A zither is a stringed musical instrument with strings of equal length to the zither's soundboard. Zither's are composed of a chromatic fretboard, similar to that of a guitar, and anywhere from 27 to 37 additional open strings. The zither is a difficult instrument to learn, with Zither.us warning that it's more difficult than either the guitar or piano, even to those with previous music experience and knowledge.
Anatomy and Terminology
Identifying and understanding the anatomy and terminology of the zither will help you avoid confusion when learning how to play. The zither's first five strings are called the Griffbrettsaiten. These strings feature a chromatic fretboard often used to produce melody. The following 12 strings, the accompaniment strings, are played openly, unlike the fretted Griffbrettsaiten. Strings 13 through 24 are bass strings, also open. The remainder of the strings are called the contrabass strings. The number of contrabass strings on a zither varies by model and they're used far less frequently than the other strings. Zithers with 27 strings are called concert zithers, while those with 37 are called harp zithers.
As is the case with learning any instrument, it's best to get instruction from a zither player or teacher. Learning through personal instruction provides personal access to somebody who has already done what you're doing and can correct your mistakes while guiding you toward learning the zither. Consider searching the Internet, local classified ads and the phone book for zither teachers. If that doesn't pan out, check local music shops and ask whether they know any zither instructors or classes.
Other Learning Methods
It might be difficult to find a local teacher who offers zither instruction. While they pale in comparison to actual instruction, books teach the techniques, exercises and methods important to a budding zitherist. While you might be able to find some instruction and inspiration online through websites or videos, your best bet is a book teaching the fundamentals coupled with as much practice as you can stand.
Clef Systems and Tuning Considerations
Before learning the zither, it's wise to learn music theory and how to read music to better understand the two clef systems used with the zither. The Munich system requires treble clef tuning on both the top and bottom staves, while the Viennese system's bottom stave is in bass clef. The clef system determines the tuning of every string on the zither, so ensure you know which you're using to avoid confusion. To ensure easy and accurate tuning, consider an electronic tuner. Tuning forks and pitch pipes work but may not be as simple as a digital tuner.
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