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Zither

Not to be confused with Cither.

Zither (; German: , from the Greek word cithara) is a class of stringed instruments. Historically, the name has been applied to any instrument of the psaltery family, or to an instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin, flat body. This article describes the latter variety.

Zither
Different concert zithers
String instrument
Classification (Chordophone), String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification314.122-5,6
(Resonated box zither, plucked by fingers or a plectrum)
DevelopedAntiquity
Related instruments
Bar zither, musical bow, stick zither, tube zither, raft zither, board zither, box zither, ground zither, harp zither, trough zither, frame zither
More articles or information
(1:04)
Courtesy of Musopen

Problems playing this file? See .

Zithers are played by strumming or plucking the strings, either with the fingers or a plectrum, sounding the strings with a bow, or, with varieties of the instrument like the santur or cimbalom, by beating the strings with specially shaped hammers. Like an acoustic guitar or lute, a zither's body serves as a resonating chamber (sound box), but, unlike guitars and lutes, a zither lacks a distinctly separate neck assembly. The number of strings varies, from one to more than fifty.

In modern common usage the term "zither" refers to three specific instruments: the concert zither (German: Konzertzither), its variant the Alpine zither (both using a fretted fingerboard), and the chord zither (more recently described as a fretless zither or "guitar zither"). Concert and Alpine zithers are traditionally found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, France, north-western Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, Alpine Europe, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Emigration from these areas during the 19th century introduced the concert and Alpine zither to North and South America. Chord zithers similar to the instrument in the photograph also became popular in North America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These variants all use metal strings, similar to the cittern.

Contents

The word 'zither' is derived from Latin cythara, which was used in this form for the title covers on many 16th and 17th century German printed manuscript books originally for the 'cittern' – from the Greek word kithara, an instrument used in Ancient Greece. The German scholar Michael Praetorius mentions an Englishman who came to Germany with a small cittern, einem kleinen Citterlein, in his treatise Syntagma Musicum, published during the early 17th century. It is not fully understood how 'zitter' or 'zither' came to be applied to the instruments in this article as well as German varieties of the cittern. Other types of zither also existed in Germany, mostly drone zithers like the scheitholt (which was mentioned by Praetorius) or hummel, but these generally have their own individual regional names and may have been in use before the introduction into the lexicon of 'cythara' and its German derivative cognate.

The Hornbostel–Sachs system, an academic instrument classification method, also uses the term zither to classify all stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the sounding box. Categories include Bar zithers (made up of musical bows and stick zithers), tube zithers, raft zithers, board zithers (includes box zithers, ground zithers and harp zithers), trough zithers and frame zithers.

According to Sachs,

Board-zithers form the most important category from an oocidental point of view because they include our stringed keyboard instruments. The strings are stretched out over a board, which is rectangular or trapezoidal or in some other shape, and which is glued onto a shallow box.

The strings may be open or stopped, it may be a psaltery or a dulcimer.

This includes such diverse instruments as the hammered dulcimer, psaltery, Appalachian dulcimer, guqin, guzheng, tromba marina, koto, gusli, kanun, kanklės, kantele, kannel, kokles, valiha, gayageum, đàn tranh, autoharp, santoor, yangqin, santur, swarmandal, and others. Pedal steel guitars, lap guitars (where the neck serves no separate function other than to extend the string length), and keyboard instruments like the clavichord, harpsichord and piano also fall within this broad categorical use.

The word has also been used in conjunction with brand varieties of other string instruments, for example, the zither banjo.

Chinese Guqin with seven strings

Although there is evidence that a kanun was found in Mycenaean Greece, dating back to 1600 BC, the earliest known surviving 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. Similar instruments along this design were developed over the following centuries, for example: the Japanese silk strung koto, the siter of Indonesian gamelans; the qānūn (or kanun) of Greece and the Middle East; the valiha, a tube zither of Madagascar; and many others. Increasing interest in 'world music' has brought wider recognition to these other zither family members, both ancient and modern. Many of these instruments have been sampled electronically, and are available in instrument banks for music synthesizers.

Alpine Scheitholt

In Europe and other more northern and western regions, early zithers were more similar to the modern mountain dulcimer, having long, usually rectangular, sound boxes, with one or more melody strings and several unfretted drone strings. Some of these employed movable bridges similar to the Japanese koto, used for retuning the drone strings. The Alpine Scheitholt furnishes an example of this older type of European zither. By the late 18th century, two principal varieties of European concert zither had developed, known as the Salzburg zither (with a rounded side away from the player), and the Mittenwald zither (with both sides rounded). Both styles are still found in concert zithers today, although the Salzburg style has become by far the most common.

