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]] 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

, 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 found in the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng dating from 433 BC, featuring tuning pegs, a bridge and goose-like feet.[1]

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". 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 musician that plays the instrument is called citarist or citre player.



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

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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A zither



From Latin cithara, from Ancient Greek κιθάρα (kithara), kind of harp).




zither (plural zithers)

  1. A musical instrument consisting of a flat sounding box with numerous strings, placed on a horizontal surface, and played with a plectrum and fingertips; similar to a dulcimer. In the Norwegian harpeleik and Swedish cittra versions, the instrument is considered a chorded zither and usually has 7 (Norwegian) to 9 (Swedish) chords, some with as many as 11 strings each, which are mostly strummed and damped as chords, although sometimes plucked. The Norwegian harpeleik and Swedish cittra are still in production by a German manufacturer.


Derived terms

See also

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