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Tech: Autoharp advice

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Penny S. 29 Aug 09 - 02:47 PM
Bill D 29 Aug 09 - 03:36 PM
Penny S. 29 Aug 09 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 30 Aug 09 - 12:54 AM
Penny S. 30 Aug 09 - 03:42 AM
Penny S. 30 Aug 09 - 07:48 AM
wysiwyg 30 Aug 09 - 09:11 AM
Penny S. 30 Aug 09 - 01:26 PM
GUEST 30 Aug 09 - 02:16 PM
Penny S. 30 Aug 09 - 02:25 PM
wysiwyg 30 Aug 09 - 02:28 PM
GUEST 31 Aug 09 - 02:54 AM
Penny S. 31 Aug 09 - 03:24 AM
Jack Campin 31 Aug 09 - 06:28 AM
Songbob 31 Aug 09 - 12:33 PM
DonMeixner 31 Aug 09 - 01:11 PM
Penny S. 04 Sep 09 - 04:47 PM
Dan Schatz 04 Sep 09 - 05:06 PM
Dan Schatz 04 Sep 09 - 05:08 PM
SharonA 05 Sep 09 - 04:39 AM
Penny S. 05 Sep 09 - 05:02 AM
SharonA 05 Sep 09 - 07:39 AM
GUEST,hg 05 Sep 09 - 08:37 AM
wysiwyg 05 Sep 09 - 11:01 AM
wysiwyg 05 Sep 09 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,hg 05 Sep 09 - 03:00 PM
wysiwyg 05 Sep 09 - 03:27 PM
Penny S. 05 Sep 09 - 05:41 PM
Dan Schatz 05 Sep 09 - 05:43 PM
Peace 05 Sep 09 - 05:48 PM
SharonA 05 Sep 09 - 06:05 PM
SharonA 05 Sep 09 - 06:18 PM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Sep 09 - 06:52 PM
GUEST,Tony 05 Sep 09 - 09:44 PM
wysiwyg 05 Sep 09 - 09:46 PM
wysiwyg 05 Sep 09 - 11:40 PM
Bill D 05 Sep 09 - 11:54 PM
wysiwyg 06 Sep 09 - 12:01 AM
Bill D 06 Sep 09 - 12:06 AM
wysiwyg 06 Sep 09 - 12:07 AM
Bill D 06 Sep 09 - 12:15 AM
Penny S. 06 Sep 09 - 04:11 AM
GUEST,newbie 23 Jan 12 - 09:19 PM
Bill D 24 Jan 12 - 10:43 AM
Penny S. 17 Feb 12 - 08:31 AM
Bill D 17 Feb 12 - 11:40 AM
Penny S. 17 Feb 12 - 01:31 PM
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Subject: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 02:47 PM

Having sold my autoharp on leaving school, I have now decided I should really have kept it. I have lost three auctions on eBay, but there is one on as a Buy it Now for £99. Is this a good buy? Tokai Gakki Chromaharp - it has 15 chords.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 03:36 PM

It doesn't seem like a bargain to me....that's a lot of money for an off-brand with only 15 chords.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 06:00 PM

To be honest, I don't think I'm likely to need a lot of chords - I used to manage pretty well on the 12 bar at school. I want something to make a bit of variation from constantly doing a capella. I can't find anything on the brand on the internet, only scathing remarks about the Rosen type and admiration for Oscar Schmidt, which haven't come up this side of the pond, and custom built by professional luthiers - which would be more than I'm worth as a musician.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 12:54 AM

There are many fine Auto Clones. Chroma Harps haven't been in that mix.