Zitherist before 1850 in Ausseerland, Styria, playing a Salzburg-style instrument

The zither became a popular folk music instrument in Bavaria and Austria and, at the beginning of the 19th century, was known as a Volkszither.

Viennese zitherist Johann Petzmayer (1803–1884) became one of the outstanding virtuosi on these early instruments and is credited with making the zither a household instrument. In 1838, Nikolaus Weigel of Munich conceived the idea of adopting fixed bridges, adding additional strings, tuning them in the cycle of fifths, and chromatically fretting the fingerboard – effectively converting a rather crude folk instrument into the concert zither. His ideas were not, however, widely accepted until 1862, when luthier Max Amberger of Munich fabricated a new zither based on Weigel's design. At this point the zither had reached something very close to its modern concert form. Within a relatively short time the new design had largely replaced the old Volkszither (though still called by the same name among folk musicians) throughout central Europe, particularly in the Alpine countries. As the 'concert zither' it also began to attract the attention of serious composers, a number of whom, themselves, became concert zither virtuosi. These composers, called the "Altmeister", flourished between 1870 and 1910. And no less a composer than Johann Strauss II gave the instrument a prominent solo in one of his most famous waltzes, "Tales from the Vienna Woods".

The zither went through two periods of great popularity in the United States. The first of these was in the late 19th through early 20th century, when it was greatly in vogue as a parlour instrument in many homes. During that period, a number of U.S.-based instrument manufacturers, many of them founded by, or staffed with, European (and especially German and Austrian) luthiers, were producing concert zithers. Chord zithers were often marketed under confusing brand names like 'guitar zither' or 'mandoline zither'. The recently rediscovered recordings of the gospel singer Washington Phillips, who used two instruments simultaneously, have revealed the virtuosic capability of the chord zither to modern musicians seeking to revive it. By the 1920s, this popularity had begun to wane, as other string instruments (notably guitars) increased in popularity along with the new fashion for jazz music.

In the 1950s, interest in zithers resurfaced due in great measure to the success of the 1949 British film noir The Third Man. The soundtrack music for the film, which featured only a concert zither (no other instruments) – was performed by the Viennese musician Anton Karas. His "The Third Man Theme" was released as a single in 1949–50 and became a best-seller in the UK. Following its release in the U.S. in 1950, it spent eleven weeks at number one on Billboard's U.S. Best Sellers in Stores Chart from 29 April to 8 July. The exposure made Karas an international star. A Time magazine film preview stated that "the famous musical score by Anton Karas" would have the audience "in a dither with his zither".

This new popularity for the zither lasted until well into the 1960s with many successful albums during the period from performers such as Karas, Ruth Welcome, and Shirley Abicair. German-born American Ruth Welcome released a number of very popular theme-based zither albums between 1958 and 1965 (e.g., Romantic Zither; Zither South of the Border; Zither Goes to Hollywood). Australian-born singer Shirley Abicair popularised the chord zither when she used it for accompaniment in her TV shows, live performances and recordings in Britain in the 1950s and '60s. Zither music also featured in a Twilight Zone episode – Mr Bevis in 1960.

Although interest in the zither had once more begun to wane by the late 1960s, owing to the two American vogues there are still many used instruments to be found, in various states of disrepair. It has become something of a truism that most zithers seen today are either 60 or 110 years old. Currently (2019) only a few independent luthiers and mid-European makers are producing new instruments.

Concert zither with a fretted fingerboard. This variety is a discant Salzburger Konzertzither.

A concert zither may have from 29 to 38 strings, with 34 or 35 being most typical. These are arranged as follows: four or five fretted melody strings, placed above a guitar-like fretboard; 12 unfretted "accompaniment" strings; followed by 12 unfretted "bass" strings; followed by a varying number of "contrabass" strings, with five or six being the most common number.

On some older zithers, one may find "half-frets" above the 12th fret, which extend only under the first two or three strings. This results in the lower fretted strings having no pitches (or no chromatic pitches) available above the 12th fret, while the higher fretted strings still have higher chromatic pitches available at these half-frets. Nearly all instruments made after 1960, however, have full-length frets all the way up the fretboard.

