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Vintage Zithers

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Autoharps and Zithers6 of 9Do you recognize this instrument? Some of my Unusual Musical Instruments
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    Posted 10 years ago

    (82 items)

    These are three of my zithers. The two smaller ones are child's zithers- the one on the right is a "Third Man" model (I have another one that has the label, this one's label is missing). The red one was given to me when I was in college over 40 years ago. It was new then, but I have no idea where it was made. I always thought it might be German.

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    1. Bootson Bootson, 10 years ago
      Hello stef,

      I remember working with you, in a past life, on "Wrestling Buddies" plush dolls.

      You have some nice things posted, I see we have some similar interests ...musical instruments, children's books to name a few.

      World keeps getting smaller.

    2. stefdesign stefdesign, 10 years ago
      Really? Wow! You can find my email through my blog listed on my profile. I'd live to hear from you!
    3. Bootson Bootson, 10 years ago
      I'll have to find it tomorrow, my mind is slowing to a crawl, it is 1:20 AM back here in Minnesota. Good night
    4. kerry10456 kerry10456, 10 years ago
      These are really nice stef, I remember my granny playing one of these and singing old German songs. Thanks for bringing the memories back to mind.
    5. guymannering guymannering, 10 years ago
      Anton Karas Playing Third Man theme on a fretted Zither.
    6. stefdesign stefdesign, 10 years ago
      That's so funny that you would link the Anton Karas Third Man video... when I posted this collection on my blog a couple of weeks ago, I also added a similar video. You can see it here:
    7. Bootson Bootson, 10 years ago
      For all the times I have heard that I always thought it was a guitar and mandolin.
    8. guymannering guymannering, 10 years ago
      I had seen the movie and was astounded at the complex music Karas got out of the zither--thinking all zithers were alike (like you have pictured). Then I found out that he played one with FRETS--AHA, that explains it! Do you know how one might make the tuning pegs of old dried out auto-harps and zithers tight again? The older they get, the more they seem to slip--rendering them untunable!
    9. stefdesign stefdesign, 10 years ago
      That's a good question. I have about 15 old autoharps, zithers and related instruments, and I don't bother tuning the older ones. I do have one lovely autoharp from the '60s that was found unused, and it tunes up like a dream. But the old guys just sit on my shelves, collecting dust and looking great! I have 3 newer autoharps that get a lot of playing (they range from early '80s to early '2000s) so I don't really bother trying to tune the old guys. Perhaps if I found an antique fretted zither, I might tune it, but so far, I haven't found one I could afford. My best guess on the problem with the tuning pegs on the old instruments is that the wood surrounding the pegs have warped, dried, or split. This would make them nearly impossible to tune. But try taking them to a luthier specializing in autoharps, and see if there's anything they can do to recondition the wood.
    10. stefdesign stefdesign, 10 years ago
      Probably another big factor in older instruments not staying in tune is the fact that they have sat for so long out of tune. The strings have adjusted to that position and they don't want to move very much! If you are determined to retune an older instrument that is still in good condition, is to just be patient and tune it every time you pick it up. That is a pain, because there are so many strings to tune. But eventually, the strings will stay in tune longer and longer. Good luck!
    11. guymannering guymannering, 10 years ago
    12. Picking-and-Collecting Picking-and-Collecting, 10 years ago
      A couple of years ago I picked up a child's "Third Man" zither. It is made of some type of lightweight metal (zinc?), and has a masonite back. It has the Third Man logo on it. (I play a modern Chromaharp too.)
    13. stefdesign stefdesign, 10 years ago
      Glad to hear about the Chromaharp, P&C. They make quite good instruments. I've been playing autoharp for over 40 years, and have played a lot of instruments. I borrowed a friend's Chromaharp for a year or so, and it played beautifully. I was so sad to give it back!

      I haven't seen the metal 3rd Man zithers, but I'm sure they're from the same time period- early '50s. I need to dig out my other wooden one. It's here somewhere....
    14. sayer34, 10 years ago
      stefdesign: the 1902 Sears Catalog has several Zithers listed-excellant illustrations and descriptions along with prices-I know very little about zithers but have thought they were thr by products of the piano business.Thanks for sharing your collection with us.
    15. DobbinDee70, 9 years ago
      I realize this is an older post but I have some questions . I just got a vintage Zither or autoharp in great condition from a friend . It is called a Marxophone and has little hammers on the front . It is way out of tune . From what little research I have been able to do on it I believe it was made sometime in the 1920's . I can play several musical instruments and can read music and would like to play it . However I do not have anything to tune it with . A friend of mine also has an autoharp but she has lost her tuner . She tired to order one from a name brand music store and the one that arrived would not fit her autoharp or mine .She was very careful to let them know the year her autoharp was made . Hers is newer than mine . I think we both need the same type of tuner . Is there anyone out there that knows where we can get one that will work ? Also my Marxophone has two sets of strings for one note and I am not sure how to tune it . Are both strings tuned to the same pitch ? The book that came with it does not say .My friends autoharp only has one string per note . Thanks in advance for any help .
    16. Radegunder Radegunder, 9 years ago
      I met Anton Karas were I worked as a waiter. He showed up at a birthday Party to play for his friend who had his 6oth birthday, in Vienna.Guess what he played?
      He also said how much money he from the Harry Lime Theme.
    17. stefdesign stefdesign, 9 years ago
      Dobbindee- you can email me at stefanieeskander@gmaildotcom, and I'll try to help you out!
      Radegunder- that's so awesome that you met Anton Karas! And to hear him play too- a double treat!
    18. DobbinDee70, 9 years ago
      stefdesign : I tried to send you an e-mail at that address and I got a message saying that it was an invalid address .
    19. stefdesign stefdesign, 9 years ago
      I hope you took out the word 'dot'....
    20. DobbinDee70, 9 years ago
      Yes I did , It still did not work . My e-mail address is :
    21. stringalong, 4 years ago
      Your red zither was sold by Oscar Schmidt International, New Jersey. I was fortunate to purchase one identical to yours in excellent condition, which has the label inside. I wonder if these were made in Europe for sale in the US. This lovely man has published a number of YouTube videos of popular music which he plays on the zither, and he has tips for learning to play:
    22. stringalong, 4 years ago
      These are called chord zithers but also guitar-mandolins despite resembling neither! The guitar refers to the sound of the strummed chord groups on the left side, and mandolin for the sound of plucked melody strings on the right, which in some models were doubled as on a mandolin. If you have one of these instruments (or ANY stringed instrument) take care to detune and reduce the tension on the strings if you do not play it or will be storing it for some time. As an instrument experiences changing humidity over time (especially in a damp basement or hot attic) the glue and joints loosen and the string tension will literally tear the instrument apart.
    23. KayakGrammy, 2 years ago
      Hi all. I have a zither that my great uncle passed down to me. Otto Haselhorst! Its in good condition, but it is very old. I would love to give it to someone who would enjoy having it. Is there anyone out there who would appreciate it. I live in Maryland.

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