Pigsnout Psaltery
Pigsnout Psaltery and tuning key
Pigsnout Psaltery

My "Pigsnout" psaltery is based on a number of medieval illustrations and carvings, especially the psaltery on the triptych "Musician Angels" by Hans Memling, now in the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp. That instrument, however, is extremely complex, having 61 strings in the main row, plus another 22 set between the lower strings, attached to hitch posts on the soundboard.

The Diabolus psaltery is a little more manageable. 23 strings, tuned diatonically in C, giving a 3-octave range from a to b'''. Alternative tunings are possible.

To create it, I went back to first principles, and made lots of tortuous calculations to get all the string lengths and tensions theoretically correct. I then modified the design empirically. The result is a good sounding instrument where each string speaks clearly. It has a resonant bass, a bright, clear mid register, and a delightfully tinkly top end.

Memling Psaltery Boetius psaltery Cantigas pigsnout psaltery

Sound Clips

Played by Ian Pittaway


Medieval "Pigsnout" psaltery with tuning key

To order or enquire, pleasecontact me


Cases - Excellent cases can be ordered from specialist manufacturers such as Kingham MTM, but they're pricy. I can supply an attractive, custom-built plywood case, black with chrome fittings, for £220 when ordered with an instrument.

Delivery - the price depends on where you live. Please enquire.

I hate it when websites say "Phone for a quote", so to give you some idea - getting a baroque guitar in its case to America, including insurance, is currently about £170. Getting one to Kent is about half that.

Waiting time, from placing an order to clutching your new baby, is currently about 16 months. It's very approximate, because the schedule often contains items that are somewhat experimental, and they may take more or less time to complete than anticipated. Usually more.

Deposit- I usually ask for £150 (non-returnable unless I'm dead, insane, incapacitated or incarcerated) to secure an order and cover materials. Once that's paid, your order is entered into my Magic Book. Nothing happens for several months, then you receive an email to tell you I've started construction. A few weeks later, a big parcel arrives, and you squeal with delight.

Anote on HUMIDITY - delicate wooden instruments are remarkably resilient, but they can have major problems with both high and low atmospheric humidity levels. I keep my workshop at the recommended humidity level, between 45% and 50%, and I strongly recommend that instruments are kept as close to that range as possible. Electronic humidity meters are available cheaply on the Internet. They're small enough to keep in your instrument's case.
Low humidity can shrink wood, resulting in cracks and distortion. Case humidifiers, again available quite cheaply, should prevent this.
High humidity can swell the wood enough to cause cracking and warping, but the main risk is the formation of water droplets, either from condensation or perspiration while playing. These can damage varnish and slowly dissolve glue joints. A silica gel sachet can be kept in the case, but use a humidity meter as well. Take care it doesn't reduce the case humidity too far.