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monotypes tremoloa
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hill country harp
Honolulu guitar harp
Marx guitarchimes
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fretless zithers >
plucked/hammer-struck/other >
monotypes

The "monotype" category is one I created for those instruments which have no close relatives in any of the conventional categories. They are also instruments that challenge the boundaries of what is or is not a fretless zither. Some produce melody by means of making more than one note per string, the melody of one is generated by means other than strings, and the melody section of another relies on a totally separate instrument, independent of the zither itself. Nonetheless, as they were produced by manufacturers of fretless zithers, they are included here.

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monotypes >
tremoloa

tremoloa

By far the most frequently encountered of the monotypes is the tremoloa. It appears to have been a creation of Oscar Schmidt's companies. The tremoloa has four chords and only one melody string. This single string is noted by means of a gadget that amounts to a hinged arm, bearing a steel roller and usually a thumb-type pick.

The tremoloa underwent some evolution over the course of its approximately 25-year production lifespan. For a more exhaustive look at tremoloa varieties, see Kelly Williams' Tremoloa Page.

Tremoloas, left to right

1. Earliest form, from the early 1930s; roughly triangular body outline; swing arm is tubular, slide is a bar; intonation information decal takes the form of an arc.

2. Latest and commonest form, c. 1950; the familiar symmetrical body outline; swing arm is a copper painted solid bar with the thumb pick attachment, slide bar is a roller; intonation information decal takes the form a straight line.

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"Honolulu
guitar-harp"

Honolulu guitar-harp

The "Honolulu Guitar Harp" looks to have 4 chords and 3 melody strings. This suggests it to be an extended version of the tremoloa, but that the melody is to be played with a slide bar rather than an integral arm gizmo as with the tremoloa. How this is accomplished with fewer than 3 hands is a mystery to me.

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monotypes >
harp-o-chord

harp-o-chord

The harp-o-chord was produced by the Harp-O-Chord Company of Columbus, Ohio. This early 20th century firm manufactured a small line of fretless zithers, all of which are unusual. Among them are the company's namesake, the harp-o-chord itself, the "Harp of David," and the "Little Joe." The harp-o-chord is unique in that its melody section is furnished by a separate instrument, namely a harmonica, which fits in the slot at the upper left of the instrument's body. Kelly Williams covers this branch of the fretless zither family extensively at his website, the Guitar-Zither Clearinghouse. To view Kelly's great coverage of the company, click here.

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monotypes >
hill country harp

hill country harp

It appears that a number of years after the demise of the harp-o-chord, someone actually re-invented it, or at least made an attempt to revive it. The hill country harp was the result. This time around, the instrument was equipped with little typewriter keys to assist with making the chord changes. Kelly Williams offers a bit of comment on its wobbly functionality in his article on the harp-o-chord (see above.)

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Marx Co. monotypes

The Marxochime Colony was established at New Troy, Michigan by Henry Marx in 1927. Marx had designed other successful fretless zithers prior to building the New Troy factory. The company produced several monotypes, a few of which are shown below. I know nothing of the functionality of the "Honolulu guitar-harp" or the "Hawaiian tiple," but both seem fairly evident, so I have offered my best guesses.

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monotypes >
Marx
guitarchimes

Marx guitarchimes

The Marx guitarchimes is in a class of its own within the family of instruments represented at this site. That's because its melody section doesn't involve strings at all. Instead, it has a small xylophone built into it, upon which the melody is played. The prescribed tool for this is a "mandolin hammer", an accessory which was often furnished with chord-zithers having paired melody strings. The melody range of the xylophone spans the usual two octaves (diatonic) and is set in the key of F, rather than the usual C. It has 3 chords for accompaniment.

The combination of the xylophone melody and strings accompaniment makes for an interesting sound, which you can hear a bit of at the Sound Clips Page.

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monotypes >
"Hawaiian
tiple"

Hawaiian tiple

This randomly named instrument (nothing authentically Hawaiian about it; bears no resemblance to a conventional tiple) has four groups of four strings each. It appears that its functional intent involves noting its strings with a slide bar on one or perhaps both sides of the bridge.

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