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Swedish Siffernoter of the 1800's

The method of writing music for the Swedish Psalmodikons was slightly different in that they did not use the transposition boards as the Norwegians used. If there was a change in the key to the music, they just retuned the Psalmodikon. The following song is the first two lines of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, from an 1865 songbook written by Eric Norelius, Vasa, MN.

The information on the top line guides the player how to tune the instrument. The capital letter “D” indicates the note on the organ to which the open string on the Psalmodikon should be tuned. The +2 +3 +6 +7 signifies the music is played in the Major key. If they were written as: -2 -3 -6 -7, it would signify a Minor key. The numbers 1-8 replace the usual notes. “0” signifies a rest and “8” is equivalent to Middle C. A line marked above the number, indicates the note is to be played below middle “C”.

However, as most songs were written in the Ionic mode, there was little need for retuning the instrument. The use of modes even made exact tuning unnecessary when the Psalmodikon was played alone!