New BP Lover- Looking for First Purchase (and first build) -- Help ?

Hi all, I'm James from Atlantic Canada.

Unfortunately, I'm not so musically gifted, actually fail on most strings.  Can pick up the harmonica well enough. I have a fiddle and concertina, and electronic bagpipes -- and though I've not learned them, yet, they are my kind of sound.

I saw the BP on Youtube and fell in love. My "thinking" is that they could be played like a Fiddle Picker's delight... that is, for someone who loves violin and fiddle, but wants something that might sound like it but a little easier to play at first.

Make sense?

Anyway, I'm good with my hands for building things, so, I do plan on building one, but I also know I need to get playing as my work shop can't be used til Spring.

Can you all help (probably answered these a thousand times) - and I did try to scour forum answers first before posting. So if old hash, feel free to just give a few points  8)

Ok....here goes:

First-- What I like.... Like I said I prefer Fiddle over violin. I love old-timey, Bluegrass, Gospel, Old Country (Honky-Tonk) type music.  Love Irish reels and Scottish airs. (my other instruments were bought to play Irish music and Sea-fairing music - might know it as Breton Music (Cape Breton Music)). Lower pitch is better than higher.

BUYING:

Seriously under-budgeted... I'm looking in the $100 new range (I know.)  ZITHER HEAVEN makes a 22 model for $97. Solid Wood. Top in Maple, Cherry or Walnut.   They look like well built units, no bad feedback.  But hardwood for a soundboard?

Anyone use these? any experience? Any alternatives in that price?

And I'm really confused what I need as for size and strings. As someone else had said, a tenor to one is a baritone to another, 2 oct, 2.5, 20-35 string...  I do believe I need Wound Strings (for the deeper sound less tension and no 3 foot units).

BUILDING:

*I'm looking for plans (free or modest priced). I found some but they seem to compromise build sophistication for cheapness (or to avoid giving the full info).

*Soundboard.  As mentioned, the Zither Heaven only uses hardwood, but a music store said that would sound brittle... the opposite of deep and warm.  I know Spruce is standard, but I love wood figure, like Longhi, Burls, Aromatic cedars etc...  Anyone with experience on alternatives?  With building one, no expense to be spared.

THANK YOU AGAIN !!

Really looking forward to getting into one of these.

ps---- is there any good music out there in the music types I mentioned for these yet?

Respects

Happy New Year!

jim

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ok, i'm no expert, but i have the 22-string zither heaven bp, and it is absolutely lovely.  the only issues i think you'd have with it are the squeakiness (rectified by getting a different bow - the cheapo 1/16 violin bow i got off amazon (thanks y'all for that suggestion!) takes care of that, mellows the sound quite a bit.  the second issue is that this is about as high-pitched as i think this instrument comes.  you might poke around ebay for a while, see if you can score an alto or concert (tenor?) used somewhere out there.

ALTERNATELY get the zhbp just for practicing and seeing what kinds of sounds you can make out of it.  it is glorious fun, even if not as full-ranged as many.  and honestly, even the bow that comes with it does a great job of playing - the harmonics come in beautifully and easily with that bow.  play with the sounds you want to get out of such an instruments, and the zhbp is a great choice for that sorta thing.

Hi - Thank you for the reply !

So, I'm wondering then is it that the Zither is High Pitched more than others of it's size?  I mean, I know I don't want to buy a 3 foot baritone (grin).

Someone said (somewhere) that using wound strings would deepen the tone too.  Anyone done that on these Zithers? (assuming they are naturally higher than most?)

My only problem is, budget-wise, buying a BP right now is a one time shot.  Making one is relatively easy and cheap for me...but I don't want to wait til Spring !  haha.

Hi - Thank you for the reply !

So, I'm wondering then is it that the Zither is High Pitched more than others of it's size?  I mean, I know I don't want to buy a 3 foot baritone (grin).

Someone said (somewhere) that using wound strings would deepen the tone too.  Anyone done that on these Zithers? (assuming they are naturally higher than most?)

