ONCE UPON A TIME...
You’re going to make something really magical. The ZITHER is a truly historical instrument. In Portugal, in the nineteenth century, it was a particularly popular instrument with the ladies. It originates from the lyre played by Apollo, which according to mythology was invented by Amphion, Apollo’s half-brother, to soothe his nerves. The sound box of Apollo’s lyre was made from a tortoise shell. But you don’t need to harm any animal, because the sound box of your ZITHER is a cardboard shoebox. In modem times, ZITHERS have tended to use wooden sound boxes, have been quite low in tone and have had lots of strings. But, as life is expensive nowadays, yours will have only eight strings: DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, SI, DO.
A cardboard shoebox made of strong material, 2 thin strips of pine (30 x 3 x 1 cm), 8 screw-in hooks, 3 strips of pine (30 x 3 x 1 cm), 8 screws ( 2 cm long), 60 cm of wire and nylon thread of 1 mm and 0,5 mm thickness (each of them 2 meters long – you can use fishing line if you like).
TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES
A dovetail saw, a pair of scissors, a punch, some contact adhesive and a drill with a 1,5 mm bit.
HOW TO MAKE THE INSTRUMENT
Make a round hole in the lid of the shoebox (the sound hole). Reinforce the bottom part of the cardboard box with the larger pine strips: You can either stick them in place or nail them to the box. These will help to reinforce the areas where you make holes to insert the screws and hooks. To make the structure even more resistant, glue the lid to the bottom part. Now make 8 equidistant holes at the top on opposite sides of the cardboard box, which should also continue into the wood as well. Screw the screws into one side and screw in the hooks on the other side. On the top of the ZITHER, on the soundboard, you will have to place two supports for the strings and a moving bridge, which will slide up and down between these two supports. When you support a string, the supports that you use have to be thin and hard, 50 you must place a wire on these. The technique is simple: using a handsaw, make a groove in the wood, so that the wire slots into it and doesn’t move. Finally, you’re going to place the nylon strings in position. You’ll use the thicker ones for the deeper notes and the thinner ones for the higher notes. The moving bridge in the middle must have a 600 slope on it and be as dose as possible to the bells (hooks). You should tune your ZITHER by comparing the notes it makes to those of other instruments, such as an Electronic Organ or a Recorder.
As always, your imagination. will tell you what to do. 1 would, however, like to make just one simple suggestion. Before starting to make the instrument, cover the shoebox with some paper that you like.
HOW TO PLAY THE INSTRUMENT
The strings on the ZITHER are played with a pluck, just like electric guitars. Normally a pluck consists of a small plastic triangle. Look in your music book to find some simple songs that only have a musical range of one octave. Don’t forget to play every day. When they first started playing, the great musicians had to work very hard to get to be as good as they are. Work hard and you’ll succeed.