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Tech: I've bought an auto harp

the lemonade lady 11 Feb 09 - 08:20 PM
Peace 11 Feb 09 - 08:28 PM
Bill D 11 Feb 09 - 08:55 PM
Peace 11 Feb 09 - 08:56 PM
Bill D 11 Feb 09 - 10:03 PM
CupOfTea 11 Feb 09 - 10:22 PM
Joe Offer 11 Feb 09 - 10:30 PM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Feb 09 - 07:47 AM
GUEST,hg 12 Feb 09 - 11:43 AM
Bill D 12 Feb 09 - 11:59 AM
catspaw49 12 Feb 09 - 12:22 PM
DADGBE 12 Feb 09 - 03:35 PM
GUEST,Peace 12 Feb 09 - 05:07 PM
Bill D 12 Feb 09 - 06:13 PM
the lemonade lady 13 Feb 09 - 05:39 AM
Bill D 13 Feb 09 - 09:40 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Feb 09 - 10:17 AM
Jack Campin 13 Feb 09 - 11:25 AM
Bill D 13 Feb 09 - 11:43 AM
GUEST 13 Feb 09 - 11:48 AM
Bill D 13 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM
Joe Offer 13 Feb 09 - 04:44 PM
Bill D 13 Feb 09 - 05:37 PM
Jack Campin 13 Feb 09 - 05:59 PM
Bill D 13 Feb 09 - 06:47 PM
the lemonade lady 13 Feb 09 - 07:26 PM
Bill D 13 Feb 09 - 07:36 PM
GUEST,Cup of tea- no cookies 14 Feb 09 - 10:10 AM
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Subject: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 08:20 PM

I bought it for £22 in an auction. Can i still buy strings for it? What can anyone tell me about it.
Sal


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Peace
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 08:28 PM

Yes you can buy strings.

I can tell you it's likely made of wood. The strings would be some sort of steel/bronze wound stuff. It has tuning pegs.

Does it have a name: ??

Make: ??

Model: ??

Stuff like that.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 08:55 PM

Very old (pre-WWII)autoharps take different gauge strings than new ones. Just be sure you order the right ones, based on make & model.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Peace
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 08:56 PM

There speaks the voice of sense. Howzit, Bill?


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 10:03 PM

It's fine....even the autoharps.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: CupOfTea
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 10:22 PM

You can prolly tell already that you'll get no respect.

Fun gizmos, though. You get overwhelmed by banjos. About the only other folk instrument that'll get drowned out more easily is a lap dulcimer. It'a a lovely beginner instrument, which I've proved in over 20 years of being a beginner!

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Feb 09 - 10:30 PM

What does it cost for a set of strings for an autoharp in the UK - and for that matter, can you buy an entire set of autoharp strings? I take it the buyer's instrument is in the UK. Elderly Instruments in the U.S. has a set of 36 Oscar Schmidt strings for $62.50 - list price $99.90. There's another set here (click) for a mere $176.72 (free shipping). I had no idea strings could be so expensive.

I have to say I hate trying to sing with most autoharpists. Most of them seem to be out of tune, and I can't tell if it's the harp or the harpist who's worse...

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 07:47 AM

Not so much a question of 'no respect' as the sort of reply you get when you don't provide any background information. There are a lot of different sorts of autoharp (usually written as a single word, incidentally) and you need to describe yours a little if you want useful advice.

Presumably you are completely new to the instrument, so I'd suggest a little basic research first; then you will be in a better position to ask specific questions that people can answer for you. For a start, you might try

UK Autoharp Association  UK-based site with various resources and links to others.

Autoharp: help for the perplexed  A couple of pages that may prove useful. Plenty of further links.

Those should give you something to be going on with; they will already have done the work on sourcing spares, strings and so on. The autoharp has a much bigger following in the USA, of course, and most resources are likely to be found there. A search for autoharp discussions here in the Forum will find you plenty of stuff; largely beginners' issues which may answer a lot of questions you haven't thought of yet.

As to the instrument itself, the majority that you'll pick up from attics and the like are pretty poor things; an interesting novelty only that may cost less than a decent set of replacement strings (note, though, that strings can last for many years and don't typically require regular changing unless you're a serious player). But maybe you have a nice one. Do let us know.

The instrument is often picked up by people who think it's a short-cut to becoming a 'musician' without actually having to learn anything, and that's one reason why there are so many of them. They can be played to a fairly sophisticated level, but the usual experience is probably the kind Joe describes. Bodhrans, of course, are another case in point; though because of the inherent limitations of the autoharp, you won't see them very often in UK sessions.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 11:43 AM

we love you too, Joe! bleh!


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 11:59 AM

Why Joe...*I* tune! Perhaps YOU are 'out of tune'.... Next time you have to sing with me, I'll loan you my accapela capo...it's a string tie with a heavy-duty slider clasp.

These things CAN be worked out.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: catspaw49
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 12:22 PM

Autoharps do not drink weird mushroom tea. Joe does. Something is out of tune...............

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: DADGBE
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 03:35 PM

Joe, as a proud member in good standing of the California Autoharp Gathering, I would love to give you the opportunity to hear and share music with some of the many stellar players who play in tune. Our area is blessed with many.

Dear lemonade lady,

One of the best sources for all things Autoharp is Pete D'Aigle. He makes beautiful instruments and has parts, strings and information for restoring old ones. While he's here in the US, perhaps you can get hold of him at his web site.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 05:07 PM

"I had no idea strings could be so expensive."

That's half the battle. NOW, tune it. OY!


