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. 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, kantele, guzheng, koto, gayageum, đàn tranh, kanun, autoharp, santoor, yangqin, piano, harpsichord, santur, swarmandal, and others.

Etymology and instrument family

The word "citrara" 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

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. [http://em.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/XXIV/3/375.pdf Source and stream: early music and living traditions in China]

In modern entertainment, the zither is perhaps most famous for its role in the soundtrack, especially in the opening scene, of the classic film noir "The Third Man". 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, . 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, in particular in small towns and boroughs the concert zither was well-liked and inspired people to make music at home.

lovenian zither

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.

Violinske citre (Violin zither)

Violin zithers are a new version of Slovenian zithers.


Wooden board zither of the Khakass people, usually with 6 or 7 strings stretched across movable bridges and tuned a fourth or fifth apart. The body is hollowed out from underneath like an upturned trough. It has a convex surface and an end bent towards the ground. The strings are plucked and the sound is very smooth. The instrument was considered to be sacrosanct and playing it was a rite bound to taboos. The instrument was mainly used at court and in monasteries, since strings symbolised the twelve levels of the palace hierarchy. Related instruments include the Tuvan chadagan, the Mongolian yatga, the Japanese koto, the Chinese quin and the Korean kayagum.

The Khakass use this instrument to accompany lyrical, historical and epic songs and heroic tales. The Khakass sacred heroic epic says: "We are all universal, since we participate in the creation of the world every year, every day and every moment". This goes also for their folklore, customs and traditions. Artistic creativity is interwoven with material production, the way of life and everyday relationships. In traditional Khakass society every man and every woman has the gift of creativity. A genre of oral folk creative work known as the takhpakh (= improvised songs) was especially wide spread. Women hold an important place in Khakass society that is reflected in many heroic poems and epics. Female warriors have been great heroes against external enemies. Women are "pogho" and how they live is explained in one specific tale, where the rules are described in ornamental form. The poghos build a bridge between generations and are also great shamans (Kam religion).and jacqui is the name of this board


The küsle, a trapeziform zither with between 20 and 22 strings plucked with the hands.


* [http://www.si.umich.edu/chico/instrument/pages/zither_gnrl.html "Zither"] from the University of Michigan School of Information's "CHICO" project

External links

* [http://www.minermusic.com/dolceola/fretless_zithers.htm "Fretless Zithers" at MinerMusic.com] (history, family tree, photos, and more)
* [http://www.fretlesszithers.com FretlessZithers.com]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAeYt-swWG0 Zither concert video: Hungarian violin virtuoso Félix Lajkó play a zither, with singer Magdolna Rúzsa accompanying, in a folk song interpretation.]
* [http://www.studia-instrumentorum.de/MUSEUM/zithern.htm "Zither collection of the University of Leipzig"] Ger
* [http://www.zitherist.com "Zitherist International" Zither web magazine]
* [http://www.zither.us "Zither US"]
* http://www.dolmetsch.com/defsv1.htm

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Zither — Zither: Der Name des Musikinstruments wurde bereits in ahd. Zeit (ahd. zitara) aus lat. cithara »Zither« entlehnt, aus dem auch niederl. citer, schwed. cittra und (durch frz. Vermittlung) engl. zither stammen. Das lat. Wort seinerseits ist aus… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Zither — ith er, n. [G. zither. See {Cittern}.] (Mus.) An instrument of music used in Austria and Germany. It has from thirty to forty wires strung across a shallow sounding board, which lies horizontally on a table before the performer, who uses both… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Zither — Sf std. (9. Jh.), ahd. zitara, cithara Entlehnung. Ist entlehnt aus l. cithara, dieses aus gr. kithárā, dessen Herkunft nicht sicher geklärt ist.    Ebenso nndl. citer, ne. zither, nfrz. cithare, nschw. cittra, nisl. sítar; Gitarre. ✎ Relleke… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • zither — (n.) stringed musical instrument, 1850, from Ger. Zither, from O.H.G. zitara, from L. cithara, from Gk. kithara lute (see GUITAR (Cf. guitar)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Zither — Zither, 1) musikalisches Instrument, entstanden aus der von Amphion od. Linos erfundenen Kithara (Kitharis), welche anfänglich vier Saiten hatte, deren Zahl nachher bis acht od. neun vermehrt wurde, vgl. Lyra. Die alte Kithara wurde von dem… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Zither — (Cither, Schlagzither), kleines, etwa 1/2 m langes und 1/4 m breites, 5 cm hohes Saiteninstrument mit 29–42 Saiten, über einen flachen Resonanzboden gespannt. Die fünf Griffbrett (Violin ) Saiten a , a , d , g , c (Münchener Stimmung) oder a , d …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Zither — (grch. Kithara), schon im Altertum übliches Saiteninstrument, früher mit dem Plektron, jetzt mit einem Schlagring geschlagen (Schlag Z. [Tafel: Musik I, 17 u. 22]). – Vgl. Thauer (1902) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Zither — Zither. Dieses Instrument, dem jedenfalls unsere heutig Guitarre nachgebildet ist, findet sich schon bei den alten Griechen und Hebräern, und war mit 5 Saiten bezogen. Das unter diesem Namen noch jetzt vorkommende Instrument ist von Holz, hat… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Zither — Zither, ital. cithara. sehr altes Saiteninstrument, bestehend aus einem flachen ovalen Kasten mit Hals, auf dem das Griffbrett liegt. Die Saiten sind Drahtsaiten und werden mittelst eines Plectrums mit der rechten Hand geschlagen; die Stimmung… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • zither — ► NOUN ▪ a musical instrument consisting of a flat wooden soundbox with numerous strings stretched across it, placed horizontally and played with the fingers and a plectrum. ORIGIN German, from Greek kithara, denoting a kind of harp; related to… …   English terms dictionary

  • zither — [zith′ər, zith′ər] n. [Ger < L cithara < Gr kithara, lute] 1. any of a family of musical instruments with strings stretched across a flat soundboard and plucked, bowed, struck with mallets, etc., as the dulcimer, koto, psaltery, etc. 2. a… …   English World dictionary

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