Category: zither


Avena de Castro – The Zither in Brazilian Choro…

Some days ago I have descovered the youtube channel of SenorDaVoz. In this channel you can find some great playlists with music from Brazil, including 3 large playlists with choro music. You can find original recordings of masters like Jacob do Bandolim, Pixinguinha and Luperce Miranda.

There was one playlist that made me very curious – the image showed a man with a zither – an instrument that I did not expect to find in Brazilian music. I have watched the 3 videos in the playlist and was really surprised.

The musician that has played the Brazilian choros on the zither is Avena de Castro.

I have found some information about Avena de Castro in the Choro Music Blog:

Avena de Castro (Heitor Avena de Castro, 1919 – 1981) is regarded a Brazilian master of the zither. He started his career in the 1930s after studying the instrument at conservatory composing and transcribing classical repertoire to be performed on the zither. In the 1950s he recorded pieces by Ernesto Narareth and Zequinha Abreu a.o. and he was later to be involved in the founding of the Club de Choro of Brasilia and was actually elected as the first president of the organisation. He recorded more LPs, both as a soloist and participating in recordings by others, i.e. Waldir Azevedo (1973).

Avena de Castro planned a cooperation with Jacob do Bandolim and he even recorded one piece together with Jacob ( “Três estrelinhas” – see the playlist). This cooperation however was made impossible by the sudden death of Jacob do Bandolim. Later Avena de Castro published his LP Avena de Castro relembra Jacob Bittencourt’.

I think this Brazilian music played on a typical zither sounds very interesting, and therefor I have compiled a playlist with the best videos with Avena de Castro.

Let’s start with the famous choro Cochichando in the zither version by Avena de Castro:


Playlist Avena de Castro – Zither

Blog article in the Choro Music Blog:

Read also my related articles about the zither:


Basia Bulat and the Pianoette – Great Song “The…

Basia Bulat – a Canadian singer/songwriter plays some very special instruments: the autoharp, ukulele, charango and the very special pianoette – a fretless zither from the beginning of the 20th century.

I have discovered Basia Bulat from some free concerts on the NPR site and a short feature about her autoharp playing.

But the most fascinating video that I have found is Basia Bulat with her song The Shore. In this song Basia Bulat plays the Pianoette, one of the rare kinds of fretless zithers that were invented during the first years of the 20th century. When I first saw the video I was really wondering how Basia Bulat could produce this fascinating sound with chords and even a tremolo sometimes with just one instrument.

The pianoette has a special mechanism to play chords with the left hand, while the melody is played with a little hammer that beats onto the double strings in the same way as the hammered dulcimer is played. It is even possible to play a kind of tremolo with the swinging hammer.

The pianoette produces a great sound, and makes this song to a very special one:

#16.1 Basia Bulat – “The Shore”

Wideosesja Basia Bulat with – a young Canadian with Polish roots.

In the Palace of Culture during a concert at the Cultural Cafe Basia promote their second album “Heart Of My Own.” With this album specifically for the Free the Music! played the songs “The Shore” and “Hush.”

HibOO d’Live : Basia Bulat “The Shore”

Playlist Basia Bulat

Additional Information

Homepage Basia Bulat:

concert by radio 3 (Spain) – great concert video – Basia Bulat plays the charango, autoharp, guitar, piano and keyboard.

Homepage about  the fretless zithers:

About the Osborne pianoette:

NPR concert – Sasquatch 2011: Basia Bulat, Live In Concert:

NPR Tiny Desk concert:

Basia Bulat: Making The Autoharp Cool:

My post abouth fretless zithers in Switherland (German – will be translated within the next days):

Related posts:


CD recommendation: Good Advice by Basia Bulat (amazon partnerlink)


The Waldzither – A cittern

The Waldzither is an instrument that is mainly known in the north of Germany. The Waldzither belogs to the family of citterns, which includes the Swiss Halszither, as well as the Portuguese guitar used in the Fado music of Portugal. Citterns are also used in the folk music of England and Ireland.

The Waldzither has 9 strings, the lowest string is a single string, the other strings are double like the strings of a mandolin.

The Waldzither is very good for accompanying songs. The Waldzither uses open tunings, and who knows to play the guitar can quickly learn to play the Waldzither as well.

Most famous are the Waldzithers by the Böhm factory from Hamburg. Those can be recognized by the special tuning machines which are tuned with a special tuning key. Such tuning machines are also used for the Portuguese guitar until today.

A lot of information with chord charts and some sheet music can be found on the German site There you can find informations about the different tunings that are used for the Waldzither and also some pieces for the different tunings.

The following video shows a typical Böhmzither.

Waldzither, Achterum (norddeutscher Dorftanz), vorweg etwas “präludiert” (Impr.)

The German company Folkfriends now offers a Hamburg Waldzither similar to the Böhmzither produced almost 100 years ago. This instrument is demonstrated in the following video.

Finally my own video using a Waldzither from Thüringen (Thüringer Waldzither). This instrument has a slotted head like a guitar. I have stringed and tuned this instrument like a mandola with four double strings tuned in fifths. This instrument has the typical glass bridge that is often used for Waldzither instruments. I like the open and very bright sound with a lot of sustain of the Waldzither.

Playlist Waldzither

A list of important links about the Waldzither: Linkliste Waldzither

The Waldzither Chord Bible: CGCEG Standard C Tuning (Fretted Friends) (Amazon partnerlink)