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Thread: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

  1. #1

    Question Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    Hello all. I have just joined this site and wonder if anybody has any idea what this instrument is. It looks old and should have 14 strings. I have ordered replacements. It appears to have an ivory fretboard and headstock cover. I will upload images and can get others if required. There are no labels so I am a little lost with this. I am trying to get it working but the nut and bridge have been modified several times by the look of it and the machine heads don’t look original as they are in two pieces on each side. Any help would be appreciated.
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  2. #2
    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I dont think Ive ever seen a snakehead bowlback...No less one with 14 tuners. Must have been added later so concentrate on the body.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    OK, first off I highly doubt it was made in the US. I would guess that whomever built it couldn't get tuners with more than six on a plate and simply improvised. It looks old, it probably is. The Banduria played in the Philippines has 14 strings, it's probably tuned in a somewhat similar manor with three courses of 3 strings, two courses of 2 strings and one individual string. It's not 7 courses of two in that space but the fretboard could handle triple courses. It may have been built for a specific artist at the time who was looking to expand their sound. This one should be interesting to figure out.

    Is there a second soundboard inside or is that just a shadow? Can you post some pictures of the back as well.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8DbxYk0fg4
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Nov-02-2020 at 1:35pm. Reason: Fixed typo
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    Mike E beat me to the bandurria connection. Of course, the Filipino bandurria would have a more guitar-like flat backed body. Mike Lempriere: can you take some photos of the back of the instrument including a clearer one of the neck-headstock joint as well as the bowl (assuming it is bowlback)?

    I looked at the bridge which looks like it is not original and that an owner could not figure out what would be the best way to string it—number or courses/strongs per course, etc. Very strange.

    It looks like this was "customized" by someone. The workmanship is a bit funky with all that extra doodads around and over the soundboard. It looks like it had a zero-fret.

    Do you have the instrument in hand? The headstock looks like it was painted over. It doesn't appear to be ivory to me nor does the fretboard.

    How can you order string replacements if you don't know what it is or how to tune it?
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I agree about the bridge, It's reminiscent of things people have done in the past to just try and get an instrument to work. I don't think that it's original.

    Getting back to the tuning pegs, I wonder if this had violin type pegs originally?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    A guy we both know posted this a few years ago. Different shaped body, similar looking scale.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I have included more images. Yes it has a second sound board inside. I think original machine heads were replaced some time ago with a 6 + 1 each side. The paintings of flowers on the fretboard and headstock are old and the white of both is a thin veneer<1mm. The headstock had been broken off and had an old repair. I removed the Verneer and refixed it to the headstock as it was not flat and the machine heads were not turning well. The case was with it when I bought it at auction. I ordered the strings necessary to string it like a bandurria as I just wanted to get some notes from it.i.e.1, 2,2,3,3,3.
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  11. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    That is a very unusual bowl. Can you tell if it was carved out of one piece. It almost looks like it would be similar to a baglama. And what are those circular marks on the bowl near the neck joint. Did someone paint the bowl with black paint?

    I would be careful of putting all 12 or 14 strings on it. I would think bandurria strings (even the Spanish variety) might be too heavy at full tension. I have never seen a bandurria with that shape or construction.
    --------
    I found a round-backed cittern (English guitar) in one of my antique instrument books. Then I looked at the Atlas of Plucked Instruments site under cittern. Take a look at the 3rd from the bottom on that page.

    Toggenburger Halszither

    In Switzerland the zither was also popular, especially at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. To distinguise this zither with the harp-like zither family (played horizontal on a table, with for each tone a string) the zither here was called Halszither ("cittern with a neck"). Usually similar models as the Harz zither and Thüringer zister were in use.
    In Switzerland they had regional names like the Emmentaler Halszither (or "Hanottere"), and the Entlebucher Halszither (with 10 strings).
    In the area of Toggenburg this model became popular for a while : the Toggenburger Halszither.

    Details to recognize the Toggenburger Halszither are:
    13 strings in 5 courses : cc gg c'c'c' e'e'e' g'g'g'; two extra rosettes, made by piercing the soundboard; a loose stringholder, fixed with a rope to a peg on the edge of the body; quite a large scale length; rather high body sides; often painted decoration on the front.

    The Toggenburger Halszither is hardly used anymore.
    13 strings in 5 courses....

    On this page of an early music instrument site there are a few halszithers, one with even 18 strings and a few with less. One 13 string one has a sort of unfretted bass string. I don't know if that was original. None, however, have bowl backs.

    Anyway, that is my guess. Maybe someone else has a better idea? I don't think it is Filipino.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Nov-02-2020 at 2:54pm.
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    Eight pins on the tailpiece but I guess that could have been updated as well. This is really odd.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    The decoration looks eastern European to me, but I'm no expert. It reminds me of my tamburitza, a prim, but the number of strings doesn't suit a tamburitza. Wonder if David KOs might know.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    It definitely is a world instrument. I've looked through Turkish and Greek instruments as well as some other middle eastern countries. Hopefully one of our well-traveled members will recognize something.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    The bowl is polished black and the neck is very worn by use and a lacquer type material. New images show lines inside the bowl. Also 3 wooden pins??? The blue lines inside are all around the circumference to the top on both sides internally. The screws from the tailpiece are very old and tired, the headstock screws were also old and I have had to use the modern cross heads but will replace these if I can source more small single slot ones. I saw an image of a cittern on the web which had an ivory freTboard but different instrument altogether. Thanks all for your interest. I too am unsure of the tension of 14 strings....
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    Last edited by Mike Lempriere; Nov-02-2020 at 4:02pm. Reason: Adding images

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    removed message -- accidentally posted twice
    Last edited by Ranald; Nov-02-2020 at 4:45pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I assume that the three wooden pins—you are talking about the circles near the neck join on the bowl?—possibly are there to support the inner soundboard. Are you sure that the headstock veneer and the fretboard are actually ivory? Doesn't ivory usually have some sort of grain in it?