Anton Karas and Ruth Welcome used instruments of similar design to the one illustrated. After World War II, Karas (according to zither scholar Günter Wittenstein, who was acquainted with him) performed on an instrument of larger dimensions than normal – with a 43 cm standard scale length for the fingerboard strings. He used Viennese tuning (see below), but with an altered chromatic sequence for the fingerboard and open strings. The accompaniment strings G and F were tuned an octave higher, while contrabass strings tuned E, F, D, E, C replaced the regular cycle of fifths bass strings. This brought the contrabasses closer to the fingerboard where the player could reach them more easily.

For The Third Man, Karas tuned the zither a semi-tone lower, giving a particularly distinctive tone to the contrabass strings. The resulting lower string tension also enabled Karas to perform an expressive vibrato on the fingerboard melody strings. Film director Carol Reed, (on whose oak kitchen table the music was performed), described the sound as "gritty and dirty", perfectly reflecting the atmospheric mood of the film.

An Alpine Zither. Note the "harp post" at the top of the image.

The Alpine zither has 42 strings, and differs from the concert zither primarily in requiring the addition of an extension to the body of the instrument to support both the longer additional contrabass strings and their tuners.

Alpine zithers are tuned in a similar manner to the concert zither, with the accompaniment and bass strings each providing a full set of 12 chromatic pitches also arranged in a cycle of fifths. Contrabass strings are arranged in a descending chromatic scale. Late 19th and early 20th century versions of the instrument were often called 'harp zithers' – so-named because the pillar extension seemed a miniature version of the harp's pillar. The extra contrabass strings ran parallel to the other strings on these earlier instruments, the diagonal arrangement illustrated developed later to assist the right hand in reaching the strings.

There are two popular tunings for the modern zither: Munich and Viennese. The zither tuning chart below gives tuning details, including pitches and octaves. Munich tuning is on top, and Vienna tuning below. Some players have used Vienna tuning only for the fretted strings, and Munich tuning for the unfretted strings. Full Viennese tuning is normally used only on instruments with 38 or fewer strings.

Tuning chart for concert and Alpine zithers:

Zither tuning chart
Fretted Unfretted
String Melody Accompaniment Basses Contrabasses
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
Pitch Munich A4 A4 D4 G3 C3 E4 B3 F4 C4 G3 D4 A3 E4 B3 F3 C4 G3 E3 B2 F3 C3 G2 D3 A2 E3 B2 F2 C3 G2 F2 E2 E2 D2 C2 C2 B1 B1 A1 G1 G1 F1 F1
Viennese A4 D4 G4 G3 C3 A4 E4 B3 F4 C4 G4 D4 A3 E4 B3 F4 C4 G3 E2 B2 F2 C3 G2 D2 A2 E2 B2 F2 C2 G2 C2 B1 B1 A1 G G1 F1 F1
Notes: Basic Concert Alpine
Zitherist in Maribor, Slovenia

The zither is played by plucking the strings while it lies flat on a table (which acts as a resonator to amplify the sound), or it can be held on the lap.

On concert and Alpine zithers the melody strings are pressed to the fingerboard ("fretted") with the fingers of the left hand, and plucked with a plectrum on the right thumb. The first and second fingers of the right hand pluck the accompaniment and bass strings, and the third finger of the right hand plucks the contrabass strings (there are variants on this technique).

The concept of the chord zither is different from that of the concert and alpine zithers. These instruments may have from 12 to 50 (or more) strings, depending on design. All the strings are played open, in the manner of a harp. The strings on the left are arranged in groups of three or four, which form various chords to be played by the left hand. The strings to the right are single (or pairs of) strings intended for the right hand to pick out the melody. Tuning can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model, but is usually indicated on the instrument itself, in the form of a chart painted or glued under the strings.

Liam Finn's electric drum zither

Since the zither requires advanced technique to play anything more than simple tunes, the vast majority of the concert zithers sold never attained more than amateur or (mostly) ornamental use; the playing of Washington Phillips was a rare exception.

As a result, manufacturers attempted to simplify the instrument with various keyboard devices attached to the melody strings (Marxophone, dolceola, celestaphone, tremoloa, etc.). The invention of the autoharp, which uses bars with felt pads attached underneath placed across and above the strings, is probably the most successful adaptation. However, the absence of a fretboard makes the autoharp a closer relative of the chord zither than the concert zither. Presence of the concert zither in classical music remains sparse.

