I just finished hammering out the details of a 'new' design for the psaltery with Rick Long of Ringing Strings.  It's a small soprano instrument that has a couple of neat features.


Based on Rick's popular chromatic and diatonic instruments that he designed to play easily with mountain dulcimers, this new model features 17 strings all along one side only that are tuned in a modified diatonic scale:


B C C# D E F# G a b c c# d e f# g a' b'


Note the C natural hidden in the middle of the scale.  The instrument is tuned in fundamental D major with three additional notes below the tonic D and extends a further octave and a half to high b'.  The C natural "odd ball' string allows the instrument to play the same scales as the Irish tin whistles or Irish flutes that play in D.  It can play in D major, G major, E minor and a modal scale of A.  It is also similar to the 'half frets' of the mountain dulcimer so that it can play along with dulcimers without having to reach over to the other side.  This arrangement of strings should allow for a very fast psaltery that is ideal for the Irish repertoire.


For anyone unfamiliar with Rick and Ringing Strings, know that he is a very innovative thinker who really understands the psaltery.  And he's a great guy to work with to boot!

Views: 470

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Rick is using a maple body with a Sitka spruce top. The bow will be matching maple. Eric Meier at Phantasy used that combination for my chromatic to get a very violin-like tone and limited sustain. Because the idea is to play fast paced tunes, I wanted as little sustain as possible.

I don't have what it takes to post pics and videos, but I'm hoping Rick will put those up here when it's done.

No, I'm not that Tim Smith, but I've been mistaken for him before. He has a cool site.

I just received the new Irish psaltery, and I'm very pleased with it. It drives exactly as the theory said it should, and of course, Rick's craftsmanship is superb. Although it is designed to mimic the scale combinations of the Irish tin whistle, the C natural addition also mimics the 6-1/2 fret of the mountain dulcimer, and is a further modification of Rick's diatonic D psaltery he designed for that job. So whistle players now have a psaltery that they can play at the crazy fast tempos of Celtic music and dulcimer players have another option for a D psaltery.

Came with a lovely matching trad bow, a very nice padded case, rosin, extra wire, a tuning wrench, and Rick's DVD and ample documentation.

I hope Rick was able to get a couple of pictures to post here. Sorry gang, but I'm technology deprived. I barely know how to post on the forum!
Oh, Tim, you have to post pictures! Rick, did you take any?
I took some pics before packing it up for shipment. I'll post them here when I can dig out my camera from the Mississippi trip. This is the first diatonic psaltery I have made with spruce and maple. All light colors and I really like the look. I like the term "Irish psaltery". I'm not a whistle player, so it was a little difficult for me at first. I still found I could play it with the markings to help me avoid the C natural and I understand it will give the option to go between the keys of D and G easily. A double black dot at the C natural helps you avoid or use it depending on the key. It's always fun to try something new. Keeps my old brain percolating.
Will you be playing with one bow or two?
Hi Dave,

Because Irish traditional music (reels, jigs, hornpipes, etc.) focuses primarily on melody, I'll be using one bow predominantly. The instrument is also physically small and - at least this prototype - doesn't have a tripod socket (perhaps Rick may find a way to incorporate one if there is interest in the instrument). All my double-bow playing is done on larger, mounted,tenor size chromatics. The main idea behind the modified diatonic scale was to make the instrument fast enough without two bows by eliminating the need to reach over to the chromatics.

But I see no reason two bows wouldn't work. I'll probably do that eventually, but this thing is fast! It also has very limited sustain from the spruce/maple combination so that you can move like a bandit without getting the old 'piano-with-the-pedal-down' effect.

I'd love to hear Celeste Ray get her hands on one of these!
I just wanted to add a couple of things.

First, I suppose I shouldn't really call this a 'new' psaltery. Diatonic psalteries have been around a long time. This is just a diatonic with a special scale. Calling it a new kind of psaltery was just an interest-generating thread title.

I have to say that I'm so impressed with Rick's work and the Ringing Strings' product, that I've ordered a matching soprano chromatic from him. If you haven't checked out Ringing Strings, you're missing out. Rick's construction techniques are quite different from many luthiers, and his instruments bring some interesting characteristics to the instrument. I've played psalteries from a number of makers, and each bring something unique to the mix. I wish I could afford to have them all!!!
I finally got my camera unpacked. Here's a front and back view of Tim's new psaltery.

Beautiful simple lines RIck! Now it's up to Tim to record something and post it here. : ) You can do it Tim!
Sadly Donna, I can't. I've never gotten into home recording and have no technology at all for it. All the CDs I've done with my partner have been recorded in studios by people way smarter than me.

That looks familiar! 

Nicely done!

Leah D

Hi Leah!


Familiar?  How so??


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!

Featured Song

Click on the title for the current
featured sheet music!

Clergy's Lamentation




What is Psaltery Strings worth to you?
A dollar a month?
Your help to offset the cost of keeping our Community alive is appreciated.

Thank you.



Members who build bowed psalteries for sale

Spring Creek Psalteries - Sharon & Terry Kirby



From the Wood - Wayne Gaydos



to see his work visit


Waynie Psaltery - Wayne Simms



Prairie Psaltery - Richard Celata



Loon Song Psalteries-Charlie Marshall



New Tradition Dulcimers- Dan Daniels



Psalteries by Dave- Dave Lucas  



Jon Williams Psalteries
(386) 853-0944

Westman Instruments - Tish & Greg Westman

Ringing Strings - Rick Long

Michael J King Instrumetns - Diatonic Psalteries

Inspired Instruments – Carol and Joe Esch

James Jones Instruments

Omega Strings – Richard Spencer

Master Works Bowed Psalteries - Russell Cook

Members that teach Bowed Psaltery

Paul G.Sykes - MS  

Located in Hattiesburg
Contact Paul at

or call him at



Gregg Schneeman - California
Contact Gregg here on Psaltery Strings


Peter Tommerup - California
San Francisco Bay Area
Bowed Psaltery and other Instruments


Celeste Howard Ray
Bowed Psaltery lessons via Skype
Skype name celesteray88


Maureen Barnes - Illinois
Bowed Psaltery lessons in Bloomington, IL


Dona Benkert -

Lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL
Phone: 773.728.6000
& Folk-Lore Center, Warrenville, IL
Phone: 630.393.1247

Tish Westman - West Virginia
Lessons at Tamarack, Beckley, WV. Wednesday workshops also available for individual classes and to teach at festivals.
Sunday "Jam" 3:30 to 6:00. All instruments welcome, play mostly Old Time, Celtic & Gospel Music, not opposed to trying any tune called, once did a rap on Bowed Psalteries.

Rick Long - Tennessee
Lessons at Rick's home/workshop in Clinton, 30 mins N of Knoxville
(865) 660-4026

Karla Armstrong - Pennsylvania
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.
(717) 632-8099

Carol Esch - Kentucky
Lessons in Carol's home/workshop south of Lexington.

Honey Smith Walls - Florida
e-mail Honey for more info honey@offthewalls.us
Melbourne, FL

Visit Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Please sign up on the bowed psaltery players list

Tish's list is a valuable resource when searching for other players. http://www.westmaninstruments.com/Bowed_Psaltery_List.html

If you are already on Tish's list, why don't you stop in and update your info? While your there take a look to see if there are new players in your area. Who knows, you might get together and make a recording.

© 2022   Created by Donna Malus.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

To add a scrolling message to your NingBar, change this text, and add the code to your Custom Code Box. If you want, you can add simple links like this: Visit JenSocial This is a great way to make announcements to your site visitors.