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Publication numberUS759057 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateMay 3, 1904
Filing dateAug 5, 1903
Priority dateAug 5, 1903
Publication numberUS 759057 A, US 759057A, US-A-759057, US759057 A, US759057A
InventorsGerhard Almcrantz, Frank Danielson
Original AssigneeGerhard Almcrantz, Frank Danielson
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
US 759057 A
Abstract  available in
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)




Illii $122212! WI TNESSESLDI lNVi-ZZi-Mwf J i 55% 2/ A TTOHNE) UNITED STATES Patented May 3, 1904.



SPECIFICATION forming part of Letters Patent N 0. 759,057, dated May 3,1904.

Application filed August 5, 1903.

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that we, GERHARD ALMCRANTZ and FRANK DANIELSON, citizens of the United States, residing at Chicago, in the county of Cook and State of Illinois, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Zithers, of which the following is a specification.

Ourinvention relates to stringed musical instr uments of that general type known as zithers, and the principal object of our invention is to simplify and render easier the execution of musical compositions thereon, and this we accomplish through the provision of a pianokeyboard and a novel hammer-action associated therewith. The hammer-action in the higher tones is preferably replaced by a novel mechanism which picks the strings, which latter we have found produces a clearer and better tone on the higher strings.

Our invention also contemplates the employment of a novel form of capo tasto on the accompaniment-strings and also the employment of another novel form of capo tasto on the third of the octave represented by each group of accompaniment-strings, whichcapo tasto is capable of easy and rapid manipula-- tion by the player in changing the chord from major to minor, and vice versa.

An instrument embodying our invention in the most practical form which we have as yet devised is illustrated in the accompanying drawings, wherein- Figure 1 is a top plan view of the complete instrument. Fig. 2 is an end elevational view, on an enlarged scale, of that end of the instrument carrying the accompaniment-strings, the View being opposite and in the direction of the arrow in Fig. 1. Fig. 3isacross-sectional View on the lines 3 3 of Fig. 2 in a plane at right angles to the plane of the latter figure. Fig. 4 is a detail elevational View, on an enlarged scale, of a capo-tasto mechanism controlling the several strings of each accompaniment chord. Fig. 5 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the capo-tasto mechanism on the line 5 5 of Fig. 4: viewed in the direction of the arrow. Fig. 6 is a longitudinal vertical sectional view through the keyboard and its casing and the underlying top surface of the zither-body, illustrating more particularly Serial No. 168,366. (No model.)

the hammer-action. Fig. 7 is a view simi lar to Fig. 6, taken in a plane through the higher strings and illustrating the novel picking mechanism for actuating said strings. Fig. 8 is a detail vertical sectional View, considerably enlarged, through one end of the keyboard-casing, more particularly illustrating the mechanism for securing the loud-pedal effect by arresting the fall of the dampeners. Fig. 9 is a vertical transverse section through the keyboard and its casing and through the underlying body of the zither, more particularly illustrating the hinged and foldable character of the latter; and Fig. 10 is a detail top plan view of the pickers employed to sound the higher strings.

The hollow body or sounding-board of the zither, though not necessarily, may be in two sections 15 and 16, each comprising-about onehalf the total width of the body, these sections being united by hinges 17 at their lower meeting edges, as best shown in Fig. 9. Longitudinally of the body or sounding-board thus formed are arranged a series of melody-strings, (designated as an entirety by 18,) which strings are tuned a half-note apart through a register of any desired number of octaves, according to the transverse dimensions of the sounding-board, the instrument herein illustrated having approximately four complete octaves. Beyond the melody-strings, over the outer end portion of the section 15 of the sounding board, are arranged a series of groups of strings, (designated by 19,) each group representing the first, third, fifth, and upper first of a major chord. Preferably the lower first string of each chord is tuned an octave below the first string of the octave represented by the third and fifth, or, in other words, two octaves below the highest string of each chord. Preferably the five major chords herein illustrated will be the chords of B-fiat major, F major, C major, G major, and D major in the order named outwardly of the sounding-board, these being the chords most frequently found in the class of music best adapted to zithers and analogous instruments. Beyond and outside of these five groups of accompaniment strings are arranged another palr of groups 20, the strlngs of which are tuned to the chords of G seventh and C seventh.

