For Your Information:
What is a Cittern anyway?

cittern04.jpg: Cittern played by Scott Ross of The Flatland Ramblers

     The Cittern    
"More than you need to know about the cittern."

There is some debate about the exact definition of the cittern (pronounced "sit'urn"), but let's just say it's a large-bodied, flat-backed, pear-shaped instrument with 10 paired strings, or five courses, and a scale between 22 and 25 inches. A member of the mandolin family, it is related to the bouzouki and is a distant relative of the guitar.


The words "cittern" and "guitar" come from the Middle English giterne, from French cithare, from Latin cithara, from Greek kitara. (No relation to the sitar, the Indian instrument played by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison.) Other instruments sometimes confused with the cittern include the octave mandolin, mandocello, and the Irish bouzouki.
The first instrument to use fixed metal frets and wire strings, it has changed little since the 16th century. Formerly found mainly in Eastern and Central Europe, in recent years it has become popular with Irish musicians worldwide. The cittern has a deep, mellow, throbbing sound like a cross between a 12-string guitar and a cello. There are many tunings; Scott uses DGDAE, with the G, D, A, and E one octave below a mandolin. Barbara tunes hers GDAEa with light strings for a less boomy, more sparkly sound.
The instrument pictured above was built by luthier William A. Petersen; it is a Grade 2 with a 22.5 inch scale, spruce top, rosewood back and sides.

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• Contents © 2014 Scott A. Ross  •  Last updated: 20. January, 2014 •