Concert and Alpine zithers remain in use by a relatively small number of contemporary musicians from various global regions and musical genres, either out of interest in traditional musical styles for the instrument, or from a desire to seek new sounds for their music. New variations on the concert zither have also been employed, including the electric zither—and recent instruments that share zither characteristics, such as the Chapman stick.

While use of the concert zither itself has declined, zither music and technique continue to influence contemporary musicians. For example: Canadian musician Jeff Healey, featured in the film thriller Road House in 1989, used a zither technique to play electric guitar. Blind from the age of one, Healey began playing when he was three with the instrument flat on his lap, left hand above the fingerboard in the same manner as a zitherist. Although he used a Fender Stratocaster guitar throughout his career, the instrument was in effect being used as an electric zither.

  1. The part is sometimes played on a mandolin, when a zither is not available.
  1. "zither". Oxford Dictionaries Online. Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved26 October 2013.
  2. "Strings on a table". Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster. 2013. Retrieved26 October 2013.
  3. "zither". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 2013. Retrieved26 October 2013.
  4. Zither
  5. Praetorius, Michael; Syntagma Musicum: De Organographia Part I and I (1619); Oxford University Press; London: 1986. 019316406X
  6. von Hornbostel, Erich M.; Sachs, Curt (March 1961). "Classification of Musical Instruments: Translated from the Original German by Anthony Baines and Klaus P. Wachsmann". The Galpin Society Journal. 14: 20–21. JSTOR 842168.
  7. Sachs, Curt (1940). The History of Musical Instruments, p.463. W. W. Nortan & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-393-02068-1
  8. Hornbostel,Erich M. von and Sachs, Curt; Classification of Musical Instruments: Translated from the Original German by Anthony Baines and Klaus P. Wachsmann; The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 14; March 1961, pp. 3-29
  9. Pestcoe, Schlomo; The English Zither Banjo
  10. Stephen Jones. "Source and stream: early music and living traditions in China"(PDF). Oxford Journals. Archived from the original(PDF) on 29 May 2008.Cite journal requires |journal= ()
  11. "Zither". britannica.com.
  12. "History". www.zithers-usa.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved6 June 2016.
  13. Music: Zither Dither, a 28 November 1949 article from Time magazine
  14. "Song title 199 – Third Man Theme". Tsort.info. 8 October 2007. Retrieved24 June 2013.
  15. "The Third Man" DVD review, Sean Axmaker, Turner Classic Movies.
  16. The Ultimate Trailer Show. HDNet, 22 September 2010.
  17. Fitzpatrick, Rob (4 September 2013). "The 101 strangest records on Spotify: Ruth Welcome – Romantic Zither". Retrieved6 June 2016.
  18. "Ruth Welcome". Retrieved6 June 2016.
  19. "The Twilight Zone (1959) s01e33 Episode Script - SS". Retrieved6 June 2016.

Other sources

  • Dearling, Robert; Stringed Instruments; Chelsea House Publishing (2000). ISBN 0791060926
  • Marcuse, Sibyl; Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary; W. W. Norton & Company (1975). ISBN 0393007588
  • Mühlemann, Lorenz; Die Zither in der Schweiz: Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart ; Turtleback (1995). ISBN 3-729-60584-4 (German)
  • Ralston, Jack L.; A Selective Bibliography for the Zither; University of Missouri (1981). ASIN: B00072D9GI
  • Schuler, Manfred; Zither In Der Volksmusik , vol. 1 & 2; Unbekannt . ISBN 3-853-66837-2, 3-708-40155-7 (German)
Wikimedia Commons has media related toZithers.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article "Zither".
  • "Fretless Zithers" at MinerMusic.com English language site dedicated to the chord zither. The authors present arguments for the instrument to be renamed 'fretless zither'. Contains some dead links.
  • "Zither collection of the University of Leipzig" German language site with pictures of vintage instruments including bowed zithers (here called Streichzithern)
  • "Zither US" English language site based in the U.S. Contains biographies of early performers and personalities associated with the history of concert and Alpine zithers, mainly in the U.S. Also contacts for resources like instrument maintenance, enthusiast clubs and events.
  • 'Zithernhistorie' German language site describing transition from drone zither to 19th century Mittenwald and Salzburg concert zither
  • Zitherseite von Werner Wölfing. German language site with photographs, history and different types of zither, links to further information and resources, zither makers and players
  • Anton Karas page by his Grandson (English version) von Werner Chudik. Contains article by Günter Wittenstein discussing the zither tuning used by Karas

