The Continental, or four-row A keyboard instrument consisting of metal or wooden bars that are tuned and played with mallets..., has existed since the late 1700s. It became extremely popular in Europe through performances by Josef Gusikow in the 1830s.
The bars are arranged in four rows, from large to small, which produces a trapezoid arrangement. The performer stands at the end of the large bars, the smaller ones being farthest away, striking the bars with spoon-shaped beaters.
This instrument, manufactured ca. 1920, has a chromatic range of 2 2/3 octaves, E to C, with three pitches (C-natural, F-natural, and C-sharp) duplicated on either side of the instrument to assist with sticking.
The instrument has 36 bars (including the duplicated pitches). The bars are 1 1/4 inches by 11/16 inches in size, with a slightly convex shape, and range in length from 10 5/8 inches to 4 7/8 inches. The convex shape aids the performer in executing glissandos.
When strung into their trapezoidal shape, the wooden bars measure 26 inches from the bottom to the top, with the large end of the trapezoid measuring 30 inches across, and the small end 15 1/2 inches across. Traditionally, the bars are placed on five tightly wound cords of straw, which support the four rows at the nodal points. This mounting system resulted in the often-heard name for the instrument “Holz und Stroh” or “Wood and Straw”.