Category Archives: Zithers


Phin Pya

Name: Phin Pya.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Stick.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Region: South East Asia.
Dimensions: Length in cm.
Specimen: 1 in collection.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch @

Description: The Phin pya or pin pya is a stick zither played by the Lanna people of the Chiang Mai region of Northern Thailand. The instrument traditionally had two strings but now three and four string versions are quite common. The Phin pya is related to the Cambodian one-string satdiev or khse diev, which is probably older. Both instruments derive from early Indian veenas often pictured played by the goddess Saraswati.

Playing Technique: The Phin Pya is held upright, with the gourd facing towards the chest. The left hand holds the instrument with the thumb under the resonator. While fretting the melody string and occasionally picking the open accompaniment string. The right hand holds the body of the instrument in balance with the thumb.

While plucking the instrument with the third finger and fretting harmonics with the first knuckle of the first finger. This instrument is quite difficult play as the harmonic position played at the right change as the left hand frets the string. This instrument is very quiet and has a haunting sound.

Construction: The strings start at the tuning pegs and then run under a cord that is wrapped around the stick body to hold the coconut resonator in place. The strings then run the length of the body and run over a metal elephant head shaped tailpiece, which they are also attached to.

The main melody string is made of brass and the accompaniment string or strings are usually steel. A small tuning thread is loosely tied between the body and the accompaniment string or strings to facilitate a higher pitch and slide along the body to fine tune.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch @ [Phin Pya article] ;

Rudra Veena

Name: Rudra Veena.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Stick.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The rudra veena [also spelled rudra vina, Hindi: रुद्रवीणा, Bengali: রুদ্রবীণা] and also called bīn [in Hindi: बीन in North India] is a large plucked string instrument used in Hindustani classical music, one of the major types of veena played in Indian classical music. Rudra is a name for the Hindu god Shiva, rudra vina literally means “the veena dear to Shiva”. Shiva is also said to have created the Rudra veena, inspired by his wife, Parvati.

Usage: The rudra veena is an ancient instrument rarely played today. The rudra veena declined in popularity in part due to the introduction in the early 19th century of the surbahar, which allowed sitarists to more easily present the alap sections of slow dhrupad style ragas.

Construction: It has a long tubular body made of wood or bamboo with a length between 54 and 62 inches. Two large, round resonators, made of dried and hollowed gourds are attached under the tube. Twenty-four brass-fitted raised wooden frets are fixed on the tube with the help of wax. There are 4 main strings and 3 chikari strings.



Name: Mvet.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Stick.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Cameroon.
Region: Africa.

Description: The mvet is a stringed musical instrument, that is classified as a stick zither. It is played by the Fang people of Gabon, Cameroon, western Central African Republic São Tomé and Equatorial Guinea. The mvet player must undergo a long and intense initiation and training.

Mvet players hold a special position in society. The spoken and sung narratives include epic stories that maintain the morale values, history, legends and ancestral lines of the tribal group. This is not that dissimilar to role of griots in neighbouring West African societies.

Construction: Traditionally the mvet was made from a raffia stick which five strings were cut from the peel. The five strings were stretched over a short notched bridge. Effectively doubling the number of pitches. A gourd resonator is attached to the mvet at the opposite side of tubular stock. Modern meets have up to three resonators [gourds]. Tuning keys on modern mvets are often welded from hardware, bolts and washers.

Citations: Bibliography: Biyogo, Grégoire 2002 Encyclopédie du Mvett. Paris Libreville: Editions du CIREF Editions de l’ICAD – Institut Cheikh Anta Diop. ISBN 2913983553 – Ndoutoume, Tsira 1993. Le Mvett : l’homme, la mort et l’immortalité. Paris: L’Harmattan. ISBN 2-7384-1558-X ; Boyer, Pascal 1988. Barricades mystérieuses & pièges à pensée : introduction à l’analyse des épopées fang. Paris: Société d’ethnologie. ISBN 978-2-901161-31-8 ; Alexandre, Pierre 1974 ;


Name: Keteng-Keteng.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Tube > Idiochords.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.11
Country: Batak Karo area, North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The Keteng-Keteng is a tube zither that is found in the Batak Karo area in North Sumatra, Indonesia. It is between 60 cm and 80 cm in length and usually about 10 cm to 15 cm in diameter. When the lower strings are beaten, they produce a sound resembling a gong.

Playing Techniques: The part played on this string, resembles the punctuating part of a gong in the main Batak Karo ceremonial orchestra, the Gendong Sarunai. It is played four, eight or 16 beat intervals. The other string, producing two pitches, contributes, to the stock melodic patterns. Rhythmically the music performed on this instrument, resembles the drumming in main ceremonial orchestra.

Construction: The tube is at each end retaining both nodes. A whole is cut into one node at the front and back of the tube. Two or occasionally three strings are cut from the same piece of bamboo. Bridges are inserted at both ends underneath each string.

The highest of the strings is raised by inserting a bridge in the middle. The insertion of the middle fret when raising the string, allows for two separate tones to be produced.

Citations: Bibliography: Margaret J. Kartomi, Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music, Vol. 2 Book Go to O page 379 ;

Concert Zither

Name: Concert Zither.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Box > Fretted.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Germany.
Region: Europe.

Description: The concert zither or [in German: Konzertzither] its variant the Alpine zither both using a fretted fingerboard and the chord zither more recently described as a fretless zither or “guitar zither”.

The Concert and Alpine zithers are traditionally found in the Alpines and mainly with in Central Europe including the following Slovenia, North Western Croatia, Austria, Hungary, France the southern regions of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Emigration from these areas during the 19th century introduced the concert and Alpine zither to North and South America. Chord zithers similar to the instrument in the photograph also became popular in North America during the late 19th and early 20th century.



Name: Citera.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Box > Fretted.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Hungary.
Region: Eastern Europe.

Description: The citera is a fretted-zither that is found in Hungary. It is related to fretted zithers. Namely other European zithers French Épinette des Vosges, the Norwegian Langeleik and the Swedish Hummel and the Appalachian Dulcimer. The Hungarian citera is very diversified in its form and size. The tuning and its basic features and manner of playing are very similar.

Usage: The citera is played as a solo instrument and to accompany vocalists. Up until the 1920s these instruments were very popular at festivities because of their strong sound they could provide dance music without band accompaniment.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites, [citera luthier]; Tibor Gáts ;