Zither
Zither Article Talk Language Watch Edit Not to be confused with Cither Zither ˈ z ɪ d er ˈ z ɪ 8 1 German ˈtsɪtɐ from the Greek word cithara is a class of stringed instruments Historically the name has been applied to any instrument of the psaltery family or to an instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin flat body This article describes the latter variety 1 2 3 ZitherDifferent concert zithersString instrumentClassification Chordophone String instrumentHornbostel Sachs classification314 122 5 6 Resonated box zither plucked by fingers or a plectrum DevelopedAntiquityRelated instrumentsBar zither musical bow stick zither tube zither raft zither board zither box zither ground zither harp zither trough zither frame zitherMore articles or informationZither solo from G schichten aus dem Wienerwald 1 04 1 04 source source Courtesy of MusopenProblems playing this file See media help Zithers are played by strumming or plucking the strings either with the fingers or a plectrum sounding the strings with a bow or with varieties of the instrument like the santur or cimbalom by beating the strings with specially shaped hammers Like an acoustic guitar or lute a zither s body serves as a resonating chamber sound box but unlike guitars and lutes a zither lacks a distinctly separate neck assembly The number of strings varies from one to more than fifty In modern common usage the term zither refers to three specific instruments the concert zither German Konzertzither its variant the Alpine zither both using a fretted fingerboard and the chord zither more recently described as a fretless zither or guitar zither Concert and Alpine zithers are traditionally found in Slovenia Austria Hungary France north western Croatia the southern regions of Germany Alpine Europe Poland the Czech Republic Slovakia Russia Ukraine and Belarus Emigration from these areas during the 19th century introduced the concert and Alpine zither to North and South America Chord zithers similar to the instrument in the photograph also became popular in North America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries These variants all use metal strings similar to the cittern Contents 1 Etymology 2 Organology 3 History and development 4 Concert and Alpine zithers 5 Tuning 6 Playing techniques 7 Contemporary use 8 Notable players 9 See also 10 Notes 11 References 12 External linksEtymology EditThe word zither is derived from Latin cythara which was used in this form for the title covers on many 16th and 17th century German printed manuscript books originally for the cittern from the Greek word kithara an instrument used in Ancient Greece 4 The German scholar Michael Praetorius mentions an Englishman who came to Germany with a small cittern einem kleinen Citterlein in his treatise Syntagma Musicum published during the early 17th century 5 It is not fully understood how zitter or zither came to be applied to the instruments in this article as well as German varieties of the cittern Other types of zither also existed in Germany mostly drone zithers like the scheitholt which was mentioned by Praetorius or hummel but these generally have their own individual regional names and may have been in use before the introduction into the lexicon of cythara and its German derivative cognate Organology EditThe Hornbostel Sachs system an academic instrument classification method also uses the term zither to classify all stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the sounding box Categories include Bar zithers made up of musical bows and stick zithers tube zithers raft zithers board zithers includes box zithers ground zithers and harp zithers trough zithers and frame zithers 6 According to Sachs 7 Board zithers form the most important category from an oocidental point of view because they include our stringed keyboard instruments The strings are stretched out over a board which is rectangular or trapezoidal or in some other shape and which is glued onto a shallow box The strings may be open or stopped it may be a psaltery or a dulcimer This includes such diverse instruments as the hammered dulcimer psaltery Appalachian dulcimer guqin guzheng tromba marina koto gusli kanun kankles kantele kannel kokles valiha gayageum đan tranh autoharp santoor yangqin santur swarmandal and others Pedal steel guitars lap guitars where the neck serves no separate function other than to extend the string length and keyboard instruments like the clavichord harpsichord and piano also fall within this broad categorical use 8 The word has also been used in conjunction with brand varieties of other string instruments for example the zither banjo 9 History and development Edit Chinese Guqin with seven strings Although there is evidence that a kanun was found in Mycenaean Greece dating back to 1600 BC the earliest known surviving 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 10 Similar instruments along this design were developed over the following centuries for example the Japanese silk strung koto the siter of Indonesian gamelans the qanun or kanun of Greece and the Middle East the valiha a tube zither of Madagascar and many others Increasing interest in world music has brought wider recognition to these other zither family members both