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Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms

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GUEST,Allyson Wonderland 29 May 07 - 04:41 PM
GUEST,Jim 29 May 07 - 04:51 PM
GUEST,Jim 29 May 07 - 04:57 PM
wysiwyg 29 May 07 - 04:58 PM
Dan Schatz 29 May 07 - 05:29 PM
Bill D 29 May 07 - 06:22 PM
wysiwyg 29 May 07 - 06:40 PM
Bill D 29 May 07 - 08:07 PM
Bill D 29 May 07 - 08:11 PM
pattyClink 30 May 07 - 09:49 AM
wilco 30 May 07 - 10:46 AM
The Fooles Troupe 30 May 07 - 07:27 PM
GUEST,autoharping for years 30 May 07 - 07:47 PM
wysiwyg 30 May 07 - 08:08 PM
GUEST,Carol in Minnesota 15 Jun 07 - 08:30 PM
Gurney 16 Jun 07 - 06:59 PM
GUEST,Bill Kennedy 16 Jun 07 - 08:54 PM
GUEST,DJ 23 Mar 15 - 02:28 AM
GUEST,Little Woman 07 Feb 16 - 04:12 PM
GUEST,wysiwyg minus cookie 07 Feb 16 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Feb 16 - 11:19 PM
GUEST 20 Oct 17 - 02:48 PM
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Subject: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,Allyson Wonderland
Date: 29 May 07 - 04:41 PM

I have just taken up the Autoharp (with a rental 'harp to make sure I have talent) and have discovered that my arms are too short to play upright. I can't reach around to the buttons on the chord bars without bruising the heck out of my left forearm. Is there no hope for me to play in this fashion? It seems as though I could get custom bars with the buttons further over, but then it will be harder to play cross-handed lap style (plus the fact that by the time I buy a quality 'harp and have custom bars put on it will cost as much as a small car). Are there smaller 'harps (without going to a child's 7 chord or whatever)?

For the time being I am playing cross-handed lap style. I don't know what else to do. Any suggestions?

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 29 May 07 - 04:51 PM

Kilby Snow has a unique way of holding the 'harp. He doesn't play cross handed, but picks on the bottom end of the 'harp. He moves his bars away from the tail end. Most people, me included like to move the bars as close to the tail end as possible. Maybe you could google a picture of him. I haven't tried, but I will.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 29 May 07 - 04:57 PM

I just googled kilby snow images and the picture of Masters of Old-Time Country Autoharp shows a possible method for holding the Autoharp that wouldn't require long arms. Good luck.

Do you think maybe a Guitaro would be easier? I've never played one, but they seem to have a narrower body.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 May 07 - 04:58 PM

I'm think I may be your girl.

Similar problem.

Solution: Play tabletop, but not cross-armed. Use a slightly tileted surface. Turn the harp around so that the chord bar labels are upside down. You will be able to strum quite powerfully-- not a sweet, plinky tone. Use a fingerpick and strum down towards yuourself, then sweep back up lightly for the backbeat. However hard you strum, you will need to match in force on the chord buttons to get a clear tone.

You may or may not be able to pick melody from that position-- I don't bother, for what our band needs the 'harp for, so I cannot advise on that point, but using the pinch-pluck melody-picking style should work equally well in this position. You'd need to play with the height of the tabletop, and the angle of tilt, to make that work for you. (If you are slender, your lap may work.)

I can send you MP3 samples of the sound I get. I found it worthwhile to have the chord bar buttons reversed so I could read them properly. But first thing is, turn it around on a tilted surface and play around with it, and see if you like it.

To get sound samples, I'll need you to join Mudcat so we can exchange PMs, or email me your snail address.

~Susan
motormice@hotmail.com


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 29 May 07 - 05:29 PM

I suspect that if you can find a comfortable playing position upright, you won't return very much to the cross-handed style - unless you choose something unique, like Kilby Snow.

It sounds like your problem is that either the shape of the autoharp or your position holding it causes you to have to angle your arms in such a way that your forearm is rubbing on the edge. One quick fix would be to make yourself a cushion - a small pillow, or washcloth folded up, perhaps - to allow you to play without hurting yourself. You might also play around with different angles. You'll have much more flexibility if you play sitting down. The further your autoharp leans to the left (physically, not politically) the more your arm is likely to hurt playing it. Most of us play with a corner in our laps and the autoharp leaning to the left - trying playing it straight upright and then ease your way to a comfortable position.

There will also be some variation in makes and models of autoharps, so you might want to see how comfortable you are with different ones. There are indeed miniature autoharps (I don't know if they're currently made) but they have fewer strings, so you don't get quite the range.

I started playing autoharp at the age of 9, and turned it upright at about 11, so I know it's possible to do with short arms. Good luck with it!

Dan Schatz


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: Bill D
Date: 29 May 07 - 06:22 PM

There are 'some' weird models that have different shapes that might be easier...see Here. I have one of these, as well as a mini-autoharp. Neither is as good at making music as the standard models.

Susan's ideas are about as good as any, unless you stumble onto one of the odd models that just suits you. I have seen Susan play, and she does quite well with her setup. It does require a couple extra pieces of equipment, but ...*shrug*...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 May 07 - 06:40 PM

LOL-- notice he says he's SEEN me play, but makes no reference to HEARING me play! :~) Ever tactful, our Bill! :~)

(hi Bill)

No, seriously, I use mine just to keep a chronically disorganized songleading band on the beat, together, by drowning them out. It may not suit your musical goals to play it as I do.

Bill-- can you set yours down like mine and try some melody-picking for the lady, to say whether it's feasible?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: Bill D
Date: 29 May 07 - 08:07 PM

Oh, sure! I can set mine on a table and pick melody...cross handed or otherwise. I don't 'prefer' that, but it works. You simply do what is comfortable for YOU.

