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regent zithers
regent zither No. 3
regent zither No. 5
a heads-up

 

fretless zithers >
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regent zithers

Regent zithers appeared in the late 1890's, and there is evidence to suggest that they may not have been produced for too many years thereafter. Despite this, they seem to pop up everywhere quite frequently. "Number music" of the time instructed that melodies could be played on them, and they can be, but it is as an instrument of accompaniment that the regent zither shines brightest. It appears that two different models were offered.

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regent
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No. 3

regent zither No. 3

The regent zither No. 3 has three chords, two "full chords" (with both long and short strings), and one "half chord" (long strings only).

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regent
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No. 5

regent zither No. 5

The regent zither No. 5 has four full chords and one half chord. Several varieties of ornamentation and sound hole configuration are to be encountered, some of which are shown.

Model No. 5 regent zithers, row 1, left to right::

1. Flagg Co., red-brown finish; one sound hole, top; pinstriping, paper tuning label

2. Black finish; one sound hole, bottom; decal tuning label, gives patent date as Nov. 22, 1898; large regent No. 5 sound board decal of the usual type; gold edge border probably added by owner; no mfg. identification

3. Red-brown finish; two sound holes, top; pinstriping; paper tuning label; no mfg. identification

Model No. 5 regent zithers, row 2, left to right::

4. Black finish; one sound hole, top, Phonoharp Company "Handlebar" sound hole decal; decal tuning label; has steel apparatus at tail end to accept ball end strings; "Aeol" mfg. identification

5. Red-brown finish; no sound hole; had paper tuning label

6. Red-brown finish; no sound hole; the large regent No. 5 sound board decal of the usual type

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a heads-up

A note on acquiring a regent zither No. 5 for the purpose of playing it...

All fretless zithers are to some degree prone to the self-damage wrought by the enormous total string tension they endure. The regent zither No. 5 seems to be one of the most oft-afflicted with structural disorders. But beyond the usual pulled-apart joints at the ends (from which the regent No. 5 almost always suffers), the instrument quite commonly has another even more serious but not-so-obvious inherent defect.

The pins of the outermost long strings are frequently set quite close (in truth, too close) to the outer edge. This applies particularly to the one on the left, it seems, but can be either or both. The result is all too often that the head block is cracked. This doesn't look serious, but unfortunately it is. The image to the right shows the symptom to look for

 

 

But here's "the rest of the story", the part you don't see:

Of course, if you are familiar with wood working, instrument repair, and such, and replacing the head block looks like a fun restoration project (and yes, replacement is the only option), then this damage isn't an issue. The new block must be laminated or it will just crack again. A new block of three hard maple plys of equal thickness works fine, as does ready-made laminated hard maple piano pin block material.

Instruments that have "that little crack on the side at the top" are naturally not playable. In fact, there's little doubt that attempting to tune up an instrument suffering the ailment shown above will cause further damage, most likely cracking the instrument's top. So if you don't have the means to replace the block, it would be wise to find one with the block intact.

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