ancient and modern Many of these instruments have been sampled electronically and are available in instrument banks for music synthesizers Alpine Scheitholt In Europe and other more northern and western regions early zithers were more similar to the modern mountain dulcimer having long usually rectangular sound boxes with one or more melody strings and several unfretted drone strings Some of these employed movable bridges similar to the Japanese koto used for retuning the drone strings The Alpine Scheitholt furnishes an example of this older type of European zither By the late 18th century two principal varieties of European concert zither had developed known as the Salzburg zither with a rounded side away from the player and the Mittenwald zither with both sides rounded Both styles are still found in concert zithers today although the Salzburg style has become by far the most common 11 Zitherist before 1850 in Ausseerland Styria playing a Salzburg style instrument The zither became a popular folk music instrument in Bavaria and Austria and at the beginning of the 19th century was known as a Volkszither Viennese zitherist Johann Petzmayer 1803 1884 became one of the outstanding virtuosi on these early instruments and is credited with making the zither a household instrument 12 In 1838 Nikolaus Weigel of Munich conceived the idea of adopting fixed bridges adding additional strings tuning them in the cycle of fifths and chromatically fretting the fingerboard effectively converting a rather crude folk instrument into the concert zither His ideas were not however widely accepted until 1862 when luthier Max Amberger of Munich fabricated a new zither based on Weigel s design 12 At this point the zither had reached something very close to its modern concert form Within a relatively short time the new design had largely replaced the old Volkszither though still called by the same name among folk musicians throughout central Europe particularly in the Alpine countries As the concert zither it also began to attract the attention of serious composers a number of whom themselves became concert zither virtuosi These composers called the Altmeister flourished between 1870 and 1910 And no less a composer than Johann Strauss II gave the instrument a prominent solo in one of his most famous waltzes Tales from the Vienna Woods nb 1 The zither went through two periods of great popularity in the United States The first of these was in the late 19th through early 20th century when it was greatly in vogue as a parlour instrument in many homes During that period a number of U S based instrument manufacturers many of them founded by or staffed with European and especially German and Austrian luthiers were producing concert zithers Chord zithers were often marketed under confusing brand names like guitar zither or mandoline zither The recently rediscovered recordings of the gospel singer Washington Phillips who used two instruments simultaneously have revealed the virtuosic capability of the chord zither to modern musicians seeking to revive it By the 1920s this popularity had begun to wane as other string instruments notably guitars increased in popularity along with the new fashion for jazz music In the 1950s interest in zithers resurfaced due in great measure to the success of the 1949 British film noir The Third Man The soundtrack music for the film which featured only a concert zither no other instruments was performed by the Viennese musician Anton Karas His The Third Man Theme was released as a single in 1949 50 and became a best seller in the UK 13 Following its release in the U S in 1950 it spent eleven weeks at number one on Billboard s U S Best Sellers in Stores Chart from 29 April to 8 July 14 The exposure made Karas an international star 15 A Time magazine film preview stated that the famous musical score by Anton Karas would have the audience in a dither with his zither 16 This new popularity for the zither lasted until well into the 1960s with many successful albums during the period from performers such as Karas Ruth Welcome and Shirley Abicair German born American Ruth Welcome released a number of very popular theme based zither albums between 1958 and 1965 e g Romantic Zither Zither South of the Border Zither Goes to Hollywood Australian born singer Shirley Abicair popularised the chord zither when she used it for accompaniment in her TV shows live performances and recordings in Britain in the 1950s and 60s 17 18 Zither music also featured in a Twilight Zone episode Mr Bevis in 1960 19 Although interest in the zither had once more begun to wane by the late 1960s owing to the two American vogues there are still many used instruments to be found in various states of disrepair It has become something of a truism that most zithers seen today are either 60 or 110 years old Currently 2019 only a few independent luthiers and mid European makers are producing new instruments Concert and Alpine zithers Edit Concert zither with a fretted fingerboard This variety is a discant Salzburger Konzertzither A concert zither may have from 29 to 38 strings with 34 or 35 being most typical These are arranged as follows four or five fretted melody strings placed above a guitar like fretboard 12 unfretted accompaniment