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Arietta - a predecessor of the Symphonetta?

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I came across this instrument in Neil Wayne's concertina museum. Badged Arietta with a German patent number, it plays bass on the left hand bellows box, and the metal "crossbars" on the right can be used, with difficulty, to get a melody.... Has anyone any more information on these and their relative success as a playing instrument? I guess Stephen Chambers might!


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From the patent document I understand it uses the system of the "well-known Menzenhauescher Zithern" to facilitate untrained players to play a simple melody.

That zither seems to use tune sheets lying under the strings, showing what string to play next.


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10 hours ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

Here's another combined instrument ( shown in one of my reference books).. a sort of combined spinet with Regal ( bellows operated organ) on the opposite end!..



It seems to me that whereas the ARIETTA was designed to be played by one person this has to be played by two.


Also, the spinet side has a flap to fold over the keyboard, the top folds down and then! the two parts fold together ( are those hinges I can see on the centre join? ) you tuck it under your arm and of you go to your next gig!



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  • 1 month later...
On 6/12/2022 at 7:58 AM, Leonard said:

That zither seems to use tune sheets lying under the strings, showing what string to play next.

Precisely! Like "painting by numbers", only musical!

Around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, there seems to have been a craze amongst instrument makers to invent an instrument that could be played by someone with no prior musical knowledge, and even without tuition. My theory is that this was a response to the emancipation of the working classes, who now had the leisure time to indulge in music-making, but not yet the financial means to pay for classical instruments and the associated music lessons. The fretted zither was popular back then, but required musicality and tuition to play it well; so the fretless zither emerged - Menzenhauer being one of the main manufacturers. The popular music of the day was available on sheets that you could slide under the (usually diatonically arranged) strings, with a zig-zag line showing which string to pluck next to get the melody. These zithers also had groups of 4 strings, each group yielding a chord when strummed. This Arietta sems to have its chord section under the buttons on the bellows section.


Most of these "easy-to-play-with-no-prior-knowledge" instruments were soon forgotten, but a few lived on. Of the fretless zithers, the Autoharp (also a German invention) is the only one still alive and under development. But I regard the 20-button German - or Anglo-German - concertina as another successful attempt to muicalise the masses!



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