Music for the Bowed Psaltery

Sample of music arranged specifically for the bowed psaltery.


Donna Malus of has become an expert at arranging music for the bowed psaltery.
She shares her talent with us.
At the forum for bowed psaltery players, Donna has a discussion section called Sheet Music of the Month.
Her latest song arrangement is Waltzing Matilda. I can’t wait to try that one out!
She’s also arranged songs like Ode to Joy and Childgrove.
Childgrove is an English folk tune. Once you’ve heard it, it will become a favorite.
What is so good about these song arrangements is that in addition to being made especially for the bowed psaltery, lots of extras are provided.
  • sheet music with harmony,
  • audio of the music played at normal speed
  • audio at a slower speed


And with the inexpensive starter instrument sold here, you have no excuse not to play!

Duet with National Mt. Dulcimer Champion

By Terry Butler
Duet with National Mt. Dulcimer Champion Joe Collins in the background using his great CD  “Looking Ahead”.  Joe gave his permission for me to use a few of his songs for this purpose.  Thank you Joe!   I absolutely LOVE this CD!   I’m playing a tenor bowed psaltery tuned chromatically to the key of D (C# and F#s are moved to the right side and Cs and Fs were moved to the left.  This way all notes can be played on the right side! 
I’ve been working on a new secret project – actually several of them.  Only have one
finished so far, but thought I’d share photos of this one. 

The psaltery is 2-5/8″.  The bow is 2″  The pins are cut from the tiniest nails I could find – 1/4″ after cutting.  Only 1/8″  of each pin sticks up above the wood.  Really hard stringing this thing.
The bow strings are 14/0 black fly tying thread – super fine and 8 strands.
I plan on turning some of these into tac backed pins with the pinch type backs like tie tacks.
Also plan on turning a few into pendant necklaces.  Some will just be miniatures.
Cost will be $50 a set (psaltery + bow)  plus $3 shipping  (anywhere in the world) if anyone is interested and that is a bargain.  It took a full 7 hours to  string one, not including a half day for adding pins, and many more hours to make the body of the psaltery and bow and add 5 coats of lacquer to the wood (plus sanding).  I tried adding rosin to the bow to see if I could hear any sound, but didn’t. 
Could just be too high for me to hear.  :)
This is so beautiful!
Thanks to Terry for sharing these.

Morris Dulcimer & Folk Music Festival

A friend and I had a booth at the Morris folk music festival.
It was a great weekend of music and we introduced a lot of folks to the bowed psaltery who had never heard of it before. After seeing for themselves how easy this instrument is to play, many bought instruments and books.

Today my friend, Donna from PsatleryStrings, had a booth at a Dulcimer Folk Music Festival about an hour drive from us. She had never had a vendor booth before and asked if I’d help her “man” the booth. 
Donna had small and large bowed psalteries made by another friend, Tish Westman
We had the instruments on one table.

We had patches, t-shirts and books on the other table. Donna let me put my new book (the paper copy) out on the table. There it is in the front corner of the table. So cool to have it out where people can see it and browse through it!
I had the greatest time! 
I became the resident teacher in the booth. As people came through the booth and asked “What’s that?”, I would put one in their hands and show them how to play the first line to Amazing Grace.
For people who had never played an instrument (dragged along spouses) and those who had only recently picked up an instrument, they were pleasantly surprised to be able to pick up a tune so quickly. I even taught a few young kids and the look of accomplishment on their faces was priceless!

Being in face-to-face retail like that was new and out of our comfort zone for both of us.
In a booth like that, not only is your product on display but you are also. Playing the instrument to entice people to stop in and look. Answering questions. Showing people how to play the bowed psaltery. It felt very much like being on a stage all day.
It was fun but exhausting.
You know what?
We were pretty good at it!
Who knew!

What Does A Bowed Psaltery Sound Like?

I wanted to share this video of beautiful music being played on the Bowed Psaltery.
The man in the overalls is Rick Long. He has been playing Bowed Psaltery for a lot of years. His mastery of the instrument is something I aspire to.
He also makes Bowed Psalteries, Ringing Strings. I have seen and heard his instruments. I’ve also had the opportunity to play one of Rick Long’s Bowed Psalteries. I can tell you that he is a master instrument maker as well as a fine musician.

Rick Long, Terry Butler and Donna Switzer playing bowed psalteries at the Cumberland Gap National Park Visitor Center – May 2011
Terry and Donna have only recently started playing the Bowed Psaltery. They both play very beautifully.
If you’d like to hear more bowed psaltery music, visit the forums at Psaltery Strings.

