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Lars Roverud was born in the countryside of Christiana (Oslo) Norway and at an early age became interested in music. He studied at the Norwegian University Theological Seminary and became a teacher of violin, piano and music theory. Roverud was a fire-soul with many ideas and felt that people should learn music for their own personal enjoyment.

The 1789 publication, “A Look at Music Conditions in Norway” tells of the concern of the poor quality of hymn singing. The hymns were being directed by a Klokker (song leader), of which “one in fifty knows not a note of music”. The old established traditional song culture was described as, “they sing according to their own taste in an off-key loud voice, often times with screaming louder than the Klokker and not suitable to a cultured ear in God’s House”. Being a trained musician, this greatly concerned Roverud and he decided to take it upon himself to better the situation. In Lars Roverud’s publication of 1815, “Music Conditions in Norway”, he writes that most of the churches cannot afford an organ or a suitable instrument to lead the singing of hymns.

In 1819 Lars Roverud studied music in Leipzig, Germany and Copenhagen, Denmark. In Copenhagen, he became acquainted with J. W. Bruun (1781-1836) who was also concerned about the need to improve church singing in Denmark. Bruun had been experimenting with a simple one-stringed musical instrument with likeness to the ancient Monokordet that Greek Philosopher Pythagoras from Samos (ca 570 -490 f. Kr.) used to study musical intervals in relation to the ratios of the string lengths that produce them. But Bruun’s one-stringer was difficult to play and was often rejected for that reason.

Lars Roverud then returns to Norway and continues to write and teach music. In 1825 when he sees the Danish “one-stringer” on display in Herr Winther’s Music Store, he can see possibilities of how to make this instrument sound more beautiful and easier to play. With the help of mathematician, Christopher Hansten, they designed a raised fret board and used a mathematical system of measuring the frets in half-step increments and marking them with numbers 1-7. This would make it easier for the untrained musician to play/sing using the Sifferskrft method. Number “1” would be as “C”, and “2” as “D” etc.

For a greater range of notes, Roverud designed four long flat boards, to be placed above the fret board. These are called Transposition tables and have numbers on both sides with 4 scales on each. This enables the player to be able to play the music in any key without having to retune the psalmodikon. This method was only used in Norway. Roverud has now developed a clear and easily understood way to play notes in all major and minor kinds of tones. They built them in different sizes to play the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts for four-part harmony. The psalmodikon was so simple in structure, it could be made by any carpenter, and an untrained musician could learn to play the slow melodic hymns in a short time.

In 1835, when “J. A. Lindeman’s Choral Book” was authorized for use in the churches of Norway, Lars Roverud received official permission and authorization from the “Foundation of Education of the Royal Resolution”, to teach adults and children how to play the psalmodikon. His first commission was the parish of Gudbrandsdalen where he and the psalmodikon were received with great enthusiasm. Roverud had created a new interest in the Psalmodikon and thus played a prominent role in popularizing the Psalmodikon for musical education and church music in Norway and in the United States. Many of the Norwegian immigrants brought their Psalmodikons along with them to America where Psalmodikons were played in the schools, homes, and churches until they were replaced by more modern instruments.
Lars Roverud died on February 26, 1850, after being hit by a carriage.