Tag: zither

stringed instruments

The Gusli – A Great Stringed Instrument from Russia

The Gusli (-> Wikipedia) is an old Russian stringed instrument, a kind of a zither. The gusli is used in folk music, but can also be used for classical music.

The gusli is usually played with the right hand while the left hand mutes to strings that should not sound. This can be used for harp-like arpeggios. It is also possible that the left hand plays accompanying chords while the right hand plays the melody. The right hand can also play the strings with a tremolo.

My first example is a Lullaby played by Olga Shishkina, she has studied in Russia and lives in Helsinki today.

Gusli: Lullaby by Shakhanov

Performance at St. Maria’s Church in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Another professional player of the gusili is Pavel Lukoyanov

Pavel Lukoyanov professional gusli-musician. Pavel was born in 1982 in Moscow. In 2002 has finished the Second Moscow Regional Musical College named S.Prokofiev (professor, merited artist of Russia Fediration Lubov Zhuks class). In 2007 has finished the Gnesins Academy of Music folk instrument department now. (L. Zhuk’s class).

You can find many solo pieces for the gusli in his youtube channel. This is his performance of Legend for gusli:

Legend for gusli

von Aleksei Larin

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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: http://choro-music.blogspot.de/2007/04/evocao-jacob.html

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)