I have one older model that has the bars placed so that it is actually a bit easier to play flat... on lap or table.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: Bill D
Date: 29 May 07 - 08:11 PM

(and it should be presumed that if I have seen you play, I probably heard you also...*grin*...)

(she makes good noises...even tunes the thing)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: pattyClink
Date: 30 May 07 - 09:49 AM

Well Allyson, somebody's got to say it just for the record. There are a jillion instruments out there, you don't have to handicap yourself by choosing one where you're at a disadvantage.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: wilco
Date: 30 May 07 - 10:46 AM

Allyson: I have an acoustic music store in east Tennessee, and I stock all kinds of autoharps. I modify them too, for situations like yours.

You can move the buttons on the bars or move the bars. Go to cyberpluckers.com for info.

If you get serious about the autoharp, look at the Evoharp. It's the best buy out there for an autoharp. The body is just a little smaller. I sell lots of them to folks like you.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 30 May 07 - 07:27 PM

My autoharp is now just missing a few bass strings - saving up to get them from a specialist string shop...


btw, I checked and it has no arms...

... autoharps are mostly 'armless, I suspect...


:-P


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,autoharping for years
Date: 30 May 07 - 07:47 PM

Allyson, are you shorter than 5 feet? Surely your arms aren't shorter than mine--I'm 4' 11" & play while seated, holding the 'harp up on my left thigh just as the Carter gals did. I play a professional one made by Tom Fladmark, which has one more string than the oscar schmidt. It may be a matter of setting up the chord bars so that the chords you need are all directly under your fingers. You might try the Brian Bowers setup Have you visited in person with another Autoharp player? They may have suggestions for you, for example be sure that you hold the instrument straight up so that you aren't leaning one way or another. You might even try putting all the major chord bars on the row closest to your hands.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: wysiwyg
Date: 30 May 07 - 08:08 PM

Just so it can be said, I'll say it:

My arms are short AND my chest is big, as is the rest of me. When I started playing tabletop, I had really bad bursitis and fibromylagia, and could not take on the carpal tunnel problems that would ALSO have been involved. And I knew what was best, for me.

It's great that people want to encourage this lady to try playing the way modern, well-known harpers play-- I call it the "burp the baby" position-- but I think it's also important to respect that if she says she can't reach, maybe she can't reach. It's a versatile instrument, and she will find her own way to playing it.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,Carol in Minnesota
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 08:30 PM

One thing that might help -- rearrange your chord bars so the most frequently played chords are in the top row. I almost never play the 7ths -- so I put them in the bottom row.

I put my majors in the 1st row, with the relating minors just below. This really helped. I have short arms and fingers... and this really helped me...

Don't be afraid to do this... just do it on a clean kitchen table and do it slowly (with no cats around) so you don't lose any parts. It's really very easy...

Hope this helps!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: Gurney
Date: 16 Jun 07 - 06:59 PM

Such forbearance, and on Mudcat, too.


'Short arms' means something totally different, to military types.....


British military types, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,Bill Kennedy
Date: 16 Jun 07 - 08:54 PM

Re: Gurney's recent post, I thought for certain there would quickly follow a thread titled:

Tech: Playing the Short Arm with autoharps

but I'm not going to start one!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,DJ
Date: 23 Mar 15 - 02:28 AM

There are indeed smaller harps with excellent sound. Two that I know of are the Laura Lee model from d'Aigle autoharps and the Sparrowharp, a smaller version of the Evoharp. These are really fine instruments, not toys.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,Little Woman
Date: 07 Feb 16 - 04:12 PM

I'm 4'11" with short arms and I've been playing a traditional Oscar Schmidt since the 1970s. I've tried newer models, returning them to the store because the sound is "tinny". But to the problem of short arms...my left arm also bruises after not playing for a time, but then stops bothering me after I take it up again. I truly believe it's just like playing other stringed instruments...you have to develop a "callus" wherever pressure is applied. My advice is play more!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,wysiwyg minus cookie
Date: 07 Feb 16 - 07:23 PM

Great advice!

After years of Catters who never saw me play, who told me from my text description that I play a la Kilby Snow, I Googled his pix. ... and, NO.

... more like d'Aigle's Homer Welty.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Feb 16 - 11:19 PM

I decided to do a visual survey, so I searched 'autoharp music' on YouTube. There are many, many videos there.

It is clear that one can play autoharp by holding it against your chest or by putting it on a table (or floor, if you're limber). If I were using a table, I would try putting the instrument at various angles in order to see which worked best. I might want to secure it down with plasti-tack or shelf liner.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Playing the autoharp with short arms
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Oct 17 - 02:48 PM

Coming late to this thread, but just did a bunch of research on these for a reader:

Several out-of date harps could be fixed up and used.

Stupid-looking but practical:

OS Guitarro can be held like a guitar, due to a scissor-like      leverage mechanism that allows the buttons to be placed on the outside edge of the instrument. Could be played in something like upright position. Hard to come by in playable or restorable condition, without spending real money.

Chromaharp Chromalin (Chromaharp's less successful, but
cheaper version of the Guitarro) Really made for holding "upright" I have one of these that needs fixed up, but I'm sure it could easily be played by short-armed people.

Oscar Schmidt 10 Sierra, a child-sized 10-chorder that an inventive person could probably add a couple chord bars to by cannibalizing a 12-chorder's combs and custom-building two chord bars.

Or, if you want to go stat of the art and have the money: the D'aigle Sparrowharp P.S. My reader ordered a Sparrowharp and is deliriously happy with it.

Paul Race


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