What is the most important tip you can give to a new bowed psaltery player to help them improve their playing?

I have to think about this before I respond, but please, start up!!!!  One tip at a time though, you can always come back and post again later!!!!

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I didn't have to think to long....
Remember to relax and not be afraid to bow with your entire arm, from the shoulder, not just from the elbow or wrist.
Check your tuning carefully. If something sounds off no matter how hard you try, or if your instrument just doesn't sound like it used to, it might be out of tune.
Is it OK to post two in a row?

Remember that the bow is not an accessory like a guitar pick, it's the other half of the instrument. Bow technique is everything in developing good tone and musicianship. To get good at the psaltery, focus on the bow.
: ) of course Tim, was just trying to emphasize each point posted!!!
My next one is:
Don't be heavy handed, keep a light touch!
Never sacrifice accuracy and musicianship for speed.
When bowing, bear in mind efficiency of motion. Always best to use the least amount of motion to sound the note. Try practicing using the least amount of bow stroke length to play any note. This would mean the short, quick notes (eighth and sixteenth notes) using a bow stroke of 1/2" or less. Any note you hold out longer, try using a slower bow stroke. Too fast and you can use up the length of the hair quickly. One thing to try with this is to see just how slowly you can bow a single note and still keep a good quality of tone. In playing most tunes you should vary the speed of your bow stroke. Most folks do that without thinking about it. That's great and it should be a goal. I notice beginners struggle with this.

So the more compact your motions, the smoother your playing will be, especially for those faster tunes. I know, fast and smooth don't really sound like they should go together, but this is important to consider.
From time to time you will break a hair on your bow. That's normal and expected. Never pull the broken hair away, as this might loosen other hairs, but always keep a sharp nail clipper or manicure scissors in your kit to cut the broken piece off neatly. When enough hairs are lost or worn, a bow can be restored to new condition. A bow can loose a remarkable number of hairs and still work fine.
Sometimes a string will break. It doesn't necessarily mean you're doing anything wrong. Strings just break. Replacing a string is easy, but takes practice to do correctly. There are some good video instructions on YouTube for this, and you can always ask an experienced member for guidance. There's really no such thing as a special psaltery string. Psaltery strings are either piano wire or guitar strings. Both are readily available and cheap as dirt, so don't worry. If a particular string keeps breaking, there might be a mechanical problem to address. Again, don't be afraid to ask. Most fixes are simple. Even the hard ones aren't that hard.

(I put these two together since they're related, i.e. the breaking of breakable things.)
To keep things going, another bowing tip:

To get a full sound from your instrument with the most efficient motion, bow at a right angle to the strings themselves. Many times players hold their bows perpendicular (at a right angle) to the side of the psaltery. This is natural given the sloping sides of the triangular body. But if you bow perpendicular to the edge of the psaltery, your bow is crossing the strings at an angle. Look carefully at the strings themselves, and keep your bow at a right angle to them, not the side of the instrument. Your bow will move more easily from string to string as well. When playing at an angle to the strings, there is a greater tendency for the hairs to get stuck on the pins.
These are all very helpful tips! Thank you all for your input! There's always the concern, when learning a new instrument without an instructor (ie: BP or dulcimer) that I may pick up bad habits!
Not a tip specifically for better playing, but an important tip for new psaltery buyers.

When you get your new psaltery, in a store or through the mail, make this important measurement. Tune it up to full concert pitch then place it on a firm, flat surface, like a Formica counter top or a polished table. You want a very flat surface. You will probably notice that there is a small bow to the back of your instrument. It looks a little like a rocking chair. That's OK. Press down on the back of the instrument (near the tuning pins) and note how high up the tip of the psaltery is above the table. If, at some time in the future, you notice the psaltery seems to be going flat all the time, re-check the amount of bow in the back. If it has increased it is a sign that the instrument is collapsing under tension. This is very important to know when you need to talk to the builder about the failure.

Also look at the soundboard to see how flat it is. If it starts to buckle under or raise up, that's another sign of failure.

Wow!  Who'd have thought of that?  Thanks!

Leah D


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