Wait for an Oscar for affordability. I agree with you on the 12 and 15 bar Harps. The 21 bar harps are noisy and haven't the sound or playability of an old 15 Bar Appalachian.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 03:42 AM

Thanks

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 07:48 AM

I've given up on the Japanese. But I've now found a different make again at Hobgoblin, halfway up the country, that I can find not much about. A 12 bar Hopf, for £69. The website for the German company looks good, but Hobgoblin doesn't have a picture, so I can't see what the chords are.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 09:11 AM

This advice may seem counterintuitive, and I suppose it is. If the urge to play is that strong, go ahead and get something affordable. If it doesn't satisfy after a period of time, you can always watch for a Schmidt and then upgrade. Most everybody I know who plays anything started with an old, used, crap instrument, but loved the sound so much that they started on the trade-up path. If you find that you really love what you are doing, yo will find that one way or another you can get that trade-up.

I think we have to "earn" our way up to better models. Hardi didn't start his cycling hobby with the expensive road bike he has now. He started with a clunky mountain bike bought cheap, went to a used and batterd old heavy road bike he loved dearly and rode for years, and THEN, when he'd developed himself as a cyclist, got the good bike. And my best friend didn't start skeet shooting with the $7,000 competition model she now has-- see what I mean?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 01:26 PM

Thanks Susan,
My last one was a rosen type, so definitely not wonderful, but I'm not musician enough to have noticed! However, I'm going to take the advice about the Chromaharp being too expensive. The seller reckons it will go without my buying it as 100 people are watching it, so my hope that he would haggle is not likely to be satisfied.
There are obviously a lot of people over here who have not read the advice on line about rosens, as they are prepared to pay quite a lot - at the last minute.
Leeds, which is where the Hopf is, is a bit far away, and not in the direction of anyone I need to visit.
I got rid of the old one before things happened which got me back to folk clubs, and also because I saw locals playing with the fingerpicking style, which I am too cack-handed to ever get the hang of. I have now got the the state where I don't care if people think just strumming and picking out the note of the tune at the end is a bit too incompetent.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 02:16 PM

Hi Penny.

http://www.ukautoharps.org.uk/

Try this site and see if it helps.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 02:25 PM

Thanks, Don. I have found them and read their opinions of the rosens, but they are a bit daunting for a mere strummer.

I've also found my old thread when I sold my old one - I wish I'd taken advice and not done it.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 02:28 PM

Penny, I have played accompaniment for YEARS without melody-picking at ALL, as I consider my voice is my main instrument, so GOODONYA. I also have hammed mine when accompanying fiddlers, because strumming the same chord pattern for hours is just too boring and tiring.

Also, if a 12er is available, and it lacks chords in your preferred singing/accomp keys, you can always refelt into your keys (or find someone as I was lucky enough to do, who was kind enough to do it for me).

Not all the ChromaHarps were/are crap, BTW.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 02:54 AM

This gentleman has many fine used harps. Shopgoodwill.com also has a good selection of used harps which come and go. The harp doctor buys there regularly.
harp doctor

Do not buy an inferior harp just to learn. Do not buy a japanes chromaharp. Buy an Oscar Schmidt fiften or twenty one bar harp.

harpgirl


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 03:24 AM

Thanks for that, but I'm in the UK, where harps are thin on the ground, and purchasing from the States would cost a large amount in carriage, customs etc.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 06:28 AM

One comment on the UK Autoharps site doesn't make sense to me:

Maybelle Carter is also credited with liberating the autoharp from being played flat on a table like a zither. Tired of trying to find suitable tables when on tour, she cradled the instrument upright in her arms and started playing it above the chord-bars. [...] Since the strings are plucked nearer to the middle, the sound is much better too.

For almost every other stringed instrument I've heard of, you pluck or bow the strings near one end, since that actuates the higher harmonics better.   On an instrument like the ud where you can vary the pluck point quite a bit, going near the middle gives you a dark, soft tone and going near the bridge gives you a sharper, brighter sound.

My autoharp is one of the "Rosen" types they really don't like, made by Müller probably before Maybelle Carter was born, and to me it sounds better using the pluck position it was designed for.

It's also louder when played on a table than an Oscar Schmidt is when played upright. Didn't Maybelle Carter ever work out that tables resonate better than tits?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Songbob
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 12:33 PM

Sctually, plucking so near the bottom end ("below" the chord bars) produces, to my ears, a really crummy sound. That advice about plucking near the bridge won't hold on the fiddle, either. Bow really close to the bridge and tell me the sound is better than the usual bowing spot.

