Our Instruments

Liab' und Schneid's "standard" duo consists in the Steirische Harmonika (or Alpine buttonbox), the classical guitar and two-part-harmony vocals. This is also one of the most widespread small ensembles for dance, singing and entertainment music in the Alps. For Swiss music, we play Schwyzerörgeli (Swiss buttonbox) and acoustic bass, which is also a traditional small ensemble in the Alps of Switzerland.

Depending on the occasion, however, we do bring to our listeners a wide palette of traditional sounds that includes other instruments common in the Alpine Volksmusik tradition.

Our Volksmusik Instrumentarium

Traditional German Alpine Volksmusik from Austria, Switzerland and Bavaria uses a very well-defined set of instruments. The tradition is unique and dates back well over a hundred years, so the instruments associated with it are also quite distinctive and time-honored. The instruments we play are squarely in the German (or Germanic) Alpine tradition and are matched to make a duo sound rich and complete. Furthermore, we strive to play them according to the long-established performance techniques pertaining to them.


Steirisches Accordion

A quintessential German Alpine instrument, the Steirische Accordion gets its name from Steiermark (Styria), a region of Austria that has produced countless excellent Volksmusikanten. It has three or more rows of buttons played by the right hand, each producing the notes of a key’s major triad upon pushing on the bellows and dominant seventh (plus a few other notes) upon pulling; and a corresponding number of basses played by the left hand.

The Steirische can only play in the keys corresponding to the rows of buttons it has. For instance, a Steirische that only has three rows (e.g. G, C, F), can only play in G, C and F. It has a distinctively brassy bass called Helikon, which is reminiscent of a tuba or Posaune, and that makes the Steirische’s sound unmistakable.



The Schwyzerörgeli is the most typical accordion-type instrument played in Switzerland--mainly in the areas around Bern, Schwyz and the other central Cantons. Its name means "little organ," and in spite of its diminuitive size it has a bright and powerful sound that does its designation full justice. Like the Steirische Harmonika, it is a bi-tonic instrument, meaning that the player obtains different melodic tones upon opening or closing the bellow. It features three rows of buttons (31 total) on the treble side and a number of basses and bass-chords to be played by the left hand (typically 18 total). Like the Steirische, the Schwyzerörgeli comes in different keys--primarily in A and in Bb.

We use the Schwyzerörgeli in the most authentic Swiss folk-music tradition. As a duo, we pair it with the bass for Swiss dance-music tunes such as Schottisch, Polka, Ländler, Walzer, Mazurka and more. Also, we use it to accompany traditional Swiss songs and yodlers.



The Zither is a table-top instrument belonging to the plucked-string family, and it achieved worldwide fame by the soundtrack of the movie The Third Man. It consists of a fretboard with five strings whose pitch is controlled by the left hand, plus a number of unfretted strings tuned in the circle of fifths. The right hand sounds the fretboard strings with a thumb-ring while striking the bass and accompaniment with the ring, middle and index fingers.

The main difficulty in playing the Zither is coordination. The right thumb has to be completely independent from the other fingers to play the melody with feeling and expressiveness, while the other three fingers have to strike the rhythm in tempo and with a good bounce.

There are two main tunings for the Zither: the Munich and the Viennese--we use the former,


Classical Guitar

The Classical guitar is one of the main instruments in authentic Alpine folk music. It is played mostly with the fingers of the right hand (without a pick), with the thumb playing bass notes and bass-runs, and the other fingers performing the chords.

Although physically similar to the Classical Spanish guitar known virtually everywhere, the Alpine Classical guitar calls for a special playing technique and a consummate feel for this type of music. For instance, a characteristic accompaniment for the Polka or Boarischer is an “oom-pah” pattern in which the bass is stopped very short with the palm or back of the thumb, while the chord is left ringing more freely. There are a number of interesting bass-runs that are characteristic of Alpine music, and that add bounce and zest to any piece.

The guitar is also used as a melody instrument, primarily with other guitars and/or harps, Zithers and similar stringed instruments.


Schrammel Guitar

The Schrammel guitar consists of a regular Classical guitar with a second unfretted neck on which are stretched nine additional bass strings generally tuned chromatically from the Eb just below the guitar’s 6 th string down to the G below--although alternative tunings are employed.

This type of guitar was made popular at the turn of the last century by Viennese “Schrammelmusik” groups, where this guitar accompanied instruments like violins and clarinets. The thumb of the right hand plays the bass strings as well as the bass range of the guitar’s regular strings, while the other fingers play the higher notes fingered by the left hand on the guitar’s fretboard.

Naturally, the Schrammel guitar can also be played as a regular Classical guitar when called for.


Vocal music in this tradition is mainly divided between songs and Yodlers. The majority of the songs are accompanied by instruments, follow one of the dance-rhythms mentioned above, and may or may not contain a section sung yodel-style. Themes vary from the nostalgic to the downright bawdy, from the love or work-ethic to the “wink-wink” double meaning.

On the other hand, most Yodlers are slow, flowing wordless harmonies sung a cappella, and their sounds are reminiscent of pure Alpine echoes.

Other Instruments

Among the other instruments we play are the Raffele, a small Zither-like table- or lap-top instrument with three strings sounded with a plectrum not unlike a mountain dulcimer; and the Gemshorn, an instrument in the Ocarina family made from a cow's horn and used for lively Hirtenmusik (shepherds' music) and dances. Also, we have recently added the Strohfidel or Hoelzernes Glachter, which is essentially a mountain xylophone used for peppy and energetic dance-music.

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