The zither is a stringed instrument that generally has many strings that are stretched over a sound box. The strings are played by plucking, strumming or picking with the fingers, sometimes using plectra made of animal quills.
With its fingerboards and use being tied to those of the guitar, it is possible for one to master the zither by also mastering the guitar.
Those asking ‘What is a zither instrument?’ probably don’t know that the zither was originally designed as an instrument for European classical and folk music, but is now occasionally used in a variety of popular styles including rock and roll.
Its origins can be traced back to Asia where it originated as early as the third millennium BC with the Chinese Guqin and Indian vina; however, Europeans began imitating their own version of this instrument since the 17th century.
Many zithers today are electrically amplified, but originally they had no built-in means of amplification. A common feature of many types of zither is that they are made primarily of wood with metal strings stretched across it. The sound box has a hinged lid on top to allow the sound to project out of the box while being directed toward the player.
Zithers are typically classified according to how many strings they have. The most common types being single-string, double-necked, and triple- or quadruple-necked instruments.
Table of Contents
- How many strings does a zither have?
- How do you tune a zither?
- What types of zithers are there?
- What types of strings are on a zither?
- What does the zither sound like?
- Is the Zither hard to learn?
- What is a zither banjo?
How many strings does a zither have?
A zither is an instrument with anywhere from 6 to 44 strings. Though the most common number of strings on a zither is around 30, variations of this instrument exist that feature as many as 72 strings.
How do you tune a zither?
The instrument is tuned by adjusting the tension on the pegs that secure the strings to pins in the wooden soundboard. To fine-tune, each string may be adjusted with a turn of the peg at either end of its length. Excessive turning, however, can lead to snapping or breakage, so one has to be wary of this.
What types of zithers are there?
There are two main types of zithers: those with a flat soundboard, which have the shape of a trapezoid—a shallow dish with four sides sloping up to a ridge on top. The other type has an arched or curved shape that closely resembles the bridge of a violin.
What types of strings are on a zither?
A traditional zither has metal strings, but the instrument can also be strung with fiber or nylon (like an acoustic bass guitar). These materials make playing much easier for beginners. Sometimes, copper or brass is used instead of steel. Though still somewhat difficult to pluck, copper and brass strings have a softer sound than steel. They’re also less likely to damage the soundboard or produce unwanted overtones.
What does the zither sound like?
The zither has a very distinct sound that is often used in classical music (such as Mozart and Beethoven). The instrument can also add depth to an orchestra. It’s capable of playing many other notes simultaneously, which produces a lovely, ethereal tone known as “polyphony.”
Like other stringed instruments, the zither has the ability to create chords. However, it is not always easy for beginners or even intermediate players to play chords with this instrument—especially since most chord names are written according to guitar-tuning standards. This requires shifting positions on the neck, along with strumming techniques that are different from those used on guitars.
Is the Zither hard to learn?
Yes! Zithers do not have frets, so the entire neck is used to play different chords and notes. There are times when it’s necessary to change positions quickly and this can be rather challenging for beginners.
Nevertheless, zithers produce a wonderful sound and you should definitely give this instrument a try if you’re looking for something unique!
What is a zither banjo?
A zither banjo is different to a zither. The zither banjo is a type of banjo that was invented by luthiers in the 18th century. It differs from other banjos in that it has metal strings and a different tuning configuration. The instrument was designed specifically to imitate the sound of the zither. And despite its appearance, this instrument does not have any frets; everything must be done by ear.
The zither banjo still requires much time and patience for beginners (especially when compared with other instruments). Because there are no frets on this instrument, you’ll need to memorize where all six notes sit on your fretboard. This is a rather difficult task that requires a lot of dedication and practice.