How Can I Learn to Play Music?

Should I learn to play the guitar?
Should I learn to play the piano?
As an adult,what is the best instrument to learn to play music?
You could play the guitar or the piano. They are often chosen as a first instrument to learn to play. Both are instruments that are easy to find instructors or classes to teach you. (Read that as lots of money for lessons.) And both take quite a while to acquire the skills to play.

You could play the piano but you need to learn to read two sets of musical notes, one for the left hand and one for the right. Then you have to coordinate reading those lines and moving two hands in different directions! Wow! That’ll take a while to learn!

You could play the guitar but is it any easier? Well, you don’t have to read notes but the guitar has its own challenges. First, you need to know what fingers to press down on which strings to form a chord. You have to really press down hard to get the chord to sound right. Ouch! Eventually you’ll develop calluses so that won’t hurt. But that will takes weeks or months if you don’t play often enough. The other thing about playing chords on a guitar is that you had better be comfortable singing along as you play. If you strum the chords on a guitar, it makes a nice accompaniment but few people will be able to know what tune you’re playing unless you sing along.

So, if the piano and the guitar are not the easiest instrument for an adult beginner to start on, what is?
The Bowed Psaltery!

Three Reasons Why the Bowed Psaltery is the Easiest Beginner Instrument to Play.

  1. You only need to read one line of music and only move one hand.
  2. You don’t need to hold down any strings, so no sore fingers or waiting for calluses.
  3. You don’t have to sing along if you don’t want to. On the bowed psaltery, you play the melody so everyone can tell what song it is. With a few hours of practice on the bowed psaltery, you can be playing a few simple songs. And in a few days you can be playing “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

The bowed psaltery is not just for folk music and hymns, you can play most any music you’ve a mind to learn.
The best part is that you can teach yourself and skip the cost of weekly lessons!
Get on my mailing list so you can be one of the first to know when my new book is released next month.

Top 5 Reasons to Learn an Instrument

1. Provides A Feeling of Accomplishment (Overcoming A Fear of Failure)

As adults, we often do not take on new challenges because of the fear of failure. Learning a simple instrument, like the Bowed Psaltery, can make success so much easier. If you’ve ever hear a beautiful song that made you wish that you played an instrument, don’t let the fear of failing keep you from enjoying the accomplishment of playing. 
2. Offers A Challenge
Learning to decipher the notes on the sheet music and make the instrument play that note, sounds like a huge challenge. But with a simple instrument, like the Bowed Psaltery, you can be playing well in weeks rather than years.
 3. Keeps your Mind Active
Playing music engages the whole brain. You have to read the notes, count the rhythm, and play the note. So many areas of the brain are stimulated in the act of playing a tune on an instrument. And although this sounds like a lot to do at once, it is amazing how easily your brain can adapt to doing this. Try to remember the first time you got behind the wheel of a car. Driving required you to do so many more things at once and you accomplished that!
4. Gives the Gift of A Lasting Pleasure
Once you learn how to play an instrument, that is a skill you keep. You may stop playing for a month or a few years. But within a short time, you can be back to playing again. Because although you may get rusty, rust brushes off. The hard steel of the learned skill is still under that rust.
5. Makes you A Role Model for Others
Show your kids or grandkids that it’s never too late to learn to do something you enjoy. Let them see that some things take work, that not everything has instant gratification. And that work can make the accomplishment that much sweeter.

Music with a Royal Wedding theme

With photos of the Royal Wedding still finding their way onto the front pages of many newspapers, is it any wonder that my musical thoughts travel to England? When I think of English music, I think of Greensleeves.

Greensleeves sounds so beautiful on the Bowed Psaltery. It has a nice, easy-flowing sound that just floats across a room.
It’s a great tune for beginners to learn. This song has a melody that most people know. When you learn a song that you already know, you find yourself only having to think about which note to play. You don’t have to think about counting or how long to hold a particular note. You just know because you’re singing along. This makes learning to play a new tune like Greensleeves even easier.
That is why Greensleeves is one of the tunes you will find in my new book, Playing the Bowed Psaltery – a Step by Step Beginner’s Guide.
If you enjoyed watching the Royal Wedding, learn to play this tune on a Bowed Psaltery. Then the next time there’s a big, happy Royal event, you’ll be able to celebrate by playing an old English folk tune!