While I've had my psaltery for a while, I've only spent a few weeks in "real time" playing with it. I favor lower tones and got to wondering what determines the key signature (or key range) on a psaltery.  

Is it the length of the strings?

Could  one restring with cello stings and get lower tones?

I've seen some very large psalteries with the ranges I like, but I can barely reach the top of my own (I have short arms).

I'd appreciate any thoughts.



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The range of your instrument is determined by a few different factors. One is the number of strings. The more strings, the greater the range. The type of string of string or it's density ( solid wire vs wire wound ). The length of the strings and the tension applied to the string.

I find it curious that your psaltery doesn't appear to have a G# at the top of the instrument. I suppose it's possible that the very top pin (the longest string) is the G# but that would mean you don't have a G in the lowest part of psaltery's range.

The range of your psaltery is likely G4 to E6. I could verify that better if I knew the length of the longest and shortest strings (distance from hitch pin to bridge)

Psalteries are usually built in a certain key, they are chromatic. That is one of the reasons they are easy to play.

I have sucessfully modified an alto into a tenor by changing solid wire strings to wire wound strings but I wouldn't advise doing that unless it is done by someone experienced with restringing. There is a discussion topic on this subject somewhere on this web site.

Thank you for explaining this. I am going to WinterFest in February to look at some baritones. I'd hate to think of restringing my baby.

And, you are correct, my lowest full note is G4, highest is F6. 

Again, thank you for taking the time to explain this.



A correction to a miss-typo in my last message.....

"Psalteries are usually built in a certain key, they are chromatic. That is one of the reasons they are easy to play." SHOULD HAVE SAID : "Psalteries aren't usually built in a certain key"

It's amazing how a couple of missing letters change the meaning of a sentence

If you are having trouble reaching notes, or would like to play a bigger psaltery, then why not play your psaltery 'keyboard' style as I do?  Just turn it so that you are at a 90 degree angle to it.  You can dip the bows over to play the sharps and you can just move if you can't reach something, so you can always be squarely on a note. 

This method allows for greater control of bowing, and, as a bonus, doesn't irritate the back.  Give it a try and see how it works for you.  Note: you do need a psaltery stand for this to work, but they aren't hard to make.  We made a cradle for the psaltery with spare shelving wood and, of course, we use a tripod for the legs.


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