North America


Name: Tremoloa.

Monotype Fretless Zither > Chordophones.

Region: North America.


My Specimen: Circa 1940s.

Serial No: 4050 -stamped on back of instrument.

Acquisition Date: 2011.09.03 Saturday.

Acquisition Source: Randy Raine Reusch.
TremaloaDescription: The tremoloa is a plucked chordophone and the member of the “guitar-zither” family of instruments. This instrument was inspired from the increasing popularity of Hawaiian music during the 1920s in mainland North America. The first patent was issued to Harold Finney a principle in the International Music Corp and John H. Large in 1932 who also received a patent for the Ukelin. The tremoloa enjoyed a brief exposure for 25 years. The price of this instrument during the early part of the 20th century up to the 1950s ranged from $30.xx to $45.xx (American dollars) per instrument. A serial number stamped on the back of the instrument determines the manufacturing date and batch per instrument made.

Playing Techniques: Each group of four playing strings are tuned according to chords of C, G, F and D. With in each chord the first two strings are tuned an octave apart. This arrangement in tuning the tremoloa provides the ability for the strings to be plucked as a chord. The melody is played on a single string this is acheived by a weighted rolling mechanism attached to an arm that is attached to the back of the tremaloa. The chorded strings are plucked with the right hand. Decals featuring the markings of the tunings and scales are placed in accordance to the location of the playing and drone strings.

Anatomy of the Tremoloa:
The construction of the tremaloa is quite unique amongst the American guitar-zither family. The sound box is built in an equidistant trapezoidal shape having a single sound hole on the top surface of the instrument. This is due to a moving metal arm where a weight is attached underneath the arm and comes into contact with the playing strings.

Citations: -Monotypes > Guitar Clearing House / Fretless zithers > tremaloa (article).