[Bards] FW: [Ayreton] Musical Instrument

Jay Rudin rudin at ev1.net
Tue Sep 18 12:27:19 PDT 2007

Amra responded to somebody:

>> Yes, the instrument I was playing is called a bowed psaltery.
>> I got in from Unicorn Strings:
>> http://unicornstrings.com/
>> According to further research I and others have done, it is not in 
>> fact a bowed psaltery, which was 'invented' in the 1930's, and
>> has an arched bridge like a violin, but a bowed zither.
>> As such it is a period instrument, played with one bow, it is
>> played in a period manner.

> Just in case anyone may still be interested in the "bowed
> psaltery" -- howzabout the pre-1600 variation (Mstr. Robin,
> I don't recall -- did yours have the arched bridge or a flat bridge?)

First, please remember that I am no music expert.  These are amateur research results.

No, my bowed psaltery from Unicorn Strings, like every other bowed psaltery from Unicorn Strings, is a bowed psaltery, not a zither.  For one thing, it has no frets.  The first bowed, fretless zithers were made, I read, in Jersey City and Boston.  FretlessZither.com states that fretless zithers comprise "a distinct body of pin-tuned stringed instruments of 19th and 20th century American invention and manufacture."

But more importantly for this discussion, the bowed zither (streichzither) was invented in Germany in the 19th century.  While older than the bowed psaltery, it isn't a period instrument either, according to more than one source.

I have found instruments called "bowed zithers" that look like psalteries, but none made before 1930.

Every music expert I showed my Unicorn Strings bowed psaltery to said the same thing -- it's a modern instrument.

As I said, I'm no expert and will bow to any clear research, but until somebody shows evidence of a bowed fretless instrument stringed like a keyboard before 1601, all indications are that no such instrument existed.

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin
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