Across the top of the sounding-board beneath the seven groups of accompanimentstrings are a series of properly-spaced frets 21, 22, and 23, back of which are mounted apertured bars 24, carrying separate capotasto devices for the several groups. The particular construction of these capo tastos will be best understood in connection with Figs. 4 and 5, which illustrate the same in detail and from which it will be seen that the apertured bars 24 are each mounted on a series of posts or vertical sleeves 25, the bar being united to and upon the upper ends of the posts by pins or screws 26, passing through the posts or sleeves into the underlying body of the sounding-board. The posts 25 are disposed between the several groups of strings and serve as end guides to the capo-tasto bars 27, these latter having cylindrical stems 28 swiveled thereto and passed upwardly through holes in the bar 24 and terminating in wing-nuts 29, by which they may be readily turned by the thumb and finger. The cylindrical surface of each stem has formed therein a spiral groove 30, which terminates at its upper and lower ends in short horizontal grooves 31 and 32, respectively. The spiral groove 30 and its upper and lower horizontal extensions 31 and 32 are adapted to be entered and engaged by the end of a pin 33, the shank of which is threaded and passed through the side of the bar 24 opposite each stem. It is evident from this construction that by a mere turning of the wing-nut 29, which is integral or fast with the stem, the capo-tasto bar may be raised or lowered and locked in either position against vertical movement.

Spanning the strings 20 next below the bars 24 is a bar 34, similarly equipped with the mechanism last described, while below this bar and spanning the outermost group of strings 20 are two more short bars 35, each equipped with a single capo-taste bar and actuating mechanism, as above described.

The series of capo tastos last described enable all of the known major and diminished seventh chords to be obtained. It is also desirable to render the accompanying portion of the instrument universal through the provision of means whereby the corresponding minors of all the major chords may be secured. This we effect through the agency of a series of auxiliary capo tastos located at the opposite ends of the accompanying groups 19. The mechanism preferably employed for this purpose is shown in detail in Figs. 2 and 3, wherein 36 designates a transversely-extending bar overlying the lower margin of the sounding-board and carrying a pair of parallel frets 37 and 38. The first, fifth, and highest string of each group are passed over the fret 37 and are thence carried downwardly through a passage 39, formed through the bar 36, and secured at their ends to pins 40. The third string of each chord represented by each groupthe same being the next string to the bass string-is carried above a notch 41 in the fret 37 and thence over the fret 38, down around the outer edge of the bar 36, and secured to a pin 42 in the body of the soundingboard. Above the bar 36 and between the frets 37 and 38 and transversely of the underlying string last described is mounted on posts or sleeves 43 a sheet-metal or other rectangular casing 44, having a flat top and vertical sides, but open along its bottom. This casing may be securely held in place by means of screws 45, passed through the posts or sleeves 43 into the underlying bar 36. \Vithin the casing 44 and guided endwise by the posts 43 are a series of capo-taste bars 46, each of which is longitudinally slotted in its upper surface, as shown at 47, Fig. 3, and recessed in its under side to seat the upper ends of a pair of compression-springs 48, the lower ends of which are seated in corresponding sockets in the upper surface of the bar 36, whereby said springs normallypress upwardly the bars 46. Through slots in the upper face of the casing 44, directly over each bar 46, is entered a thumb-lever 49, which is pivoted between the parallel side walls of the casing, as at 50 and has a curved cam-shaped lower face 51, which by the actuation of the thumblever between the positions illustrated by the two devices shown in Fig. 2 forces the bar 46 downwardly upon the underlying string,

causing the same to contact the bottom of the notch 41 of the inner fret 37 as illustrated by dotted lines in Fig. 3 and in the lower portion of Fig. 2. When the bar is in this position, the string when struck sounds the full third of the chord, thus making the latter a major chord. WVhen the thumb-lever is tripped to release the bar 46, the latter is instantly thrown off the string, as shown in full lines in Fig. 3 and in the upper portion of Fig. 2, and the chord yielded by the group of strings will be a minor one. The thumb-levers 49 are so constructed and arranged as to be very easily and dexterously shifted by the thumb or a finger of the left hand of the player while performing on the instrument.

We will next describe the piano-keyboard and action constituting the principal feature of our present invention, this mechanism being more particularly shown in detail in Figs. 6 to 10, inclusive. 52 designates arectangular box or casing extending entirely across and above the strings of the instrument and suitably secured to the sounding-board at the opposite edges of the latter. l/Vithin this box are pivoted at their rear ends in the known manner of mounting piano and organ keys a group of keys 53 and 54, corresponding, respectively, to the white and black keys of an ordinary piano-keyboard. Parallel with the casing 52 and near the lower margin of the v sound1ngboard is mounted avertical strip 55,

to the upper margin of which is secured an inwardly-extending horizontal strip or plate 56, the inner marginal portion of which throughout a portion of its longitudinal extent is downwardly offset, as shown at 56, the vertical portion of this offset marking the limit of the outer ends of the white keys 53. To the under sides of the outer end portions of the keys are attached angle-brackets 57, the vertical depending members of which pass through slots in the plate 56. Along the under side of this latter plate is mounted a rod 58, on which are hung side by side a series of hammers 59. These hammers consist simply of a straight strip or bar suspended 'at or about its middle on the rod 58 and carrying on its outer end a hammer-head 60 and on its opposite. or inner end a dampener 61. Each hammer thus constructed commands and operates a pair of strings which are tuned in unison to sound a given note of the 'the appropriate superposed key 53 or 5& is

depressed. The normal position of the hammer when the instrument is idle is that shown in full lines in Fig. 6, and this position may be maintained by hanging the hammer on one side of its center of gravity or, preferably, by the use of a leaf or other spring, such as 62, suitably applied thereto. In order that brackets 57, attached to and projecting forwardly of the black keys, may not interfere with the free movement of the white keys on either side thereof, the latter are recessed or undercut to a sufiicient extent above said brackets, as shown at 63.

