What type of Zither have I got? What is my Zither worth?
There are two types of zither that are played in the European alpine region:
The Concert Zither
The zither above is a concert zither, a student model with 5 fret board strings and about 27 accompaniment strings. Professional models often have 40 or more strings and some are very ornate. The latest trend is to build bigger bodied zithers to increase the sound volume, but the basic design is the same.
Playing the Concert Zither
The melody is played on the fret board ; Thumb, index-,middle-, ring-finger of the left hand press down the strings between the frets to produce notes of different pitch. The right thumb plucks the 5 melody strings with a ring.
Accompaniment is played on the open strings with index, middle and ring finger of the right hand; the ring finger plays the bass, index and middle finger play 3 chord strings.
The Chord Zither
The German name is “AKKORD ZITHER”; it has no fret board only open strings, sometimes single strings, sometimes double strings, often ornate folk art painting.. Some chord zithers come with printed music which sits under the strings. The player can then pluck the strings following dots, similar to painting with dots.
The basic design is to have the melody strings on the right and they are plucked with a ring on the right thumb.
The chord zither is still played in Switzerland.
Further information on the German Zitherbund web site www.zitherbund.de
What is my Zither worth? About old Zithers
There are no Stradivarius instruments about. Zithers don’t improve with age. If they have been neglected or exposed to extreme climate conditions, the timber warps or cracks, the tuning pins rust and the strings break.
Here in Australia, If you see one in a second hand shop hanging on a wall or without a case, it’s probably damaged and not worth repairing or paying a lot of money for it.
If you just want to experiment a little bit playing an old instrument you don’t need a set of new strings, you can do the following:
You need the 5 melody strings, but not all the open strings (strings above No. 20 are not used by a beginner).
If the strings are very old and very much out of tune, tuning should be done gradually over several days, or the strings might snap (protect eyes).
Bear in mind that some one might have put the wrong strings on (Vienna tuning or Munich tuning).
Check with my diagram for string names, try to tune the red strings.
If a string is already very tight and still 2 or 3 tones away from pitch it could be a wrong string and if forced will snap.
If this answer doesn't help try other resources at the Links page, or contact me directly.Back to Frequently Asked Questions