strings followed by 12 unfretted bass strings followed by a varying number of contrabass strings with five or six being the most common number On some older zithers one may find half frets above the 12th fret which extend only under the first two or three strings This results in the lower fretted strings having no pitches or no chromatic pitches available above the 12th fret while the higher fretted strings still have higher chromatic pitches available at these half frets Nearly all instruments made after 1960 however have full length frets all the way up the fretboard Anton Karas and Ruth Welcome used instruments of similar design to the one illustrated After World War II Karas according to zither scholar Gunter Wittenstein who was acquainted with him performed on an instrument of larger dimensions than normal with a 43 cm standard scale length for the fingerboard strings He used Viennese tuning see below but with an altered chromatic sequence for the fingerboard and open strings The accompaniment strings G and F were tuned an octave higher while contrabass strings tuned E F D E C replaced the regular cycle of fifths bass strings This brought the contrabasses closer to the fingerboard where the player could reach them more easily For The Third Man Karas tuned the zither a semi tone lower giving a particularly distinctive tone to the contrabass strings The resulting lower string tension also enabled Karas to perform an expressive vibrato on the fingerboard melody strings Film director Carol Reed on whose oak kitchen table the music was performed described the sound as gritty and dirty perfectly reflecting the atmospheric mood of the film An Alpine Zither Note the harp post at the top of the image The Alpine zither has 42 strings and differs from the concert zither primarily in requiring the addition of an extension to the body of the instrument to support both the longer additional contrabass strings and their tuners Alpine zithers are tuned in a similar manner to the concert zither with the accompaniment and bass strings each providing a full set of 12 chromatic pitches also arranged in a cycle of fifths Contrabass strings are arranged in a descending chromatic scale Late 19th and early 20th century versions of the instrument were often called harp zithers so named because the pillar extension seemed a miniature version of the harp s pillar The extra contrabass strings ran parallel to the other strings on these earlier instruments the diagonal arrangement illustrated developed later to assist the right hand in reaching the strings There are two popular tunings for the modern zither Munich and Viennese The zither tuning chart below gives tuning details including pitches and octaves Munich tuning is on top and Vienna tuning below Some players have used Vienna tuning only for the fretted strings and Munich tuning for the unfretted strings Full Viennese tuning is normally used only on instruments with 38 or fewer strings Tuning EditTuning chart for concert and Alpine zithers Zither tuning chartFretted UnfrettedString Melody Accompaniment Basses Contrabasses1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42Pitch Munich A4 A4 D4 G3 C3 E 4 B 3 F4 C4 G3 D4 A3 E4 B3 F 3 C 4 G 3 E 3 B 2 F3 C3 G2 D3 A2 E3 B2 F 2 C 3 G 2 F2 E2 E 2 D2 C 2 C2 B1 B 1 A1 G 1 G1 F 1 F1Viennese A4 D4 G4 G3 C3 A 4 E 4 B 3 F4 C4 G4 D4 A3 E4 B3 F 4 C 4 G 3 E 2 B 2 F2 C3 G2 D2 A2 E2 B2 F 2 C 2 G 2 C2 B1 B 1 A1 G G1 F 1 F1Notes Basic Concert AlpinePlaying techniques Edit Zitherist in Maribor Slovenia The zither is played by plucking the strings while it lies flat on a table which acts as a resonator to amplify the sound or it can be held on the lap On concert and Alpine zithers the melody strings are pressed to the fingerboard fretted with the fingers of the left hand and plucked with a plectrum on the right thumb The first and second fingers of the right hand pluck the accompaniment and bass strings and the third finger of the right hand plucks the contrabass strings there are variants on this technique The concept of the chord zither is different from that of the concert and alpine zithers These instruments may have from 12 to 50 or more strings depending on design All the strings are played open in the manner of a harp The strings on the left are arranged in groups of three or four which form various chords to be played by the left hand The strings to the right are single or pairs of strings intended for the right hand to pick out the melody Tuning can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model but is usually indicated on the instrument itself in the form of a chart painted or glued under the strings Contemporary use Edit Basia Bulat playing an autoharp Liam Finn s electric drum zither Since the zither requires advanced technique to play anything more than simple tunes the vast majority of the concert zithers sold never attained more than amateur or mostly ornamental use the playing of Washington Phillips was a rare exception As a result manufacturers attempted to simplify the instrument with various keyboard devices attached to the melody strings Marxophone dolceola celestaphone tremoloa etc The invention of the autoharp which uses bars with felt pads attached underneath placed across and above the strings is