As hereinabove stated, we have found in practice-that the last-described hammer-action, while yielding good results on the longer strings of the bass and intermediate registers, does not yield sufiieiently clear and pronounced tones on the shorter strings of the upper register. In order that the instrument may be uniform throughout in respect to the character and brilliancy of the tones produced, we have devised a novel mechanism in the nature of a rotary pick for actuating the higher and shorter strings, which mechanism is more particularly shown in Figs. 7 and 10. In these views it will be seen that the white and black keys, (designated by 53*.and 54*, respectively) are pivotally mounted as levers of the first class on a fulcrum-bar 64, extending, longitudinally of the inner edge 'of the lower horizontal memberof the casing 52. Above and slightly obliquely of the strings is suitably supported a shaft 65, on which are rotatably mounted to turn with light friction a series of endwise-abutting, collars 66, each carrying fast on one end a disk 67, fast on one the latter to yield its tone. In order to actuate the disks from the keys, each of the latter has pivotally hung from its rear end a hook 69, which successively engages the teeth of the ratchet and imparts to the disk 67 a partial rotation at each depression of the key. The book is maintained normally in engagement with one of the ratchet-teeth by a coil-spring 70, while the key itselfis normally maintained elevated by another coil-spring 71. The ratchets and picking-disks may be guarded against back slip by a spring-pawl 7 2.

It will be observed that in that portion of the keyboard overlying the several groups of accompaniment strings the white and black keys alternate throughout, there being one white key and one black key next below the same commanding the strings of each group. The white key serves ahammer, which strikes the heavy bass-string, while the black key serves a wide hammer that commands the three upper strings of that chord. Thus by first striking the white key and then the black key one, two, three, or more times in succession (according to the time of the piece) an accompaniment effect is produced by the left hand,while the melody or air is played with the right hand.

In order to produce sustained tones and chords when desired, we have provided a simple mechanism within easy reach and control of the operator for throwing out of action the dampeners 61. This consists of a bar 73, directly underlying the plate 56 and pivoted at its opposite ends in the end walls of the keyboard casing or support on trunnions 7 4, which coincide with the inner longitudinal margin of the bar, as more particularly shown in Fig.

.8. Light coil-springs 75, surrounding each trunnion 74, just inside of its journal-bearing extremity, and suitably connected to an adjacent stationary part, suffice to maintain said bar normally in a horizontal plane beneath and against the plate 56, as shown in full lines in Fig. 6. To the end trunnion of the bar is, however, secured ahand-operated pedal 76, so disposed as to lie one at each end and, substantially in the plane of the keyboard, and by manipulating this pedal from the full to the dotted line position shown in Fig. 6 the bar 7 3 may be thrown down, so as to lie in a vertical plane, and thus constitute a stop for the hammers on, their return movement, al-

' lowing the hammer-to rise clear of the strings after striking a blow, but preventing the dampener from subsequently dropping on the strings.

The two sections of the sounding-board are preferably provided on their under side at their respective corners with rubber, felt, or other feet 77, and a hasp 78 serves to unite the two sections of the sounding-board in open or spread position.

The operations of the several devices and mechanisms which cooperate to produce the improved musical instrument hereinabove described have already been sufficiently set forth in connection with the descriptions of their construction to enable the manner in which they operate to be readily understood. It will suffice, therefore, to briefly refer to the combined operation of the several mechanisms as a whole. The instrument when set up in the form shown in Fig. l on a suitable table or other support may be played after the fashion of a piano, the air or melody being played principally with the right hand on those keys which command the strings 18, while the ac companiment chords are brought out by the left hand manipulating those keys which command the accompaniment-strings 19 and 20. After ascertaining the key in which any given piece is to be played, as Well as any diminished seventh or other unusual chords outside of the tonic, dominant, and subdominant of the given key, the capo tasto commanding the upper ends of the groups 19 and 20 are suitably manipulated to yield the desired chord ef fects. If during the rendition of the music a minor accompaniment chord occurs, this may be produced by a quick manipulation of the appropriate one of the capo tastos commanding the second string of each group which yields the third of the octave represented by said group. The instrument may be made to accommodate a keyboard of any desired length up to the length of the maximum piano-keyboard within our invention, and for the purpose of a keyboard of considerable length and consequent increased capacity the sectional and foldable form of the instrument described is particularly valuable, since the instrument when not in use may have its two sections folded back against each other and may be readily transported in a case of ap proximately one-half the width and twice the depth of the instrument when set up and ready for use.

