First my disclaimer: I have never built any Bowed Psalteries, I am just an avid BP player and sometimes a luthier groupie! I have however adjusted the pins, strung, and restrung hundreds of Bowed Psalteries new and old. I see older BP's that had wound strings put on them. Often the wound on wire has worn to breaking and unraveling where it goes over the top of the rail pin. If you look at an AutoHarp you will see they have the wrapping stop before the core sting goes over the bridges to avoid this problem. The Violin/Viol families use FLAT wound string. Regular wound string made for plucked instruments end up sounding more raspy or "wiry" and often when bowed actually resonate one octave higher. Now a days very expensive flat wound strings are available for Guitar and Mandolin you might give a try.

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Comment by Gregg E. Schneeman & Jean Gaffey on March 27, 2015 at 9:33am

  I didn't mean to leave the impression I thought regular wound string didn't work at all. The Bowed Dulcimer players such as Ken Bloom bow on regular wound strings with complete satisfaction. There are a lot of Cello sized Bowed Psalteries out there that wouldn't work at all without  wound strings. Besides flat wound intended for violin they make it and a hexagonal wrap for acoustic guitars that would probably work better but once again just adds extra expense. 

Comment by robert schuler on March 26, 2015 at 10:07am
Wouldn't it be nice if D'Addario sold helicore violin strings unfinished in 100 ft long rolls... Bob.
Comment by Charlie Marshall on March 26, 2015 at 8:01am
Gregg,

Ricks comments reflect many of the same experiences I had when I tested some flat wound strings that I used on my fiddle. The flat wound strings just didn't work plus good they are generally more expensive.

One of important detail that you don't want to overlook when cutting the groove in the hitch pin tops is to make sure that the string's windings don't open up where the string goes over the pin. This isn't usually a problem with small diameter wound strings but as you move up in string sizes, the windings can open up at the pin if the string makes tight bend. This can make the bow hang-up on the string as it slides over the top of the pin.
Comment by Rick Long on March 25, 2015 at 5:51pm

Hi Gregg,  I can offer some knowledge from my experiences using wound strings on bowed psalteries.  The first time tried wound strings on a bowed psaltery was 20 years ago.  I started experimenting with larger psalteries and ended up spending quite a bit of time, and a moderate amount of money, in this work.  I chalk it up as part of my education.  In my experience, round wound strings work the best.  I spent some money on flat wound strings to try.  You are right, they are expensive.  I also thought like you, since flat wounds are used on instruments in the violin family, they should work great on a bowed psaltery.  Boy was I ever wrong, disappointed, and puzzled by the poor sound.  A great big screechy mess, is a good description.  I don't have an answer as to why they didn't work.  I feel like it has a lot to do with how closely we are forced to bow the string to the end of the vsl, when playing the bowed psaltery.  Someone that has a violin may be able to answer these questions.  When you bow the strings really close to the bridge, no more than a half inch, do all four strings ring clear and sound good?  Do the wound strings screech and the non-wound sound the note more clearly?  If they sound bad, how far away do you have to move from the bridge to get good clear notes?  I have not tried this, but it would be interesting to know.

I haven't had trouble with the wound strings windings breaking at the hitch pin.  I have always rounded the notch I grind into the pin, so that bend is not as severe as it would be only on the top.  That's not to say this doesn't ever occur.  I can see that as a sign it is time to replace your strings.

I also experimented with removing the winding from the string, where it crosses the bridge and back to the tuning pin, as you see on autoharps and many other plucked zither instruments.  In my experience, the string would not play when bowed.  You could pluck it, and make it vibrate, the bow just made it squeak.  That may be another instance where, being forced to play close to one end of the vsl, was causing the problem.

I know that wound strings are not to everyone's liking.  I am a fan, but also just as much a fan of good old tinned music wire.  Different qualities of sound, but also require a bit of difference in bowing technique to get the optimum tone. 

 

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