Saturday, April 10, 2010

Some Zithers Don't Fret, it Seems

"Fretless Zithers"
Gregg Miner and Kelly Williams,


"The purpose of this page is to introduce, validate and establish the new standard term of fretless zither for the many hundreds of different American and European 'zithers' which do not conform to the traditional accepted form of modern zither. We also present below the first logical Family Tree for these instruments, which illustrates their evolution and relationship with other zithers.

"The traditional modern form of zither is that known as the 'concert zither,' 'Alpine zither,' 'Austrian zither,' or simply 'zither' (Fig. 1). The non-traditional form, which is now infinitely more common and familiar to the public, is based on a psaltery concept - i.e. non-fretted, open strings stretched over a box (Fig. 2). Previous, misleading terms include 'American zither,' 'guitar zither,' 'chord zither,' and again, simply 'zither.'..."

Who knew there was so much to know about zithers? Or, probably, so much controversy?

There's quite a bit more, about zithers, on that page. Including a sort of 'family tree:" The "Fretless Zither Family Tree." (2003) It starts with the Medieval Psaltery (many strings, no frets) and Medieval Monochord (one string, with frets): and tracing development of the instruments through more steps than I'd like to have a pop quiz on.

You can pretty much count on anything that starts with "premise" in big bold letters being somewhat less light reading than the Sunday funnies - and this page is no exception to the rule. I enjoyed reading how a quite nice Austrian/German instrument fell into the hands of Americans and changed. A lot. If there's nothing you enjoy doing more than reading about what griffbrettlose zithern means: this is the article for you.

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