Guitar Zither

Guitar Zither The multiplicity of strings and a common origin in Germany seem to link the concert zither and the guitar-zither. It might seem at first glance that the guitar-zither is an attempt to create a concert zither that's easier to play. But in reality they are quite different. The concert zither plays the melody on a few fretted strings, and assembles accompaniment chords on open strings. The guitar-zither, on the other hand, plays the melody on a set of open strings. In this way it is much more closely related to a plucked psaltery. The chord groups are an addition to the plucked psaltery which provides a pleasant accompaniment.

All of the major early 20th century manufacturers of fretless zithers produced 4/30 chord zithers, including Phonoharp, Menzenhauer, Schmidt, and Marx. The 4, in 4/30, is the number of chords; the 30 is the number of melody strings (15 paired strings= 30 strings). Each manufacturer had their own distinctive decorative decals on the soundboards, so even if the label is missing, as in this one, the decal tells who made it. I found several pictures and descriptions of Phonoharp instruments on the internet, including the one on the previous page. Phonoharp labels were most often black with gold lettering inside a gold circle. Occasionally, the Phonoharp 4/30 showed model number “2 1/4” on its inside label.