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Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?

Bonnie Shaljean 24 Dec 08 - 05:00 AM
johnross 24 Dec 08 - 10:03 PM
Neighmond 25 Dec 08 - 01:38 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 26 Dec 08 - 05:49 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 26 Dec 08 - 02:20 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 26 Dec 08 - 03:19 PM
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Subject: Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 24 Dec 08 - 05:00 AM

There have been some requests for info about the Paramount Concert Harp (which is a zither) in another forum devoted to ordinary harps, and I figure if anybody can help, it will be Mudcatters. If someone can tell us anything about these Paramounts I will put a link into that other forum - the query drew two or three other intrested zither folk but no actual answers. A couple of people have bought old ones and want to know if they're worth restringing, any history etc. I did a MudSearch but couldn't find any other threads on this - someone please put a clickie in if I missed something.

Pic of the Paramount here, for as long as the link lasts:

http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/5184775

Thanks in advance for any input -


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Subject: RE: Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?
From: johnross
Date: 24 Dec 08 - 10:03 PM

Paramount was one of dozens of brands of American chord zithers. I have no idea whether a Paramount is better or worse than any of the other makes.

In general, chord zithers were inexpensive instruments, sold either by mail order or by itinerant salesmen. Many of them have a number under each string, corresponding to "numeric" sheet music intended for people who had no formal musical training and could not read conventional musical notation. You can find some examples of music books for numeric instruments at http://www.geocities.com/~ukelin/songbook.html. The same numeric notation system was also used for other instruments with a million strings, like the ukelin, tremoloa, Marxophone and many others. The modern autoharp is a direct descendent of those things.

This is not a sophisticated instrument. It's certainly possible to make reasonably pleasant music on one of those things (I use thumb picks on my similar "Mandolin Guitar," which is neither a mandolin nor a guitar), but the best thing to do with one of them is probably to clean it up, apply some wood polish and hang it on the wall.


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Subject: RE: Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?
From: Neighmond
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 01:38 PM

I have a Chartola, made by the Oscar Schmidt company in 1915 that is similar to that chord zither in appearance.

The reason for the numbers on the soundboard is because there are paper slips that lay under the strings that show you how to play by the numbers.

http://www.fretlesszithers.com/cz.html has some chord zithers. Also there are some nice links to their music, which is sort of sweet sounding.


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Subject: RE: Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 26 Dec 08 - 05:49 AM

Thanks for the helpful responses - I was going to come back and post a link to the Fretless Zithers site myself, but Neighmond beat me to it. Here's the clickie:

http://www.fretlesszithers.com/cz.html

You can hear samples of them being played by clicking the "Sound Clips" link in the right-hand column, and a skilled musician can get more out of them than I'd thought. A friend gave me an old Phonoharp which had been languishing in his attic that his wife wanted cleared out. Being a sucker for any instrument that's antique and stringed, I took it and put it next to a still-playable harp (normal kind) made in 1837, where it sits and looks pretty. The chord-zither has a sweet pleasing voice and is nice to sing to, but as johnross says, they're not sophisticated. Fun though. And more portable than my "real" harps!

My friend is English and we both now live in Ireland so the Phonoharp (made in Boston Massachusetts a little over a century ago) has travelled a few miles throughout the years. I don't think he's ever been to the States so he must have got it in London.


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Subject: RE: Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 26 Dec 08 - 02:20 PM

Which form of the zither found its way onto the sound track of Orson Welles' "The Third Man?" It had a rather haunting quality - almost a metallic tremolo or vibrato effect - that gave a very different feel to the background music throughout the film. "The Third Man Theme" became popular as a single in the early 1950's.


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Subject: RE: Paramount Concert Harp zither - info?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 26 Dec 08 - 03:19 PM

I may have to be corrected on this, but I think that was probably a fretted zither, because of the chromatic nature of the melody. If you Google or YouTube "Anton Karas" you'll get a lot more info because he was the instrumentalist for the film. (No time to do it myself now, but that will undoubtedly answer your question.)


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