Psaltery – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Musical Instruments Glossary

What is a Psaltery?

A psaltery is a musical instrument that belongs to the family of stringed instruments. It is a type of zither that consists of a flat soundboard with strings stretched across it, which are plucked or struck to produce sound. The strings are usually made of metal or gut, and they can vary in number depending on the size and design of the instrument. The psaltery is played by either plucking the strings with the fingers or using a small stick or plectrum.

History of the Psaltery

The psaltery has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient times. It is believed to have originated in the Middle East and was used in various cultures throughout the world. The instrument was popular in medieval Europe, where it was often played in royal courts and religious ceremonies. It was also commonly used in folk music and was a staple in many traditional music ensembles.

Types of Psaltery

There are several different types of psaltery, each with its own unique characteristics and playing techniques. The most common types include the bowed psaltery, which is played with a bow like a violin, and the plucked psaltery, which is played by plucking the strings with the fingers. Other variations include the chromatic psaltery, which has additional strings to allow for a wider range of notes, and the hammered dulcimer, which is a type of psaltery that is struck with small hammers.

Playing the Psaltery

Playing the psaltery requires a delicate touch and a good sense of rhythm. The instrument is typically held flat against the body or on a stand, with the strings facing upwards. To produce sound, the player plucks or strikes the strings with their fingers or a plectrum, creating a melodic and resonant tone. The psaltery can be played solo or as part of a larger ensemble, adding a unique and ethereal sound to any musical arrangement.

Notable Psaltery Players

Throughout history, there have been many talented musicians who have mastered the art of playing the psaltery. One notable player is John Doan, an American musician known for his innovative approach to the instrument and his virtuosic performances. Another renowned psaltery player is Sarah Deere-Jones, a British musician who has gained international acclaim for her beautiful and haunting compositions. These musicians, along with many others, have helped to elevate the psaltery to a respected and revered instrument in the world of music.

Modern Day Use of the Psaltery

In modern times, the psaltery continues to be a popular instrument among musicians and music enthusiasts. It is often used in folk, classical, and world music genres, adding a unique and enchanting sound to a wide range of musical compositions. The instrument has also found its way into contemporary music, with artists incorporating the psaltery into their songs and recordings. With its hauntingly beautiful sound and rich history, the psaltery remains a beloved and cherished instrument in the world of music.