- Mark Lindley,
- Andreas Michel
- and Alan R. Thrasher
A term having two main senses in modern organology. The first denotes (in both English and German) a large category of string instruments also known as ‘simple chordophone’ (defined in §1 below); the second, more limited and perhaps more familiar sense refers to a small group of Alpine folk and popular instruments. From the late 15th century the term ‘zither’ was used exclusively to denote chordophones with necks, of the cittern type. It was only from the early 19th century that the name began to be used for descendants of the north European Scheitholt type of instrument (see §§2 and 3 below), which had no neck and frets placed directly on the box. From the Scheitholt evolved the modern Alpine instrument still known as the zither (Fr. cithare; Ger. Zither; It. cetra da tavola); other types of fretted zither are found elsewhere in Europe.
According to the classification system of Hornbostel and Sachs (...