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Zither: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Concert zither, with a fretted fingerboard
Electric Drum Zither of Liam Finn

The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China. The term "citre" is also used more broadly, to describe the entire family of stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the sounding box, including the hammered dulcimer, psaltery, Appalachian dulcimer, guqin, guzheng (Chinese zither), koto, kantele, gayageum, đàn tranh, kanun, autoharp, santoor, yangqin, piano, harpsichord, santur, swarmandal, and others. Modern electric zithers exist, as well as a wide variation of experimental zithers like the Kitaras of Harry Partch, the Shruti Stick and the Moodswinger.


Etymology and instrument family

Zither player in Maribor, Slovenia

The word "citara" is derived from the Greek word kithara, an instrument from classical times used in Ancient Greece and later throughout the Roman Empire and in the Arab world (Arabic قيثارة); the word "guitar" derives from "kithara" as well.

History and development

While the term zither is mentioned in Daniel during the Jewish exile of 606 BC, the earliest known instrument of the zither family is a Chinese guqin, [a fretless instrument,] found in the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng dating from 433 BC, featuring tuning pegs, a bridge and goose-like feet.[1] Although it was mentioned in literature, it seemed that its popularity faded a long time ago while other kinds of instrument increased in popularity. Recently, the instrument seems to have regained some degree of popularity. Certain pieces of written music for the guqin have survived from ancient times. One of these pieces was played by a famous Chinese guqin player to represent Chinese music and was recorded, along with other representative musical pieces of other countries, and sent into space.

In modern entertainment, the zither is perhaps most famous for its role in the soundtrack, especially in the opening scene of the classic noir film The Third Man. The music for the film was played by Anton Karas.

The instrument has a prominent solo in one of Johann Strauss II's most famous waltzes, "Tales from the Vienna Woods" (sometimes played on a mandolin, when a zither is not available). It is also used by multi-instrumentalist Laraaji on the third release of Brian Eno's ambient music series, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance. In more popular music, Australian-born singer Shirley Abicair popularised the zither when she used it widely as accompaniment in her popular TV shows, live performances and recordings in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. More recently, Jerusalem-based multi-instrumentalist Bradley Fish has used zithers in a multitude of styles on the soundtracks of various Sony Digital Pictures films. In Slovenia, at the end of the 19th century they were used in small towns or villages and for concerts.

Like many other stringed instruments, acoustic and electric forms exist; in the acoustic version, the strings are stretched across the length of the soundbox, and neither version has a neck. They can be divided into two classes: fretted and fretless. A person who plays the zither is called a zitherist.

A fretless Musima Guitar Zither, with 45 strings (21 melody, 24 chord)



  • "Zither" from the University of Michigan School of Information's CHICO project

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ZITHER (Ger. Zither, Schlagzither, Streichzither; Ital. cithara), a name applied in modern Germany to the ancient cithara (q.v.), to the cittern, and to an instrument which is a kind of psaltery, consisting of a shallow sound-chest with ribs having the outline of a flattened jug (termed in German Flaschenform, bottle-shape). In the centre of the sound-board is a rose sound-hole, and the finger-board with frets lies along the straight side of the zither in front of the performer. The number of the strings varies, but 36, 38 and 42 are the most usual. Over the finger-board are four or five strings known as violin, on which the melody is played. These five melody strings are stopped with the thumb and fingers of the left 2345 hand and plucked with the thumb 1 6 _„ of the right hand, which usually has a thumb ring with plectrum.

Nos. 1 and 2 are steel strings; = No. 3 of brass, and 4 and 5 of spun wire; the bass is played with the fingers of the right hand, and in order to facilitate the fingering the strings are tuned in fourths and fifths. Most of the other strings from the 6th are of gut. All the strings lie horizontally across the sound-board, being fastened in the usual manner to hitch and wrest pins. The zither is placed on the table in front of the performer, who holds his right arm so that the wrist rests on the side of the zither parallel with the hitch pins, the thumb being over the finger-board.

The foregoing remarks apply to the distant and concert zither; the elegiac or bass zither is of similar construction but larger, and is a transposing instrument, having the same notation as the former, the real sounds being a fourth lower. These zithers are the favourite instruments of the peasants in the Swiss and Bavarian highlands, and are sometimes seen in the concert halls of north and western Germany. The Streichzither, or bowed zither, has a body of heartor pear-shape similar to that of the cittern, but without the long neck of the latter. The finger-board covers the whole of the soundboard with the exception of a few inches at the tapering end, which is finished off with a raised nut or bridge, the bow being applied in the centre of this gap. The bowed zither has little feet and is placed on a table when being played. There are four strings corresponding to those of the violin or viola, but the tone is nasal and glassy.

The spelling of the word with a "Z" had already become usual in the early 17th century, for, although the instrument described above did not then exist, Cither was the name by which the cittern was known in Germany, and Michael Praetorius, writing in 1618, spells it with both "C" and "Z."

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de

See also zither



  • IPA: /ˈʦi.tɜ/


Zither f. (genitive Zither, plural Zithern)

  1. zither

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