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 06:13 PM

What does a good set of guitar strings cost? Autoharps have 6 times as many. As mentioned by Malcolm Douglas earlier, string don't usually need to be changed until they break.

I saw Ron Wall at Winfield many years ago explain that he got tired of strings breaking, and noticed that they usually broke where they passed around the post...so he loosened each one and put Vaseline one the post. "I haven't broken a string in several years", he said. When someone asked whether the tone didn't deteriorate, he said, "Well, you've been listening to me play. Did you hear a problem?"

It just isn't the same thing as a guitar, where fingers are constantly rubbing the strings.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 05:39 AM

In Edinborough there's a harp festival coming up altho it's way too far for me to visit. Pete Grassby tells me that it's not impossible to buy individual strings but on the whole they come in sets. I'll see how well these strings go first before I lash out on more bits of wire.

I now need to find a key, as tuning it with an adjustable spanner isn't the easiest thing in the whold to do! I'm leaning a lot about sounds and notes as i go along, and sending my partner up the wall with... ting, no, ting, no, ting, arrgh!

I shall overcome!

Sal


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 09:40 AM

If you don't find a key soon, let me know...I think I have an old one I could send.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 10:17 AM

Tuning keys are cheap enough. You can get them for less than a fiver from various UK suppliers. Examples:

Hobgoblin
Johnny Roadhouse

though lots of people have screwdrivers with small socket set attachments that would do the job. 4x4 mm is about standard for autoharp/psaltery/hammered dulcimer, I think.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 11:25 AM

You can get keys from any shop that deals in old clocks.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 11:43 AM

Maybe...but they need to fit well....and clock keys, even if they are close, often have much smaller handles. An autoharp tuning key usually has a wider, wooden handle to provide better leverage and fine control, which make small adjustments easier.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 11:48 AM

I've found that newer wood handled tuning keys can be cheap and nasty
and the wood handle will sooner than later work loose
and fall off


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM

Well...there are good ones made. (Never had one fall off in 30-40 years, myself...)


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 04:44 PM

Well, OK, so I've heard DADGBE, Bill D and Harpgirl play autoharps, and they ARE in tune. But DADGBE usually plays guitar, and I don't see the other two very much. Jerry Praver is another one whose autoharp is always in tune, but I see him once a year. So, I apologize. I knew when I said it, that someone would think I was casting aspersions on Bill D's autoharping, and that was not my intent. Bill knows tuning, and tuning knows Bill.

But there is one woman I know with a hopelessly-out-of-tune autoharp, and I sing with her once or twice a month - and it's painful.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 05:37 PM

That's sad, Joe... does she have a Korg, or other electronic tuner? My ears are not real good, and I had problems way back when I used just a pitchpipe. Perhaps there's subtle way of suggesting.....

I now have this gadget that clips onto a peg and plugs directly into the Korg, allowing accurate tuning even in a noisy room.


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 05:59 PM

I have fairly strong fingers and it's a big 4.5mm clock key, so I don't have much leverage problem. If I did I'd simply screw a couple of strips of wood over the metal key handle.

Okay, mine is one of the most primitive autoharps you can get, and I mainly use it as an exercise in harmonic austerity, but it does stay well in tune.

Unless the Korg does meantone tuning, isn't it always going to be worse than a pitchpipe? Who wants an equally tempered autoharp?


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 06:47 PM

Well, You can get very close to what you want with a Korg-type tuner...then, if your ears are very good, you can tweak it to what sounds just right...then you index it! Just play the strings and make a note of how far up or down from center your preferred pitch is. You can go back TO that point next time. If you wish to do it perfectly, you need to carry 5-6 'harps around, like Bryan Bowers does.

I am seldom around anyone who can tell if my G in a C chord is 'off' a teeny bit from what it would be in another chord....and I certainly can't tell.. *wry grin*


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 07:26 PM

Well it's nearly in tune tonight, and it's in my warm room. Have to see if it sounds like it's wandered by the morning. All the keys turned wonderfully after i sprayed em with WD40, except one F#... that one didn't like the adjustable spanner at all. I found a thingy in the socket set that fitted that one, but doesn't fit any of the others. Me thinks someone else had that problem!

And so the battle goes on...!

Sal


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 07:36 PM

A few tuning keys

The all-metal one came with a ukelin, and is not a 'perfect' square ...but the pegs on the ukelin are not all exactly the same either,...weird.

I use the largest wooden T key 98% of the time,,,fine control, and it fits well. It and the longest one have octagonal holes, so they are quite accurate & snug,,,and I find it is easier to control than the long one. The others work, but have a bit of play in their fit. (I have a 21 bar Schmidt 'harp for most stuff, but also an old Sears Golden Harp and a Chromoharp....and a 1900 Zimmerman, with shifters. Some of those need the odd tuners,)


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Subject: RE: Tech: I've bought an auto harp
From: GUEST,Cup of tea- no cookies
Date: 14 Feb 09 - 10:10 AM

I wonder if Joe's complaint ( "I have to say I hate trying to sing with most autoharpists" ) might possibly be from clash of instruments, rather than the autoharp or singer, per se.

Something autoharp players who are starting to try playing melody don't always grok is that to get to the note they need, they're likely to be playing a chord that clashes with what a rhythm/backing guitar, mandolin or banjo is playing. I had this brought to my attention at a band playing class at Augusta where we worked with individual instruments in the morning, and in groups with other instruments in the afternoon. That lesson in learning to "play well with others" was most valuable. I give it to yon beginning autoharp player for free- but then they don't have the memory of a week of wild autoharping to go with it.

Joanne in Cleveland


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