I have just finished building my first psaltery and being a bit impatient I quickly made a bow with 2 thin pieces of pine laminated to form an arch and strung it with 40 strands of 8lb fishing line.

Bearing in mind that I have never played any bowed instrument before (in fact I have never played any instrument) I was surprised bow well the bow worked although it doesn't seem to hold the rosin very well.

I have now  ordered some horsehair & started on another bow.

The picture shows the new bow roughed out at the bottom. it is made from obeche with a thin strip of ash laminated on for strength.

My question is how tight should you aim for when puting the hair on? should I put it on as tight as possible? I can adjust the amount of flex in the bow by taking some wood of the inside or outside of the curve but I assume the natural hair won't have the stretch of the fishing line.

Any thoughts would be appreciated

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The tightness of the hairs on your bow is partly determined by personal preference and the type of strings that are on your psaltery.  I play my tenor ( PB wound strings ) and alto ( solid wire ) with the same bows.  For this reason, it is an advantage to be able to easily adjust the tension on the bows. 

I like a little more tension for the solid wire strings since it allows you to move around the instrument a little faster.  For me, a small amount of "bounce" is helpful.  I found that the PB strings on my tenor require a little more pressure to obtain the desired sound. 

I should point out that I use two 1/16th sized Glasser violin bows which allows me to finely adjust the string tension.

I would recommend that you experiment with different tensions.  Look for a smooth transition to a pleasing sound (vibration of your string) as you initiate your bowing of the strings.  After a while you will figure out the best combination of tension, rosin and pressure to make your psaltery sing.

Good Luck,

Charlie Marshall


Tight as possible. I can play faster and more accurately with tight hair. When hair is loose some hairs catch the pins... Bob

Thank you both. I will wait till the horsehair arrives and experiment with the bow stiffness to make sure the hair is tightI think my temporary bow is a little slack as the bow string does deflect a bit against the instrument string.

I am using pb wound strings and find they do found better if bowed firmly


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