The German Concert Zither
This instrument has a much longer history than the guitar-zither, having descended over centuries from simple instruments with a few fretted strings. The common form has 4 or 5 fretted strings on one side, usually adjusted with machine tuners (with knobs). The rest of the instrument is made up of 27 open strings (sometimes more or less). These zithers are often quite lovely, with lots of mother-of-pearl inlay and elaborate wood carving. Here, by the way, is one which recently sold on eBay and is the most spectacular one I've ever seen. It was made by the Franz Schwarzer Zither Co., Washington, MO.
When playing, the side with the fretted strings goes toward you. Your left hand frets those strings. The thumb of your right hand picks the fretted strings. Then the remaining fingers of the right hand build accompaniment chords from the rest of the strings.
This is the instrument which played the soundtrack of the movie "The Third Man." The popularity of that film created a resurgence in sales of a number of the instruments called zither, including simple psalteries and the guitar-zither. Of course, if people thought they'd be able to use these instruments to create the sounds they heard in the film, they were sadly mistaken.
A book on the concert zither was written in 1888 and may still be available by special order from your favorite Internet bookstore. It is called Method for Zither, by A. Darr.
Numerous recordings made with this instrument are also available, from your favorite Internet record store.
Here's a publication which specializes in the concert zither. There are articles on playing, concerts, recordings, and sources for strings.
Zither Newsletter of USA, 6173 N. McClellan Av., Chicago, IL 60646
And now the Zither Newsletter has a web site - www.zithers-usa.com. It's your best resource on the web for the concert zither and the active community of players in the US.
Drop me a line.
Go back to the Guitar-Zither Clearinghouse, or home.
This page was banged out with Word 97, 9 Aug 99.