Are you interested in learning how to play the zither? Are you wondering how to start? Your initial challenge is to first locate a zither, find resources to help you learn how to play and then to instill playing habits that will help you to master the instrument over time. This article will attempt to address some of the initial questions a prospective zither player may have on where to begin. If you already play another stringed instrument, you will find that much of what you know also holds true for the zither.

Übung macht den Meister

Reading Music

Unless you are especially gifted and can play by ear, the ability to read music is a must. The zither music that you encounter will likely follow one of two possible clef systems. The Munich clef system utilizes treble clef for the top and bottom staves. The Viennese clef system utilizes treble clef for the top staff and bass clef for the bottom staff. Neither notation is more difficult than the other. For the zither, notes on the top staff refer to the the finger board strings which are fretted with the left hand. The bottom staff relates to the series of open strings, known as the accompaniment, bass and contra bass strings, which are played with the right hand.

Buying a reliable Zither

When learning to play the zither you will face many challenges. One challenge that should and can be avoided is
learning on a zither that is damaged or will not stay in tune. Consider making the investment on a reliable used or new

To purchase a new zither, you will most likely find yourself visiting the web sites of zither luthiers in Germany.
Although your options may be expensive, the quality and workmanship that you will find in a hand crafted instrument
will bring you much joy for many years to come. Although many Germans speak conversational English, some difficulties may be encountered when discussing the finer points of the sales transaction. With this in mind, ensure there is a firm grasp of either German or English on each end of the line before proceeding with a transaction. Visit the resources page for a listing of zither luthiers.

Find an instructor

If you are fortunate to live close to a zither teacher, make the investment and receive some personal instruction
until you are comfortable with the instrument. This will ensure the formation of good habits that will carry you along in your zither playing pursuits.


Practicing frequently for a minimum of 1/2 hour each day is a must. This is necessary to build muscle memory so your playing will gradually make the transition from slow and choppy to smooth and effortless. There is no hard rule for how long to practice each day. Some will practice 1/2 hour each day while others may have time to practice 2 or more hours. Some choose to have 1 long practice session per day while others prefer to have multiple, shorter practice sessions during the course of the day. Whatever you decide, you should first determine a set amount of time to practice each day that works for you and make it a habit.


As you learn new pieces of music, work slowly and ensure you can play the piece smoothly from measure to measure. If you find one section to be problematic, begin playing from the previous measure and play forward until the section is mastered. The zither is not an easy instrument to learn, so it is important that you learn to appreciate your small advances with each practice session.

When possible, get together with fellow zither players and attend seminars to practice and play music. If you do not have another zither player to practice with, other instruments, such as the piano and the guitar, will also make a nice accompaniment for the zither.

Do you have stories or experiences pertaining to the zither that you would like to share with the community? If so, contact us.