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 Photo and info courtesy of Gregg Miner

The Stoessel-laute, or lute-zither (part zither, part lute) was invented by violin builder Georg Stoessel in 1914, and available through the 1920's. There were several sizes and configurations - this contrabass being the largest.

In response to the mass production of cheap autoharps, the Cologne violin builder invented an instrument which united characteristics of both zithers and lute-like instruments. It had a flat, zither-like body with a lute-like shape, sides and arched top, a short, wide neck, a fretboard with three or at the most five frets. The strings are fretted by reaching the hand over the headstock and top saddle, parallel to the path of the strings themselves.

The design represents a compromise between simple chordophones, like zithers, and necked chordophones. The neck was minimized, so were the numbers of frets. In order to make possible the grip over the headstock, the strings and their fastenings were set into the neck and the tuners were located on the body. Although one may look upon the seven string Stössel lute as a basic style, the inventor experimented with a number of shapes and models.


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