I'm in a discussion with a customer that is ordering two custom psalteries.  One of his requests is for me to change the notes that I mark with dots. I have always marked the C's on the chromatic psalteries with a single dot.  I recently started marking the G's with double dots.  His request is to mark the C's and F's because he is used to playing the psaltery he learned on with those notes marked.

 

He has been playing along with dulcimer players and when he is playing in D he says the C and F naturals being marked tell him which notes to avoid when he's playing along the right side.  To me, that thinking is fine if you are only playing in C or D, but may cause confusion when moving to other keys.  I've seen builder's mark different notes on their psalteries, but it seems the majority mark only C's, or C's and G's.  A few don't mark any notes.  I noticed that Song of the Wood marks C's and G's and then also marks C#'s and F#'s.  I think you have plenty of hints on the left side because of the pin spacing, two together the first is C# and three together the first is F#, of course the exception there can be the lowest and highest notes on the sharp/flat side where the psaltery may start where you don't have the entire two and three pattern.

 

I think any series of markings are fine, as long as the player understands it.  This could cause some confusion for someone buying a used psaltery with a marking system that is different from what they are used too. 

 

Any thoughts?

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I have just finished my first psaltery, made essentially from the book, "A Psimple Psaltery" and with the help of Folkcraft's plans.  I held off from marking my notes because, at the same time, I am having Jon Williams build me a custom psaltery and didn't know what his standard marking scheme was. Now in contact with him, and with his nearly complete, I find he typically does C's and G's. My wife is into making jewelry and I saw Phantasy Psaltery's website,  options for using cabochons for markers.  I like the idea that they can come off and be put somewhere else if they don't fit your needs.

As a beginner, whatever system I learn on probably will be what I stick with, but if someone else wants to use my instrument it might be good to put the middle G cabochon on with a little double backed tape.  Just strong enough to hold, but not aggressive enough to take the finish off if I need to move the marker. The first and last strings on my 25 string are both G's...... don't need a marker for them. Lapis Lazuli for C's, and rhodochrosite for the G are coming with my wife's next jewelry order

Rick:

Looks like you generated a lot of discussion on this issue; I learning more and more about how others play the psaltery just from their comments. I hope all is well with you... and I'm looking forward to seeing you in the fall if at all possible. Sending warmest regards, Paul

I know I'm a bit late to this discussion, but, I have friends who are accomplished harpists. They all mark their C's & F's. C red and F blue, so i marked my from the beginning. I find what works for me is a Sharpie Paint Pen. I put the marks on the hitch pins. That way the next owner (as if I would give one of my children up)can remove the marks. I also mark the tuning pin for the longest string to make tuning easier.
I've always known about the "red" and "blue" markers on a harp that signify the "C" and "F" position notes. I guess this is just something that I've been used to from the beginning. I understand why making the "G" is so logical since it is the fifth step up from the "C" which will harmonize very well. All of my Jack Davis psalteries and Unicorn .... and even Omega psalteries use C/F position markers. A few only have the "C" and none others which is not a problem for me either. I guess it is just what you are used to.... This is a good discussion and I enjoy reading everyone's comments. Thank you for your responses.

I think much depends on previous music background and what we get used to. I started out on a Unicorn Strings psaltery with note letter markers, not dots. I don't need them on the left side, because I'm familiar with piano layout and the spacing tells me what those notes are. But I depend on them for the right side.

When I bought one of your tenor psalteries, I had trouble adjusting to the dots--one more task for my inadequate brain. I'm sure I would have eventually adjusted, but I made my own note letter markers out of a plastic strip and it immediately improved my accuracy.

I've never played a psaltery with C and F dots, but if I were starting from scratch with my first psaltery, and it had dots instead of note markers, I would prefer C & F dots. Those notes would indicate where a new black key pattern begins on the piano, so I think it would orient me better, regardless of which key I'm playing in.  I don't know if that would be helpful for someone who has never played piano.

Ideally, I'd prefer the note letters to be permanently painted or engraved on the psaltery. It would look better than the plastic markers.

I especially liked the idea of "marking" the tuning pins to aid in locating the correct strings for tuning. Fortunately, with a well-made psaltery, I find that I only have to tune less than 3-4 times a year! Most keep their "tuning" once they have settled which is a testiment to a quality instrument.

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