We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Zither?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A zither is both a family of stringed instruments and a particular stringed instrument. The family that takes the name are instruments with stretched strings, also known as simple chordophones in the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system. If there is a resonator in a simple zither, it must be capable of being detached without eliminating the ability to produce sounds. This separates these instruments from composite chordophones, which feature a built-in resonator, as well as a yoke, neck, or other string holding element.

The subsets of this family are bar zithers, tube zithers, raft zithers, box zithers, board zithers, trough zithers, and frame zithers. Most sound when the strings are plucked, but some are bowed or struck. Among the keyboard instruments, the piano is a box zither, as are the harpsichord and the clavichord. Dulcimers — also used both as a class and as a member of the class — are box zithers with multiple strings and no keyboard. Autoharps are box zithers with damper bars that allow the player to choose chords by pressing buttons.

The particular instrument called a zither is one of two different types. One type is sometimes referred to as the fretless zither, which has many variations. The other is the concert zither, which characteristically has five melody strings that are stretched over a fretted fingerboard and unfretted harmony strings that are not fretted, and may include chord groups. The instrument came into being in the Alps, and Carl Ignaz Umlauf is credited with the invention of the Viennese family of zithers.

Music for the zither has reached outside of Bavarian folk songs in several ways. Many may be surprised to learn that there is a solo for this instrument in Johann Strauss’s piece, "Tale from the Vienna Woods." The movie version of The Third Man, based on a Graham Greene novel, features a zither in the theme music. The score was composed and performed by Viennese composer and zither player Anton Karas.

Other famous players have included Hans Lanner, Rudy Knabl, Cornelia Mayer, and Alfons Bauer. The repertoire for this instrument has expanded beyond its origin, and today it includes jazz and pop, as well as folk and classical pieces. The autoharp, too, has flourished, making its way into such varied genres as flamenco, jazz, and Caribbean.

A special zither experience is available in Vienna through Mayer Music. If you are interested in learning about playing the instrument and its repertoire without first investing in one, you can take a set of two lessons, which will allow not only introduce you to the zither, but also to the culture of Viennese folk songs. Performances by artists from around the world using the instrument are given throughout the United States, often in association with a college or university.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Musical Expert, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
Learn more
Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.