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Add Dimension to Your Music With Autoharps and Zithers

Stringed instruments, like the zither, autoharp, guitar, harp, and dulcimer, all have a common origin, but they are played and orchestrated in different ways. The guitar, harp, and dulcimer are widely used, but the zither and autoharp are relatively obscure instruments. Check out the new and pre-owned autoharps and zithers on eBay, and get ready to make some beautiful music.

What should you know about the zither?

The zither is essentially any instrument with multiple strings on a thin, flat body. To produce sound, you strum or pluck the strings with your fingers or a pick. The earliest known form of this musical instrument is the Chinese guqin, which dates to 433 B.C. Contemporary versions of this musical instrument are made with a long, rectangular sound box with a melody and drone strings.

You can find vintage zithers on eBay to recreate the music of bygone times with an authentic sound. By the 1800s, the zither became a prominent musical instrument in Austrian and German folk music. Austrian and German immigrants brought the stringed instrument to the United States, where it became a parlor instrument during the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

How are the zither and autoharp constructed?

Whether you get one from a brand like Suzuki, Oscar Schmidt, or La Bella, this instrument typically looks like a flat box with a diagonal cut across the right corner, and it has a hole in the middle. That said, they can come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on the type you're playing, a zither can have between 30 to 42 strings. Some of the strings sit above a guitar-like fretboard, and the remaining strings are above the instrument's body. They are arranged in this manner:

  • Strings 1 to 5: Above the fretboard, these are for the melody.
  • Strings 6 to 17: Used for accompaniment.
  • Strings 18 to 29: Used for the bass.
  • Strings 30 to 42: These play the contrabass notes.
Who are some musicians who play these instruments?

Over the years, affordable autoharps and zithers have primarily been used for home entertainment. Even so, there are a few notable musicians who have played these instruments. They include:

  • Linda McCartney: She was a member of Paul McCartney and Wings and was married to Sir Paul McCartney.
  • Dorothy Carter: Carter was a prominent musician in psychedelic folk music and the medieval music revival movement.
  • Ruth Welcome: Trained at the Juilliard School of Music, she was known for being the only professional zither player in the United States.
  • John Sebastian: He was the founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted group, The Lovin' Spoonful.
  • Anton Karas: He was known for his soundtrack composition for the British film noir "The Third Man."
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