FIVE COOL THINGS - Fretless Zithers of Great Art (and Little Music)

 

HERE'S FIVE MORE COOL FRETLESS ZITHERS FROM MY COLLECTION that were recently detail cleaned by my son, Shane.  I have such a fascination with these +/- 100 year old contraptions, mainly for the aesthetics of them.  It's the Victorian curves, lettering and graphics that just draw me in, even though these instruments are just as unplayable now they were when they were new!  

Almost all of these were probably sold door-to-door by sheister salesmen who could talk a housewife out of $3 a week payments for an instrument all her children could learn.  Rarely did anyone ever learn to play much on them.  In fact, the salesmen usually only knew just enough songs on them to make a sale.

Cool thing #1 (above) - This is the Regent Zither No. 5, a great looking zither that was set up with chord sections.  Notice the curves on the sides, the gold striping around the edges and the deep mahogany stain.  Of all my fretless zithers, this is one I really would have liked to hear when it was new.  I wonder if the chords were lush...

Cool thing #2 - The Symphony Harp.  This black and gold zither is absolutely wrecked and water damaged.  It's warped and cracked...and yet beautiful.  

Cool thing #3 - The American Art Guitar - It's not a guitar, but it is art to me.  It's one of the rarer fretless zithers out there and was made to play with both hands sorta holding it like a guitar.  (I have no idea what the inventor was thinking...)  This was the instrument that got me started collecting fretless zithers.  I found it for $35 at an antique store in York PA.  (I probably paid too much!)

Cool thing #4 - The Paramount Harp.  This is completely weird.  On the left side are chorded strings that are strumed.  On the right side is a contraption with buttons that is mounted on a rocking lever.  You push a button down and a tiny guitar pick sticks down into the strings.  By rocking the whole shmeer back and forth, it plucks the note.  

Cool thing #5 - a pair of Ukelins.  The Ukelin is the king of useless fretless zithers.  More of these were sold across the country than any of the rest.  The instrument is one part bowed psaltry and one part strummed chords.  I've never heard one played well.  


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