I had meant to be playing a psaltery months ago but fell and broke my shoulder and tore the rotator cuff so am just now getting back to normal. I have a musical background (guitar, banjo & bagpipes) but know nothing about this instrument.

What are some good brands? There is a Zither Heaven being auctioned on ebay - is this a good brand?

Is sheet music easily available?

What is a good size to buy?

What should I reasonable expect to pay - don't need top of the line?

How do I tune it? I have an autoharp peg tuner and an electronic tuner.

Any other tips?  Thanks so much!

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Hi Frances, so glad you are well again. Personally, I have a Rick Long psaltery and can't really comment on the Zither Heaven.

But as for sheet music, there are some specifically for psaltery song books out there. Donna Malus, who runs this site, has a book. And she also has several songs here under the "Music of the Month" tab above. You can click through to get to the pdf files. However, any note (not chord only) sheet music can be used. 

Size is your preference. There are tenor, baritone, and soprano range psalteries. And then the are psalteries with different number of octaves. Mine is 2 1/2 octaves, 33 strings, which suits me very well. A lot of it is your choice and preference.  

What you pay is also up to you. And you can expect to get what you pay for. No shame in getting a cheaper one to start with and see how you like it. But a higher quality instrument is going to cost you more.

Tuning. Most psalteries will come with a peg tuner, and it will probably be the same as your autoharp tuner. And if your electronic tuner is chromatic, has ALL the notes, that is what a psaltery uses. 

Other tips, are mainly to watch youtube videos. I, Brenda Mangan, have several songs up on my youtube channel. Others to see are Rick Long, aka Psalteryman, Gregg Schneeman, Ron Zuckerman, NT Serendipity (which is Nozomi Nose here on Psaltery Strings), to name just a few, and of course watch the videos found here under the "vidoes" tab. And I say WATCH not just listen to, because you can learn a great deal from watching different individuals' playing styles.  

I hope this helps you a little bit. 

Good luck and Happy Bowing :) ~Brenda

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my inquiries. You have been very helpful.

More help, please. Seller isn't sure if his psaltery is soprano or alto. I want a soprano. He says his highest key is F6, lowest G4. It has 22 strings. Thanks

Hi, Frances, G4 is the G above middle C and F6 would be 2 octaves above that. So yes, this would be a soprano. Are you bidding on that currently $50 Zither Heaven on ebay out of Sioux Fall, SD? Just the carry bag that comes with it would be well worth that. And with 2 bows, it looks to be a decent starter instrument at a very good price.

Thanks for your advice!

Hi Frances, I don't like to disagree with Brenda, but. I think you will want more than 22 strings. I would go for at least 25. You can get good handmade instruments that are reasonably priced from builders on the list at this site. Try Westmans, Cabin Creek, Dave Lucas, Terry Kirby. You want a decent tone, too, and these instruments and bows are made with care.


As a builder, I would agree with Sue on the recommendation to look for a psaltery with 25 or more strings.  The reason I say that is that the first psaltery I built had 24 strings and I soon found out the range was not great enough to play some of the songs I wanted.  Since that time, all the psalteries I have built, both Altos and Tenors, have at least 30 strings.  What this does for you is to allow you to play most songs in more than one octave.  The G4  to C7  range works well for me especially when I play with along with a student who is playing an octave below me.

Another consideration to take into account when considering a "soprano" vs an Alto psaltery is the fact that if you plan to play at church many of the people with "hearing challenges" may not be able to hear notes in the higher octaves.

Thanks so much for your advice. I played bagpipes for 25 years with 8 notes and one octave.

Thanks so much for your advice. I played bagpipes for 25 years with only 8 notes and one octave.

Hmmmmmm. Bagpipes, psaltery...bagpipes, psaltery....they are sorta just the same:

1) devoted people love each of them

2) they each come in 9-note versions

Frances, I'm eager to learn about your next step! I hope you love which ever instrument you get, and lets hear your bagpipes sometime, too!


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