Zitherist William Kolb has often wondered, as many players of stringed instruments surely have, what's behind the strings which eventually find their way to his zither. On a recent trip to Germany, his long standing questions were answered. It was here, in Erlbach, Germany, that he was provided with an opportunity to witness the string manufacturing process first hand by paying a visit to the skilled craftsmen at Lenzner string manufacturers.
Anyone who has ever played a string instrument understands that occasionally, no matter how well made a string is, there are times when they will snap. According to Murphy’s law, this will generally happen at the worst possible moment, perhaps in the middle of a song while performing live before an audience! Having performed in a dance band as a guitarist for a number of years, this has indeed happened to me on several occasions, which is why I always had a set of reserve strings handy. Now playing the zither, I try to do the same and always have an extra set of strings in my kit. This is one of the reasons why one should not play with the same strings for a long period of time. (Another major reason for periodically restringing is, of course, to keep the sound of your instrument at its best.)
Did you ever wonder just how the strings for your zither (or guitar or violin or whatever stringed instrument it is you play) are manufactured? I did, and had the chance to find out for myself recently.
Deep in the heart of the Vogtland in Germany are several delightful small towns and villages. The Vogtland stretches across three states, Thuringia (Thüringen), Saxony (Sachsen), and Bavaria (Bayern), and is comprised of five regions: Thüringer Vogtland, Nördliches Vogtland, Rund um Auerbach, Plauen and Vogtländische Schweiz, and Oberes Vogtland. It is an area of green, rolling hills, brooks and meadows, and for much of its area forms the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. Within walking distance of this border, which now that the Czech Republic has joined the EU, is no longer a barrier between the two countries, lies the small village of Erlbach, population = 1890. In February, 2008, I had the opportunity to visit Lenzner Saitenmanufaktur Reinhard Renz e.K. at Schulstraße 18. It is at this location that the world-famous Lenzner strings are produced, and from where they are shipped all over the world. The owner, Mr. Dipl.-Ing. Reinhard Renz and his son, Sebastian, were very gracious in meeting with me, explaining the history of the company while demonstrating how strings are manufactured.
Although the production that day was to manufacture harp strings, Mr. Renz explained that the procedure is basically the same for all the instruments; what varies is the length and diameter of each string. In fact, the highly skilled technicians at Lenzner can produce strings to any particular requirement. Mr. Renz also explained that they will typically make a certain number of a particular string and after the required quantity is reached, the machine is reset for the next string in the production line. Mr. Renz estimated that if they were to use one machine to produce a set of strings for a 42- string Harfenzither the time required would be approximately one and a half to two-hours!
It was very interesting for me, who has played string instruments for many years (as did my father and my sons!) to see just how the strings, that are such an integral and necessary part of the instrument, are constructed by the hands of skilled craftsmen one string at a time.
My thanks to Mr. Reinhard Renz and Sebastian for their generous hospitality in sharing just how strings are made. The next time you need strings, consider Lenzner.
For additional information, visit the home page of Lenzner String Manufacturers.
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