Epinette Des Vosges

Name: Epinette Des Vosges.
Type: Chordophones > Simple > Zithers > Box > Fretted.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Area: Vosges Mountains of France near Val-d’Aol and Gérardmer.
Country: France.
Region: Western Europe.

Description: The épinette des Vosges is a traditional stringed instrument of the zither family. It falls in the same category of fretted box zithers as the Appalachian Dulcimer and Hungarian citera. This type of zither was confined to two areas in the Vosges Mountains of France approximately 50 kilometres apart from each other; around Val-d’Ajol and Gérardmer.

History: The épinette has been attested as early as the 18th century in the Val d’Ajol and Plombières-les-Bain’s regions of Southern Vosges where the instrument derives its name.

The earlier origins of the épinette des Vosges remains unknown. Some believe the instrument was introduced by the Swedes during the 30 years war. It is possible this instrument is descended from the medieval psaltery.

Playing Technique: The frets on the épinette are set in a diatonic arrangement, thus producing a heptatonic major scale. During the 19th century the number of frets increased from 14 to 17 giving it a range of two and a half octaves.

Usually the épinette is played when the musician is sitting down. While the epinette is placed on a table or on a lap. The épinette gives some separation between the melody strings and the drones. Thus, those areas can be struck separately to establish rhythm.

The épinette may be tuned higher or lower by ear according to the musician’s preference. Rather than by concert pitch. This is also determined by the accompanying instrument, the épinette’s individual sound, or personal taste.

In addition to the diatonic épinette, there are epinettes available in chromatic fretting in semitones. This allows for musicians to play the épinette in any key without having to re-tune it.

Citations: Bibliography: L’instrument de musique populaire, usage et symboles, musée des arts et traditions populaires, 1980 ISBN 2-7118-0172-1Méthode d’épinette par Christophe Toussaint Édition princeps 2004. 2ème édition 2007 ; Websites:

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