I have a Chromaharp, and it's just fine. However, I had three of them recently but sold two on eBay because they weren't anywhere near the one I kept in terms of sound. I have a couple of autoharps, one just a body and the other a Franken-harp, with a mixture of different types of bars (some really old style A wooden bars, and some newer ones. I don't have enough interest to get a set of bars for either Schmidt harp, but I may someday. Then I can compare the two makes.

But a Chromaharp is not a good bet simply because there is so much difference between an average one and a good 'un. If I were to expand my autoharp playing much, I'd probably re-bar one of the two bodies I have now. Till then, the Chromaharp, with its 21 bars, is a keeper.

Those extra bars mean I can play in Bb, F, C, G, D, and A, with E a semi-possibility (it lacks good bass notes in the B7 chord, as I recall). And minors for most of those majors.

I note in passing that new Autoharps are getting up there in price -- gone are the days of the $50 harp, but I'm damned if I'll pay $400 for a commercial one. I'd rather pay more and get a Keith Young or other custom maker's product.

Bob


Bob


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: DonMeixner
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 01:11 PM

I have friend with a Chromoharp and it sounds OK. The biggest problem with Chromos is that they are pretty much propriatry. Parts don't interchange well. The felt is or has been an especially problematic concern with Chromos.

Right now there is an OS Appalachian 15 Bar in the "A" model style forsale on Ebay. With an hour (1:06 PM on the 31st)left to go and $101.00 is the bid.   Probably in the 1965 era. It needs a pin cover but otherwise it looks tight. This instrument will sound head and shoulders above the "B" models that are listed next and going for 3Xs the money.

Look for Silvertone and Airline Harps. They are Oscars that were sold through Sears and Montgomery Wards. People pass them by because they don't know the names. They will sound pretty good and they are really Oscars.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 04:47 PM

A little aside for what an autoharp might be used for.

Autoharp abuse.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 05:06 PM

Oh say it ain't so, Penny!

Reminds me of a time when I took my autoharp through security in the airport. The security guy asked what the object in the black box was. "An autoharp," I replied, "a musical instrument."

He looked at it, looked at me, and said, deadly serious, "Play it."

So I did - took it out of the case and played a bit of Charlie Poole's "Wild Horse."

The officer started bopping. "That sounds good!" he said. And waved me through.

And no, I didn't have any contraband. I wasn't even playing for a Contra Band.

Dan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 05:08 PM

I almost forgot! See if you can find an older B model Oscar Schmidt. If my recollection is correct, these were made in the US, instead of Korea, and don't have some of the modifications that make them ship well but not play well.

My recollection may not be correct - I've been playing custom Keith young 'harps for the past 20 years.

Dan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: SharonA
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 04:39 AM

Penny, bear in mind that buying a used instrument on Ebay is like rolling dice: you won't know what you're getting till you see it. Older autoharps may need re-felting and most likely will need re-stringing, and there's also the possibility that some of the keys may not work properly, or even that the wood may be cracked. (Don't trust the description to be thorough -- the seller is trying to sell the thing, after all!) Even if the seller accepts returns, you will probably have to pay for the shipping to return the item... and then you will have spent money for the autoharp's round trip without having an autoharp to show for it. Buyer beware!

Your best bet is to deal with a reputable music shop, where the proprietor will repair a used instrument before selling it and where you can go to try it before buying it. Otherwise, you may want to resign yourself to buying something new.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 05:02 AM

Good advice - I have every intention of picking up in person, should I find a potentially good one. There's one in a Leeds shop, from which I have requested a photo, which is about as far as I would go, combining it with a short break.

Is it possible to play the Schmidts on a table - which is the way I would probably play?