My only problem is, budget-wise, buying a BP right now is a one time shot.  Making one is relatively easy and cheap for me...but I don't want to wait til Spring !  haha.

no, not higher pitched, i don't think, it just doesn't go as LOW.  my 22 string ZHBP starts (low end) at the G above middle C and goes up ALMOST two octaves to the F up there.  My Unicorn Strings BP starts at the F above middle C and goes up two octaves plus a few notes to the A# up there.  just not as much range, and especially when learning, NOT having that F is kindof a drag for lots of songs in the key of C which use that F a lot.

about the wound strings, i'm not sure.  the soundbox is only about an inch deep, as opposed to 2 inches on the USBP, i'm suspecting the difference woudln't be worth the effort.  HOWEVER i have corresponded with the owners of ZH and they are responsive and wonderful to talk to - you might just ask them!

as a side note, my unicorn strings psaltery ran me $135 incl. shipping, two bows, rosin, and the nicest tuning doohickey i've seen yet.  ebay is the way to go.  :)

Julie thanks

I looked at Unicorn Strings but they are $300+ now, not $130 sadly....

no no, on ebay!  keep an eye out, you'll see some good deals there!

Hi Jim!

Like yourself, I prefer a violin-like tone.  To get that I stick with soft wood soundboards.  Mine are built with Sitka spruce tops and flamed maple bodies (same woods as a fiddle).  To be useful in the kinds of music you mention, I prefer an instrument with as little sustain as possible.  When music moves fast, the BP can get muddy.  It's a bit like playing the piano with the pedal down.

To play Irish and Scottish music I had a special diatonic instrument made by Rick Long at Ringing Strings.  Its design is specific to the scales used in that music and is made to play fast with very little sustain.

Zither Heaven is a decent beginner's instrument, but the hardwood will do just what you suspect.  Nevertheless, it's not a bad idea to have a long-sustain, bright instrument as well as a softer one.  Heck, some of us have a bunch of BPs!

Forget all the stuff about tenors and baritones and look only at range and compass (how many notes and from where to where).  The right 22 string will get you pretty far.  Remember, bagpipe tunes only use nine notes, and Irish reels seldom go further than the D above middle C to the B in the next octave.

As to building your own, Music Makers puts out a neat kit, and Eric at Phantasy Psalteries has a ton of building info on his site.

Hi,
I started playing and building Eric Meir's (24 stringed) Psimple psaltery design. I soon found that the G4 to G6 was a little too limiting as far as the range and has a higher pitch as compared to a tenor ( G3 to G4 ).

I think you would find that a 30 stringed psaltery would allow you to play more songs without compromising a key change.

As far as the choice of tone woods for the top, I would not use hardwoods. Spruce, cedar or redwood would be my favorite choices. Wire wound strings will enable you to tune an octave lower assuming your psaltery is designed and properly built. If you plan on building your own psaltery, follow the instructions on the psimple psaltery site and you'll end up with a good sounding instrument.

Hey Charlie. Thanks.

The one I'm looking at (that I can afford) is the Zither Heaven ones, and they are 22 string, Maple, Cherry (not in stock) or Walnut TOP with birch back.  They look sturdy enough for wound strings and was considering asking them if they do that before shipping. They are supposedly tuned from (don't hold me to this, my memory is letting me down today) G above Middle C

As for making one, those plans on Psimple...like you say they are for a higher pitch instrument, and I too prefer the lower range 8(  So maybe not a good plan for me?  (I don't know much about music theory, I'm more just a pluck it out kind of guy, or tab it.)

James,

The Psimple design plan CAN support wire wound strings without changing the plans. This "platform" can be used for both solid wire G4 to G6 or wire wound strings in a G3 to G5 range. I've built more than a dozen using Eric's plans.

Good luck!

Said that way, I get you. Sorry, like I say, I suck at understanding music (I usually build metal pointy things...)

UPDATE:

Zither Heaven replied -- you can NOT replace the strings with WOUND strings and tune down an octave - on their unit.  Word is the unit must be LONGER and thicker.  I was not told why, just that it needs to be longer (it's 20" as is).

I cant afford anything more, so it's that one, I was just hoping for a deeper one.

Connected to my other post -- if anyone has FIDDLE MUSIC converted to a 22 string BP, could ya pass the music along? (especially if in some kind of TAB)

thanks !!

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