So Just What is a Waldzither Anyway?

The Waldzither is a 9 string German folk instrument, with many similarities to modern citterns and mandolas.. The instrument has 4 pairs of strings plus a single bass string: traditionally these instruments had a scale length of either 43 or 46cm and were tuned to open C (c g c' e' g'), but of course many other tunings are possible. Likewise there are variants of the Waldzither with either longer or shorter scale lengths.

Traditionally these instruments come from the Thüringen part of Germany, and appear to be virtually unchanged throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. However, it should be noted that modern steel strings render these instruments sounding completely different from the cittern's of the renaissance period.

Around 1900, instrument manufacturer C. H. Böhm started manufacturing waldzithers in large quantities, the instruments were given Preston style tuners (similar to those used on the Portuguese guitarra today) along with bridges made from glass, and marketed widely causing something of a craze for these instruments in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. Consequently many other luthiers - large and small - in the Vogtland region of Saxony began making waldzithers also. These copied instruments were often made using whatever techniques and materials the luthiers were most used to, and consequently vary greatly in construction and tone etc.

Photo Gallery

One of my restored waldzithers, this one from C. H. Böhm.

My 50cm scale waldzither: manufactured by Plückthun & Co in either the 20's or 30's.

Left and centre are Böhm waldzithers, on the right is a Thüringen waldzither. All have been restored by luthier David Hynds (thanks to David for permission to use the images).

A particularly fine example of a waldzither restored by luthier David Hynds (thanks to David for permission to use the images). This one looks to be typical of the instruments made during the GDR period.

This crazy looking beast is a 14-string Heym waldzither restored by luthier David Hynds (thanks to David for permission to use the images). The instrument has triple strings on the upper four courses, and a pair of strings on the low bass course.

Left: 41cm scale 10-string waldzither, Right: 43cm scale 1925 waldzither. In the centre is a 1921 Ajr mandolin for comparison. All these instruments are owned and played by Martin Jonas - many thanks to Martin for the image.

A selection of restored Waldzithers owned by Norbert Feinendegen - many thanks to Norbert for the images.

A long-scale Becker watch-key waldzither restored by luthier David Hynds (thanks to David for permission to use the images).

If you have an instrument you would like here then please contact me.

Audio Samples

The following clips are courtesy of Martin Jonas, played on a 1925, 43cm scale waldzither tuned GDAEA:

Of the instrument Martin says: “The Zimmermann isn't necessarily very typical of the waldzither tone -- most of them had larger soundholes and a much more trebly tone with relatively little sustain, closely similar to a renaissance cittern (which is really what they are). Acoustic recordings using a hand-held MP3 recorder with no post-processing -- this was a quick and dirty recording done slumped on the sofa.”

If you have a sound sample you would like here then please contact me.

Videos

From my instruments:

And some rather more professional ones:

If you have, or know of, a video you would like here then please contact me.

Books

Only two that I know of so far:

"Die Waldzither Puzzle I and II" by Martina Rosenberger, see http: /www.etcetra.eu .

Links

www.000webhost.com