    The blue lines look like they are part of the paper(?) that makers used to line the bowl. Some mandolin makers also used wood shavings.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I also found another reference to swiss halszither—it is related to the German waldzither.

    Here's a translation:
    Toggenburg neck zither
    Andreas Michel
    In Switzerland, after the general dissemination of this instrument in Western and Central Europe, the cister found a refuge in which not only continued use, but also where four individual types could develop. The Toggenburg neck zither - named after the valley in the canton of St. Gallen - is one of these types.
    - relatively large lengths: approx. 51 cm
    - thirteen strings in five choirs (2 x 2 + 3 x 3)
    - Triad tuning in c g c 'e' g '
    - twelve frets
    - two additional rosettes stuck into the ceiling
    - usually holes in the fingerboard and neck to accommodate a capo
    - relatively high frames that taper towards the bottom block
    - a tailpiece with metal hooks attached to the saddle button with wire
    - Turned half columns at the base of the neck
    - a round, turned head plate as a pegbox closure
    - Ornaments painted with Indian ink on the ceiling
    Ludwig Vogel: Girl with Toggenburg Neck Zither, drawing, Swiss National Museum Zurich, inv. No. 27621. Repr. After Bachmann-Geiser 1981, plate 28a All of the surviving Toggenburg neck zithers have no signature. The earliest evidence of the type comes from the first quarter of the 19th century. A drawing by Ludwig Vogel (Swiss National Museum Zurich, inv. No. ML 27 621) which can be dated to around 1820 shows a female figure with a Toggenburg neck zither. In 1895 a photograph was taken in Krinau (Obertoggenburg) in which the instrument can be seen in the hands of textile workers.
    Ludwig Vogel: Girl with Toggenburg Neck Zither, drawing, Swiss National Museum Zurich, inv. No. 27621. Repr. After Bachmann-Geiser 1981, plate 28a
    Textile workers from Krinau with a Toggenburg neck zither. Photograph from 1895. Repr. From: Geiser 1974, p. 263, fig. 7 and Bachmann-Geiser 1981, plate 29 Textile workers from Krinau with a Toggenburg neck zither. Photograph from 1895. Repr. From: Geiser 1974, p. 263, fig. 7 and Bachmann-Geiser 1981, plate 29
    The collection of the Musikinstrumenten-Museum at the University of Leipzig includes two Toggenburg neck zithers (inv. No. 615 and 616), the origin of which must remain unclear due to the very vague descriptions in the first catalogs by Kraus and de Wit. Paul de Wit's comment on number 90 in the catalog from 1893 (p. 21), which was also reprinted unchanged in the directory from 1903 (no. 205, p. 82) - "Cister, quite a rough work from the middle of the last century. The very long neck is similar to that of the violin. The instrument is covered with 13 metal strings "- one of the two Toggenburg neck zithers might mean.
    literature
    B. Geiser: Cister and cister maker in Switzerland. In: Studia instrumentorum musicae popularis III, Stockholm 1974, pp. 51-56 and 263-265; this: The zithers in Switzerland. In: Glareana XXIII (4/1974), pp. 43-87; B. Bachmann-Geiser: The Toggenburg neck zither as a cister. A folk musical instrument from Switzerland as a living testimony to an art musical instrument of the Renaissance. In: Volkskunst III (1980), pp. 218-222; this: the folk musical instruments of Switzerland. Leipzig 1981 (= Handbook of European Folk Music Instruments I / 4), p. 60ff.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    Here are a few halszither pics from various sites. My favorite is the 18-stringer (the last one).

    Mike L: what is the scale length of this thing?
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    Last edited by Jim Garber; Nov-02-2020 at 5:14pm.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    We actually had a reference here on the Cafe that I found but it didn't that much different than what else we had.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    Jo Dusepo originated that thread I think you are referring to. I PMed her to see if she wants to chime in here. She is into all sorts of uncommon instruments and builds copies of them. Maybe she will post here tomorrow—she is in the UK.

    My feelings is that the approximate scale length would put us in the right area of guessing but that the bowlback might throw us off. Or maybe the maker just liked to experiment.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Nov-02-2020 at 6:55pm.
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I have to admit to not being sure about this one. There's something slightly fishy about the peghead and body combination, but I can't figure out what.

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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I'm just looking at the fret markings: 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th. You lost me at 11.

    benny

  27. #21

    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    The tuners appear to be German, so those who have been exploring various European instruments may be on the right trail. As the Philippines was US controlled I would think it more likely that items such as tuners would be sourced from the USA but that is just being logical, I know and that may not be the case.

  28. #22

    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    There is an image of a Greek lute lateXIX century with ivory fretboard and identical floral decoration. Image no BG8MRE. Different instrument but very similar decoration.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    FWIW, I agree with Mike..I'm thinking the tuners and tailpiece were later modifications. Possibly along with the fretboard and headstock cover.

    Just guessing, obviously.

    Might those three pins be reinforcing the bowl to neck block connection?

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Lempriere View Post
    There is an image of a Greek lute lateXIX century with ivory fretboard and identical floral decoration. Image no BG8MRE. Different instrument but very similar decoration.
    Where is this image? Also can you post some dimensions including scale length?
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    Default Re: Can anybody Identify this instrument? No markings

    I can find this stock photo, I think it may be the one referred to. The museum it came out of has a limited online presence as far as I can tell.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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