Homemade string instrument: how to make a zither?

I have yet another easy DIY project for you today. So far I’ve shared with you mostly ideas for homemade percussion and wind instruments – but this time we’re going to make a chordophone… or to put it simply: a string instrument! Get ready, because today we’re building a zither!

Homemade zither – what you need

Zither is a very old instrument – it dates back to Antiquity. It’s a string instrument – or to be exact: one of the plucked string instruments family. That means that for our DIY zither we’ll need some strings to pluck and something that can be used as a flat soundboard.

For your DIY zither you will need:

– a flat metal box of any shape (for example a chocolate or biscuits box)

– some rubber bands

– sticky tape (colored tapes and/or some insulating tape)

– scissors

DIY zither step 1: prepare the strings

First, you need to decide how many strings your instrument should have. Try to plan it ahead, so it’s easier for you to place them over the soundbox – remember to leave some space between the strings, so you can comfortably pluck each one of them on their own.

To make a string, cut a rubber band and stretch it over the soundboard – as shown in the picture below. Take some tape and stick the string to the sides of the box.

Turn the box upside down. This is the last moment to stretch the string and adjust its sound to your liking – and it is quite important to do that! The looser the string, the lower its pitch will be. And those tightly strained strings will produce higher sounds. When you’re happy with the pitch, secure the string with tape, sticking it to the bottom of the box as shown below. Tie small knots at the ends of the rubber so it doesn’t slip from under the tape.

Repeat the process with the rest of the strings. Remember to alter the pitches of the strings so that your instrument has a richer sound.

DIY zither step 2: decorate the instrument

When the strings are properly stretched over the soundboard, it’s good to ensure the rubber bands won’t move or loosen while you’re playing. To make sure they stay in place, secure the sides of your box with some tape. Any type od tape will do – Scotch, insulating or colored tapes made of paper – but the stronger the tape, the longer your instrument will hold together.

I decided to secure the strings with strong and broad silver tape first, so the instrument is more solid, and then to decorate the zither with some colorful paper tapes, so it looks nice and pretty as well.

And that’s pretty much it! Your homemade zither is ready. I hope your kids will love it – mine sure did!

Let me know what you think of this project and if you’d like to try some more of my DIY instruments, just click here – we’ve got quite a collection by now!