probably the most successful adaptation However the absence of a fretboard makes the autoharp a closer relative of the chord zither than the concert zither Presence of the concert zither in classical music remains sparse Concert and Alpine zithers remain in use by a relatively small number of contemporary musicians from various global regions and musical genres either out of interest in traditional musical styles for the instrument or from a desire to seek new sounds for their music New variations on the concert zither have also been employed including the electric zither and recent instruments that share zither characteristics such as the Chapman stick While use of the concert zither itself has declined zither music and technique continue to influence contemporary musicians For example Canadian musician Jeff Healey featured in the film thriller Road House in 1989 used a zither technique to play electric guitar Blind from the age of one Healey began playing when he was three with the instrument flat on his lap left hand above the fingerboard in the same manner as a zitherist Although he used a Fender Stratocaster guitar throughout his career the instrument was in effect being used as an electric zither Notable players EditShirley Abicair Basia Bulat Dorothy Carter Anton Karas Felix Lajko Laraaji Michel de Montaigne Dolly Parton Johann Petzmayer Washington Phillips Lee Ranaldo Wilfried Scharf John Sebastian Ruth Welcome King KalakauaSee also EditAdjalin Autoharp Baltic psaltery Dulcimer Guitar zither Swarmandal UkelinNotes Edit The part is sometimes played on a mandolin when a zither is not available References Edit a b zither Oxford Dictionaries Online Oxford University Press 2013 Retrieved 26 October 2013 Strings on a table Merriam Webster com Merriam Webster 2013 Retrieved 26 October 2013 zither Dictionary com Unabridged Random House Inc 2013 Retrieved 26 October 2013 Zither Praetorius Michael Syntagma Musicum De Organographia Part I and I 1619 Oxford University Press London 1986 019316406X von Hornbostel Erich M Sachs Curt March 1961 Classification of Musical Instruments Translated from the Original German by Anthony Baines and Klaus P Wachsmann The Galpin Society Journal 14 20 21 JSTOR 842168 Sachs Curt 1940 The History of Musical Instruments p 463 W W Nortan amp Company Inc ISBN 0 393 02068 1 Hornbostel Erich M von and Sachs Curt Classification of Musical Instruments Translated from the Original German by Anthony Baines and Klaus P Wachsmann The Galpin Society Journal Vol 14 March 1961 pp 3 29 Pestcoe Schlomo The English Zither Banjo Stephen Jones Source and stream early music and living traditions in China PDF Oxford Journals Archived from the original PDF on 29 May 2008 Cite journal requires journal help Zither britannica com a b History www zithers usa com Archived from the original on 3 March 2016 Retrieved 6 June 2016 Music Zither Dither a 28 November 1949 article from Time magazine Song title 199 Third Man Theme Tsort info 8 October 2007 Retrieved 24 June 2013 The Third Man DVD review Sean Axmaker Turner Classic Movies The Ultimate Trailer Show HDNet 22 September 2010 Fitzpatrick Rob 4 September 2013 The 101 strangest records on Spotify Ruth Welcome Romantic Zither Retrieved 6 June 2016 Ruth Welcome Retrieved 6 June 2016 The Twilight Zone 1959 s01e33 Episode Script SS Retrieved 6 June 2016 Other sources Dearling Robert Stringed Instruments Chelsea House Publishing 2000 ISBN 0791060926 Marcuse Sibyl Musical Instruments A Comprehensive Dictionary W W Norton amp Company 1975 ISBN 0393007588 Muhlemann Lorenz Die Zither in der Schweiz Von den Anfangen bis zur Gegenwart Turtleback 1995 ISBN 3 729 60584 4 German Ralston Jack L A Selective Bibliography for the Zither University of Missouri 1981 ASIN B00072D9GI Schuler Manfred Zither In Der Volksmusik vol 1 amp 2 Unbekannt ISBN 3 853 66837 2 3 708 40155 7 German External links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to Zithers Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica article Zither Fretless Zithers at MinerMusic com English language site dedicated to the chord zither The authors present arguments for the instrument to be renamed fretless zither Contains some dead links Zither collection of the University of Leipzig German language site with pictures of vintage instruments including bowed zithers here called Streichzithern Zither US English language site based in the U S Contains biographies of early performers and personalities associated with the history of concert and Alpine zithers mainly in the U S Also contacts for resources like instrument maintenance enthusiast clubs and events Zithernhistorie German language site describing transition from drone zither to 19th century Mittenwald and Salzburg concert zither Zitherseite von Werner Wolfing German language site with photographs history and different types of zither links to further information and resources zither makers and players Anton Karas page by his Grandson English version von Werner Chudik Contains article by Gunter Wittenstein discussing the zither tuning used by Karas Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Zither amp oldid 1055490781, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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