenor is pretty neat.  Listen to some of my videos I've posted.  I play mostly tenor and baritone and you can get an idea for sound.  For that matter there are MANY videos posted by members and you can see which psalteries you like that way.   Hope this helps.  Rick Long makes a D tenor but that wouldn't be the best for an all around psaltery - as you'd be limited to ONLY D songs.  A regular tenor tuned to D gives you more possibilities for playing in other keys too.  Hope this helps some.  Ask if you have any other questions.  If I don't know the answers, others undoubtedly will.  BTW - I've only been playing psaltery since last Sept.  but I play a LOT.
Playing a lot will do it. I watched all the videos on your page. Impressive. You play with confidence. I agree I like the lower tones as well, but just getting my feet wet. I'm trying to keep my self in a budget. Hard times stay away from my door. I'm using the excuse of an upcoming birthday.  Maybe later down the road.
I had to save up for my baritone that way.   My other one is a no name one I found on ebay.  I restrung that one with wound strings to lower the sound and it needed some other tweaking but sounded OK after some work.   Someday - I hope to save enough for one of Rick's tenors though.

Hi John!   There's nothing like having someone to play music with so I hope it works out that way for you and your wife.

Wow, so much to say about buying a psaltery. I have seen and played a Unicorn and they are nice instruments, I personally don't care for the way they string their instruments though. I like one string to one pin. That psaltery on cricket fiddle does look well made, but I can't speak to what it might sound like though I suspect it would be just fine. 

Our member, Gene Griner is selling a Unicorn, here's the link to his page, you can take a look if you like http://psalterystrings.ning.com/profile/GeneGriner?xg_source=profil...

Terry is right, which psaltery is right for you depends on a lot of things including personal taste. Like Terry I love the lower tones but I do enjoy switching back and forth from wound to plain strings. I think wound strings are ever so slightly harder to play, but you can get the lower tones on a much smaller psaltery using them. Omega psalteries have low tones but use plain strings. They are fairly large psalteries but are supposed to sound fabulous, one day I'll get my hands on one : )

I also agree about 30 strings, I find I like at least 2.5 octaves, with 2 I can play most of my songs but not always in the key I like and for some tunes I just need more than 2 octaves. When you get into three octaves the psaltery gets pretty big, but 2.5 is still very nicely sized.

I suggest you set a price limit first and then just start to browse the various web sites. You may fall in love with a design or wood on one and that will be that. If not, find the psalteries in your price range and then compare their note range. I wanted something with the lowest note below middle C and had set a price range. The only one with my note and price range requirements was built by Eric Meier of Phantasy Psalteries. I love it and have never regretted that purchase for a second. Sadly Eric is not building psalteries any longer, at least not at this time.

I have 8 psalteries....that may qualify me as an official hoarder...from 6 different builders. There is only one I wouldn't recommend, all the rest are wonderful instruments that I would recommend to anyone. Eric Meier (should he start building again) Rick Long of Ringing Strings, Greg and Tish Westman, Inspired Instruments, Tom Fellenbaum....all great instruments/builders and I would recommend any of their work. I"m sure there are a lot more great builders, I just haven't experienced their psalteries. 

I probably just made things more confusing for you, but look around, sleep on it and look a bit more. If you have more questions please ask, we are all happy to give our opinions    and share our info.


I understand about hording. In the dulcimer world we refer to it as D.A.D (dulcimer acquisition disease)  I have (ahem) 13 dulcimers. I know of one gentleman that got rid of a hundred from his collection to keep his wife. I've even done cartoons on the subject.


Maybe I'll e-mail the Cricket Fiddle builder and see how they string their instruments.

Thanks for your input.

Followed both of your advice ... and heave been looking at  videos and other sites. Found this one with an alto in my budget by James Jones. Any thoughts?



Case is separate and shipping charges for the psaltery on top of that.  Sound is OK.  I don't care for the 

looks of the bow but that's a personal preference.  I've had four kinds and LOVE my slender, light weight, Rick Long bows.  I have 4 of them - 2 in each size.  But you can switch bows later on easily.  Of the available $250 altos, #4 and #5 sound the most appealing.  Walnut backs and redwood tops.  That's a nice   sound combination usually.  

I was looking at that Cricket Fiddle Psaltery again....it's 30 strings and I like the note range....that wooden case would cost if you were to buy one...can't tell much about the bow, but you can get another bow....

It has a distinct personality with that sound hole....

just thinking out loud

The Cricket Fiddle one does have possibilities.  Not a bad price - not sure about shipping charges.  Nice it has the case and tuning wrench.   Too bad you can't listen to it.

Just heard from the builder at Cricket Fiddle. He seems very nice and upfront. He wrote:

"Also want to point out that the poor old thing has had an active life and has acquired, over the years, several tiny (and barely perceptible) cosmetic flaws. The soundboard has some discoloration on it too."


He sent me more than a few pictures to show the flaws, There is a gouge by the sound hole.


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