Psaltery or nonca is an instrument of stringed music which appears in the Middle Ages; It is frequently represented, illustrated or carved from the tenth century.

His strings, initially in guts and then made of metal, are fixed by ankles over a flat resonance box, like the zither, of which it is actually one of the forms on the table. Its frame is triangular or trapezoidal, with many variations of form like the pig’s snout (a kind of trapezoid whose small sides curve inwards). The strings go in pairs for each note, and are mounted upside-down.

The names of the instrument come from the Greek, as the tympanon of which it is very structurally close. The etymology refers to its use to accompany songs of psalms. A larger version, his ancestor, called Qanûn in the Middle East (from the Greek Kanon, which gave canon in Europe), continues to be used in orchestras.

It is possible to play them by skilfully plucking the strings with fingers or with a plectrum (in goose quill), or rubbing them with a bow. It is also possible to strike the strings with the wood of the bow or small hammers, which is perhaps at the origin of the tympanon. The instrument is played on the knees or raised against the chest.

The psaltery is probably the ancestor of the harpsichord, by the adaptation on the instrument of a keyboard, an invention which seems to date from the fourteenth century.

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