New member asks: How to string and tune the zither.

Interested in learning how to play the zither and wondering where to start? Use this section to post your questions.

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Rudy Mueller
Posts: 437
Joined: Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:33 am

Re: New member asks: How to string and tune the zither.

Post by Rudy Mueller » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:09 am

Question on Ken Bloom's reply of Nov 28:

Ken, our daughter purchased a low cost "practice" zither for me to keep at her home in Germany while we're visiting. This older instrument (maker unknown, no tag) has a 6 string griffbrett and one peg (the first) for the aflat accompaniment string (not presently in use), i.e. two "extra" strings compared to most zithers.

What this does (or seems to do) is move the begleitung/accompaniment and base strings BACK towards the rear of the instrument two positions from the normal "griff" strings. Thus, Eb/Bb/F on this antique are where one's hands would normally and comfortably expect to find F/C/G on a contemporary instrument, relative to the "normal" griff. Could this be the reason for it's unusual stringing?

What is the normal spacing from the last griff (or griff G) string to the first begleitung string? or last griff (or G griff)string to the C bass. We hope to get out there at Easter, and then do a comparison measurement.

Rudi Mueller

Posts: 171
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2014 11:50 am

Re: New member asks: How to string and tune the zither.

Post by kenbloom » Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:17 am

Hi Rudi,

I have found that string spacing to be highly variable one zither to the next. I have two Meinels and one Amberger and the spacing is different on all of them. My Meinel senior is just little closer together than the Meinel junior. Many of the older simpler zithers I've come across have rather wide spacing.
You can certainly take the instrument you describe and just string it the more common way, ignoring the sixth string on the fingerboard and starting the accompaniement strings with an Eb. That would at least get everything into reasonable territory as far as spacing goes. After playing my Meinel harfenzither for decades it took me quite a while to really get used to the Meinel senior perfekta. You can't see the difference by eye and I susupect that the difference is not more than 1 mm but it is very noticeable. I would find it more comfortable if the strings were fanned a bit, keeping the same spacing at the bridge but spreading it out a little at the nut.
There really is no "normal" spacing that I've seen. Having the high Ab does make playing in Eb much easier but I know that this arrangement would be very uncomfortable for me. I thought about a six string fingerboard early on and I know that Rudi Knabl often played a zither with a low F string. I think, in the end, it's all about what your musical demands are and what you get used to. I don't play much with horn players so Eb is not a common key for me to play in. Judging from what was in the Darr book, I'm guessing that in those early days of zither development, many different and varied musical demands were made on the instrument and many people did their best to solve the problems. A lot of different aprroaches were taken as to what tuning served best. The end result has been that the standard has become a five string fingerboard and accompaniment strings starting with Eb. You don't see many Ideal-Reform zithers around. Instruments go through periods like this where all sorts of things are tried and eventually rejected. This is the best answer I can give to what I think you're asking. I'm sure that there is someone reading this that has more knowledge than I have that could be more definitive.

Ken Bloom

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