Waldzither Tuning

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Tenor  Waldzither: scale length around 460mms 

  Tuning:  Essentially, a waldzither looks like a bigger mandolin, with 4 double courses of strings, but with an extra bottom string, though it comes from a different instrumental root. The tenor version most often seen is traditionally tuned  C gg c'c' e'e' g'g', from bottom up.

   When ordering strings it is important to note the size if you have a 'Bohm type', which has double-loop strings. Typically these strings are 650mm, so are too short for the longest scale lengths, and too long for the shortest.

Romana Thuringer String gauges:  typically .012  .015  023w  .032w  .045w silver wound.  To suit scale length 450-460mm.
Romana Bohm String gauges :  .010  .013  .020  .030w(.013core)  .042w(.018core) bronze wound. To suit scale length 655 mm.
Pluckthorn Waldzither String gauges:  typically .012  .015  .018  .026w  .038w wound.  To suit scale length 500mm in trad. open C tuning.
Pyramid Strings:  

Waldzither Family:

   There are, as with most instruments, a whole family of waldzithers of different sizes, though there seems to no standardisation about the tuning of each, different old tutor books suggesting different alternatives.
  • Tenor (450-460mm),  tuned (c  g  c'  e'  g')   but also found tuned d  a  d'  f#'  a'
  • Descant (390mm), also known as a Bergmannszither or a Walddoline,   g  d'  g'  b'  d''
  • Bass waldzither in A tuned A  e  a  c#  e'
  • Piccolo was apparently tuned an octave above the tenor, either   c'  g'  c''  e''  g''   or   d'  a'  d''  f#''  a''

       A variety of tunings for the tenor waldzither have been suggested by Doc Rossi as follows;

       CGBEG   EGBEG   DGBEG   DGBDG   DGDCG   CGCFG   CGCDG   GDADG   ADADG   all from the bottom up.


 14 string Heym Waldzither: scale length around 408mm

  Tuning:  Essentially, a 14 string waldzither is triple course instrument, with 2 free bases. Traditionally in the C instrument tuned  g'g' e'e' c'c' gg C, from top down.
   I tuned this as a C instrument even though the scale length suggested it may have been a D version, mainly because of its age and fragility. It wasn't really clear whether the lower of each triple course was an octave down or not, and in the end I chose to tune simply, with triples the same octave, using a set and a half of thuringer strings.


Alternative Waldzither Tuning

Many waldzithers are bought either to use as citterns, or as bouzouki style instruments in Irish music. The original German open C tuning of the tenor waldzither is fine for chordal accompaniment, but not good for tunes. Thus much restringing is done, and I receive requests for ideas on what string gauges and tuning to use. So, here are a few thoughts....

The table below shows a few possible re-stringing choices, with relevant string gauges that I have used.....



Scale Length B E A D G C
Mandolin 330mm   010 015 024 038  
  one octave below a mandolin but with roughly twice the scale length
Short Bouzouki 560mm   012 018 032 046  
Long bouzouki 660mm   010 017 030 040  
Waldzither   011 (g) 014 (e) 022 (c) 033 (g) 047 (c)
  a waldzither could either be tuned as a bouzouki with an extra lower or upper course...
waldzither 500mm 008 014-16 020-22 034 048  
  014-16 020-22 034 048 064-66
      note that this re-tuning can be achieved by using the original waldzither strings shown above, just by replacing the 011 with a 008, or adding a heavy bottom string.
waldzither 460mm 009-10 016-18 022-24 036 050  
  016-18 022-24 036 050 066-70
  note that as the scale gets shorter, the strings must get heavier to reach the same note.

   There is a choice of string gauges shown, as different players have a preference for heavier or lighter strings. Some flexibility is possible. This is only a general guide, though I would not advise straying too far from recommended gauges, or you risk damaging the instrument.


 Some simple waldzither chords, assuming  an open C tuning of c gg c'c' e'e' g'g'.
For those of you who know more about musical theory than me, this site may provide extra insights into chording: http://www.waldzither.de/dat/noten.htm (but it is mostly in German)