kithara sĭthˈ– [key], musical instrument of the ancient Greeks. It was a plucked instrument, a larger and stronger form of the lyre, used by professional musicians both for solo playing and for the accompaniment of poetry and song. It consisted of a relatively square wooden box that extended at one end into heavy arms. Originally it had 5 strings, but later there were 7 and finally 11 strings. These were stretched from the sound box across a bridge and up to a crossbar fastened to the arms. Since the strings were of equal length, tuning was determined only by the thickness and tension of each string. Because of its size and weight, it rested against the body of the player and was held in position by a band. The player usually stood when performing.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Theory, Forms, and Instruments