"Volks-Klavier" Self-Playing Zither
by Christian Greinacher (050223 MMDigest)

grein_Volks-Klavier.jpg (33 kb)

In MMD 2004.06.14 Marcus Pregler talked about a rare self-playing zither, named "Volks-Klavier", and asked for more information.  As far as I know, nobody sent any response.  Meanwhile I could acquire exactly that instrument and restore it.

First I worked very hard because I could not succeed in making the correct adjustments.  The instrument would not play until I found out how to adjust the hammers with a tolerance of a tenth of a millimeter (sorry that I use the metric measures).  I never saw an instrument with such a tricky, simple and effective construction to adjust the hammers.  Now it plays very nicely!

I am interested in learning more about that really rare instrument.  I know about only two specimens of it: this one which I have and one other I saw last summer in the Deutsches Musikautomaten Museum in Schloss Bruchsal.  My instrument measures 56 x 29 x 14 cm, it plays 34 notes on 34 strings from folding cardboards.

I searched through all my literature but the only hint I found is in Bowers' "Encyclopedia" on page 356 (as Marcus Pregler already mentioned).  Nowhere is any illustration, no word about who manufactured it, when and where -- only the name on the instrument itself indicates that it was made in Germany ("Volks-Klavier" translates as "people's piano").

I am pretty sure that there must be some more specimens of this type of instrument, still alive somewhere in the world.  But who knows about them and their history?  It would be great to get as much information about the Volks Klavier as possible!

Looking forward to your help,

Christian Greinacher
23 Feb 2005 10:07:12 +0100

23 February 2003