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In modern common usage the term "zither" refers to three specific instruments: the concert zither (German: ), its variant the Alpine zither (both using a fretted fingerboard), and the chord zither (more recently described as a fretless zither or "guitar zither").Concert and Alpine zithers are traditionally found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, France, north-western Croatia, the southern regions of Germany and alpine Europe.
Pedal steel guitars, lap guitars (where the neck serves no separate function other than to extend the string length), and keyboard instruments like the clavichord, harpsichord and piano also fall within this broad categorical use.His ideas were not, however, widely accepted until 1862, when luthier Max Amberger of Munich fabricated a new zither based on Weigel's design.At this point the zither had reached something very close to its modern concert form., from which the modern word "guitar" also derives.Historically, it has been applied to any instrument of the cittern family, or an instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin, flat body – similar to a psaltery. Zithers are played by strumming or plucking the strings, either with the fingers (sometimes using an accessory called a plectrum or pick), sounding the strings with a bow, or, with varieties of the instrument like the santur or cimbalom, by beating the strings with specially shaped hammers.These composers, called the " The zither went through two periods of great popularity in the United States.
The first of these was in the late 19th through early 20th century, when it was greatly in vogue as a parlour instrument in many homes. S.-based instrument manufacturers, many of them founded by, or staffed with, European (and especially German and Austrian) luthiers, were producing concert zithers.
The word has also been used in conjunction with brand varieties of other string instruments, for example the zither banjo.
Similar instruments along this design were developed over the following centuries, for example: the Japanese silk strung koto, the siter of Indonesian gamelans; the Qānūn (or Kanun) of the Middle East; the valiha, a tube zither of Madagascar; and many others.
The soundtrack music for the film, which featured only a concert zither (no other instruments) – was performed by the Viennese musician Anton Karas.
His "The Third Man Theme" was released as a single in 1949–50 and became a best-seller in the UK.
Like a guitar or lute, a zither's body serves as a resonating chamber (sound box), but, unlike guitars and lutes, a zither lacks a distinctly separate neck assembly.