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: SharonA
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 07:39 AM

I have a old Schmidt that is a tabletop model with non-skid feet. I don't know why any autoharp couldn't be fitted with feet, if it didn't have 'em already.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 08:37 AM

If you play on a table top your ability to learn to really play it will probably be limited by this method. Why not learn to play with your harp sitting on your chest? hg


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 11:01 AM

Penny, I play exclusively tabletop, but I turned it around so the strum is right-handed (no arm crossing) and I highly recommend it. I play 21's with the chord buttons turned around so they face me.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 11:02 AM

PS and my only "limitation" is self-chosen because ALL I WANT IS RHYTHM to accompany singing-- our band HAS melody instruments.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 03:00 PM

You should learn to play it properly as well, Susan.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 03:27 PM

"Properly" is exactly what I do NOT want to play, hg. You are welcome to play your way, as is Penny.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 05:41 PM

I know my limitations - I am a bit clumsy, so have never been able to advance far in piano, or in guitar, while all the people who started about the same time are now expert. I managed fine with the Rosen I had for school purposes, and can stop the chord on the right note to fit the tune, but when I saw and heard people playing "properly" felt proper inadequate, so got rid of it. I have now decided that this was silly, and I can play any way I like - thanks Susan for support there. The Schmidts do seem to be built for playing on the chest, and they are, aren't they? I don't think that would fit my singing, either.

What exactly is wrong with the Japanese versions?

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 05:43 PM

You can do a lot with the autoharp flat, and reversed. Check out Kilby Snow.

Dan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Peace
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 05:48 PM

Right and wrong ways to play instruments:

On occasion there ARE some bad habits that people get into if they don't 'play properly'. However, I wouldn't wanna be the one to say that to Elizabeth Cotton or Richie Havens.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: SharonA
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 06:05 PM

I've seen and heard some nice, expensive, luthier-made autoharps that "proper" players hold to their chests (and, in some cases, strap on with a shoulder strap or harness), but I've also picked them up and they tend to be lighter than the sort of low-end instrument that Janie seeks. I've tried holding my low-end Schmidt to play it, and it's HEAVY! My old Chromaharp isn't much better weight-wise.

For the purpose that Janie describes, the tabletop-strumming method seems just fine. It is certainly a well-established way of playing the instrument. I agree with Susan about turning it around (if you're right-handed) to avoid crossed-wrist syndrome. :-)

In fact, there's a great photo of Susan's tabletop setup on the Mudcat Member Photos page right here -- see the middle picture! (Sorry, Susan, if I'm stealing your thunder here, but I just happened to remember this pic of yours.)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: SharonA
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 06:18 PM

Whoops -- sorry, Penny, for confusing you with Janie (from another thread-conversation). My bad!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 06:52 PM

"I don't know why any autoharp couldn't be fitted with feet, if it didn't have 'em already."

Any wood bodied one can also be fitted with strap buttons ...

such as a Rosen.... :-)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST,Tony
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 09:44 PM

Penny: Hobgoblin have quite a few stores around the UK. Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Crawley and Milton Keynes - So maybe there's one closer to you than Leeds. Looking in their catalogue, they list 21 bar Ashbury ones for £200 and £300 (the second has electrics in it), and it says they're available in all shops (or should be). The chords are apparently Eb,Bb,F,C,G,D,A,F7,C7,G7,D7,A7,E7,B7,Ab, Bb7,Cm,Gm,Dm,Am and Em, which seems reasonable enough.

Eagle Music also have a 21 bar on their website that might be worth a look - I'm a banjo and mandolin player, so I know nothing about autoharps whatsoever, but I've bought a lot of things from that place and can only really say good things about them. They have a physical shop in Huddersfield, too, but if Leeds is far, I imagine Huddersfield would be out of your reach too.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 09:46 PM

LOL, Sharon-- I was wondering where that one was to show to Penny! :~)

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 11:40 PM

Regarding the photo Sharon linked for my setup:

<> Nowadays I usually use a much smaller table that is actually an old upright grand piano's tilted bench seat. (One "travel" table is a laptop pedestal.) The one shown is the "backup" for other locations where I want to leave a setup for occasional use. It's a folding camp chair with a wooden top sitting on the arms, with holes for the chair-back posts. The laptop pedestal I travel with now is MUCH lighter to tote.
<> In the second photo, there is a strip of white showing under the chord bars, which is just a set of chord sheets I'd slipped under the chord bars hen I was done, to remember to put them away when I got home from the trip and unpacked the 'harp. The white stuff there is not part of the usual setup and of course they weren't there when I played, but on the music stand.
<> The book lying there is just stuff I am about to put away.
<> That photo depicts a solo appearance at a church service in Tennessee-- I seldom play alone more usually play with other people whose focus is melody-playing.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Bill D
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 11:54 PM

Susan... I have some pics of your 'home' table...including one of Rita playing zither on it. (I have one of you playing on it also, but it doesn't show the table as well.)

I could post one or more if it would help.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 12:01 AM

Love to see 'em if you can post them where I can grab 'em, and if it's helpful to anyone and you want to leave them "up" that's fine too.

Ah yes, the home table-- the extra-wide one that allows space for arranging.... must dig out the clutter it's collected....

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 12:06 AM

I'll post a couple and send you the whole lot....


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 12:07 AM

motormice at hotmail dot com

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 12:15 AM

yep..tomorrow


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 04:11 AM

Leeds is the one with the second hand autoharp.....

Thanks for the link to Eagle Music. I've not got as far as thinking new yet.

It's odd how things happen. I started decluttering while still teaching, and sold mine to the son of a colleague, sending the money to the Bhopal appeal. Then my Dad died, and I spent a lot of time in Gloucestershire, going to pubs with my sister, which gave me the taste for folk again. Looked on here more, and went to the Fox and Hounds, now discontinued, expecting to sit and listen, but was asked to join in on the first evening. The same happened at Minchenhampton, and I've started to build up repertoire, but all a capella. So I feel I need some variation. When I've moved - imminent - I'll feel free enough to practice, maybe get some acceptable sounds out of the guitar, as well, but I do want the "easier" and pleasant sounding autoharp option back as well, if possible.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: GUEST,newbie
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 09:19 PM

A question concerning autoharps.... Does someone out there know which strings should be open and which ones should be dampened on a standard 15 cord harp? I just bought a used harp and have been trying to learn how to play...If I press and hold the cord bar as shown in the sheet music, some of the strings I need to play are not active... I'm wondering if someone changed the felts to some custom profile... I would be interested in a layout for each cord bar to check my instrument too....

Thanks!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Bill D
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 10:43 AM

It is not 'likely' that someone changed felts....especially on a 15 bar instrument) (I did on my 21 bar, but I had a couple chords I really didn't need) Sheet music is not always a good indicator of what an autoharp needs to play a tune.

If it is in tune, try just playing C, then F, then G7 (ignoring any sheet music), and then playing those 3 chords in various order....you may suddenly hear a tune you know. If anyone HAS changed the felt, things will not sound right.
(changes are usually made to minor or odd 7th bars, not to major keys)

If nothing else, you can (carefully) remove the hold-down bar from each end and gently remove bars you are concerned about.... any changes should be obvious..(glue, different color felt...etc.)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 17 Feb 12 - 08:31 AM

I have just bought one via ebay, and I have found that there is some play on the position of the bars, so that if I press away from me, the chord is correct, and if towards me, it isn't.

I have checked by pressing down each chord and then seeing which strings are open. (I finally had a eureka moment on a course run by Candida Tobin, which taught me how the scales and their chords are related, which theory in school, and piano lessons had left cold.)

Penny


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Feb 12 - 11:40 AM

"some play on the position of the bars,"

Yep..it happens. I knew someone who glued thin strips of wood or leather to the side of the bar holder to minimize play...(not so thick as to bind)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Autoharp advice
From: Penny S.
Date: 17 Feb 12 - 01:31 PM

Problem is, at least one chord seems to want to move the other way. I'll wait and see exactly what does what and how much of a problem it is before doing anything.

Penny


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