It is evident that the specific mechanism hereinabove described for effecting the several results set forth might be varied more orless in respect to details without departing from the spirit of the invention. l/Ve do not, therefore, limit the invention to the precise forms and relative arrangements of operating parts hereinabove described except to the extent in. dicated in specific claims.

WVe claim 1. In a zither, the combination with a sounding-board, melody-strings, and a series of groups of accompaniment-strings, the strings of each group being tuned to harmonious intervals of a chord, of a plurality of capo-tasto bars mounted at intervals above each group of accompaniment-strings, a pair of vertical guides engaging each of said bars, a vertical stem swiveled on each bar, a transverse guide through which said stem passes, and pin and cam-slot connections between each stem and its transverse guide whereby the rotation of the stem effects the raising and lowering of the bar, substantially as described.

2. In a zither, the combination with the sounding-board, the melody-strings, and a series of groups of accompaniment-strings, the strings of each group being tuned to harmonious intervals of a chord, of a series of posts mounted on said sounding-board between said groups of accompaniment-strings, a series of apertured guide-bars mounted on said posts and extending across said groups of strings, capo-tasto bars mounted between and in edgewise-sliding engagement with laterally adjacent posts, vertical stems swiveled on said capo-tasto bars and engaging the apertures of said guide-bars, each of said stems having a spiral groove terminating in horizontal portions, and pins set in said guide-bars and having projecting points engaging said grooves, substantially as described.

3. In a zither, the combination with a sounding board, of a group of accompanimentstrings stretched thereover, said strings including a string extended beyond the other strings and tuned to the flat of the third of the fundamental of the chord represented by the group, a capo-tasto bar disposed above and transversely of the extended end of said flat-string, and actuating means operable by the performer while playing for depressing and elevating said bar to change the chord from minor to major and vice versa, respectively, substantially as described.

4. In a zither, the combination with asounding board, of a group of accompanimentstrings stretched thereover, said strings including a string extended beyond the other strings and tuned to the Hat of the third of the fundamental of the chord represented by the group, a capo-tasto bar disposed above and transversely of the extended end of said flat-string, springs normally supporting said bar above the strings, and a pivoted thumblever having a cam-face bearing on the top of said bar, said lever being within reach of and operable by the performer while playing upon the instrument, substantially as described.

5. A zither having a series of melody-strings and a plurality of groups of accompanimentstrings and a sounding-board divided longitudinally of the strings into two sections hinged together at their adjacent lower margins, in combination with a piano-keyboard mounted transversely of and above both the melody and accompaniment strings, said keyboard being also divided in the vertical plane of the division of the sounding-board, and hammer mechanism between the keys and the several strings and groups of strings commanded by said keys, substantially as described.

6. The combination with the sounding-board and strings of a Zither and a piano-keyboard disposed transversely of and above the strings, of a series of straight bars each pivoted substantially at its longitudinal center beneath a key and above a string and carrying a hammer-head on one end and a dampener on the other, rigid fingers secured to and depending from the keys so positioned as to strike directly upon the upper surfaces of said bars closely adjacent to their pivotal points, and springs normally maintaining said hammerheads elevated, substantially as described.

7. The combination with the sounding-board and strings of a zither, of a transverse slotted strip disposed horizontally above the strings, a series of hammers pivoted to the under side of said strip, a piano-keyboard disposed transversely of and above the strings, the keys whereof overlie said slotted strip, and fingers depending from said keys through the slots of said strip and impinging upon the backs of the hammers, respectively, near the pivotal points of the latter, substantially as described.

8. The combination with the sounding-board and strings of a zither and a piano-keyboard disposed transversely of and above the strings, of a series of bars each pivoted between its ends beneath a key and above a string and carrying a hammer-head on its rear end and a dampener on its forward end, fingers depending from said keys to strike directly .upon said bars slightly in front of their pivotal points, a stop-bar pivoted eccentrically of its longitudinal axis above and across the front ends of the hammer-bars, and manually-operable means within reach of the performer while playing to turn said bar from a horizontal to a vertical plane to limit the return swing of the hammer-bars and thus throw the dampeners out of action, substantially as described.




Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3443470 *Jun 18, 1964May 13, 1969Brocato Robert AMusical instruments with strings parallel to keyboard and operated by the feet
US4334457 *Jun 26, 1981Jun 15, 1982Spoonts Iii Paul R ACapo
US5492045 *Feb 7, 1994Feb 20, 1996Roblee; Todd A.Quick release capo for stringed instrument
Cooperative ClassificationG10D3/085