Special Order Prices:
$110 - 16 string diatonic tenor or soprano with steel strings.
This price is for poplar on the top and back with sides of poplar, cherry, walnut, or maple. Other wood will be slightly higher. Contact me for available wood, and a price.
Why make a bowed psaltery?
Soon after making my first two dulcimers from kits, I decided it would be fun to try a bowed psaltery. I found a plan on the Internet, and built my first one. It had some minor problems, but it sounded pretty good and was fairly easy to play. I decided to try a couple of ideas, and add one to my line of dulcimers. I ended up with this 16 string diatonic.
What is the advantage of a diatonic psaltery?
It costs less. There are less strings to keep in tune. It is easy to play because all of the strings are on one side. Did I mention that it costs less?
What is the disadvantage of a diatonic psaltery?
You will be able to play in only a few keys. If a song is written with notes other than the seven notes normally used for that key you will not be able to play that note. You may still want to play the song, but change that note a half step higher or lower. A dulcimer has the same problem, but we make exceptions by adding extra frets: usually the 6+, and sometimes the 1+ and 8+.
What notes are available on this instrument?
One option starts with G below middle C. I call this a tenor model. There are 16 strings, so there are two octaves, plus an "A" note. The soprano model is made the same, except it starts on the G above middle C. The strings are placed in slightly different positions for the soprano.
What is the best key to play In?
If you play a dulcimer, the most common tuning is key of D. Tune your two C's to C#, and your two F's to F#. You are now ready to play along with dulcimers. This also works for the key of B minor.
For key of C tune all strings to natural notes. Many songs will have a low note of G, so you will be using all of the lower notes, and will have plenty of notes above C. Many common songs have a short range, so you will be able to play them from that position, and then play a verse an octave higher. The key of A minor uses the same notes as key of C, so you can also play that key.
Your next option is key of G. Tune the two F notes to F#. Your primary note will be the lowest string or the second G. Many songs will have a low note of D below that. If a song has a high range of notes, you may run out of notes on the high end. The key of E minor also works with this tuning.
Marking your notes and playing songs.
For dots I use stick on jewels I bought at Walmart. If I want to change them, I can knock them off and put new ones in a different place. Another option is to make permanent burned dots. One, two, or four dots are like having different colors.
For key of C, I place one color on the 2 C notes, another color on the 3 G notes. This gives you groups of 3 notes and 4 notes. I split the 4 note group with another color. You will find dots on the 0, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, and 14. This is also how we think of the dots on our dulcimer fret board. For key of D, your note is to the right of the dot instead of the left.
Where Can I find music to play?
If you go to my "photo gallery" section, there are two albums of songs you can play. One is for key of C, and one for key of D. Either look at them on the screen, or print them and start a book of songs you want to play. The songs are in the format shown below. Notice the numbers below the lyrics. Look at the picture above. The first dot is the 0 note. The second dot is the 3 note, etc. Just play the proper note for each number. Watch the note above for timing. You will have to understand a whole note, 3/4 note, 1/4 note, and 1/8 note. The song below is in 3/4 time, so each measure gets 3 beats.
If you go to "Player Support", there is a page for songs in key of C, and one for songs in key of D. These pages contain sound files to support the printed sheet music. Play the song to help learn it, and then play along with it. I have brought the jam session players to you until you can join a real jam.
I frequently print only one verse of lyrics. Usually the last line is the melody note. Remember, for key of C, your fist string is the zero, and for key of D, your second string is the zero. Just play the numbers and you will have your song. I use this same notation for playing dulcimers.
Other sources of music.
There is a series of music books called “E Z Play Today”, written in the above format. With your notes marked, it would be easy to play from those books.
You could easily write note numbers under the lyrics, as I did for the songs in my photo gallery.
If you look in my "Player Support" section, there are several links to other sources of music. You can find more than 1000 songs if you check all of those links. These links point to web sites for dulcimer players, but you can easily use their music.
Below is part of a song in tablature format, common for dulcimers. This one is DAa tuning.
Look at the third row of numbers. If you play those numbers on your dulcimer you will be playing the song. Watch the notes above to give the note the proper timing. The song above is in key of G. That is OK. As long as you start your zero note in the proper place, the numbers will work for any key. Notice the words "Ionian Mode" in the upper left corner of the picture. That means your dulcimer would be tuned as CGg to play with these numbers. In key of D the tuning would be DAa. With this tuning mode, that third row of numbers will work for your psaltery.
The pictue above shows tablature for a dulcimer tuned as DAd. Notice the first two notes are written on the middle line. Your notes for 0, 1, and 2 are found on that line. For notes on the bottom line, add 3 to the number that is printed. I would rewrite all the numbers below the ones they show. When you go to those dulcimer links, you will find more songs in this format than in the DAa format shown above this one.