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Autoharp conversion

sbwrites 14 Jun 10 - 09:58 PM
GUEST,Songbob 15 Jun 10 - 01:28 PM
sbwrites 15 Jun 10 - 09:48 PM
Bill D 15 Jun 10 - 11:45 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 15 Jun 10 - 11:46 PM
GUEST 16 Jun 10 - 02:49 AM
GUEST 16 Jun 10 - 03:04 AM
DonMeixner 16 Jun 10 - 10:01 AM
sbwrites 16 Jun 10 - 12:18 PM
sbwrites 16 Jun 10 - 12:53 PM
DonMeixner 16 Jun 10 - 01:21 PM
Bill D 16 Jun 10 - 01:31 PM
Bill D 16 Jun 10 - 01:51 PM
Bill D 16 Jun 10 - 01:53 PM
sbwrites 16 Jun 10 - 03:29 PM
sbwrites 16 Jun 10 - 03:29 PM
DonMeixner 16 Jun 10 - 04:02 PM
sbwrites 16 Jun 10 - 07:05 PM
The Fooles Troupe 16 Jun 10 - 07:25 PM
sbwrites 16 Jun 10 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 17 Jun 10 - 07:33 AM
DonMeixner 17 Jun 10 - 11:00 AM
sbwrites 17 Jun 10 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,rocky road to ruin 17 Jun 10 - 02:50 PM
GUEST 23 Mar 11 - 10:54 AM
Bill D 23 Mar 11 - 11:17 AM
Joe Offer 23 Mar 11 - 12:49 PM
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Subject: Autoharp conversion Installation
From: sbwrites
Date: 14 Jun 10 - 09:58 PM

I just bought the 15 chord conversion kit from Elderly Instrument because I had bought a maple Oscar Schmidt Autoharp body that came without chord bars. It's been a bit of a nightmare because I broke three drill bits trying to alter the holes for the chord bar holders. As a relative newbie, I also have a few questions.

1. I went through all the songs I regularly sing to pick the chords, and came up with the following: Bb F C G D A (This is one of two chords I'm not sure about, because I don't use it very often.) C7 G7 D7 A7 E7 Gm Dm Am Em (This is the second that I rarely use.)

I've read MaryLou Orthey's book and downloaded another list of different setups for 15 bar chords. The one I like best (because it seems the most similar to the chords I regularly used is part of a 21 bar setup that George Orthey created for Nancy Carlisle.

With the chords I use (and with some adaptation), what seems to work best is the set up below. (Even George Orthey said he'd not run across the original 21 bar setup before.) The biggest change I'm making is moving the A from its position next to the D. However, I don't play Cm, and it does seem like what few A's I play are played with Bbs. Is there any huge problem problem with this set up? (I play on a table rather than Appalacian style.)

Top:          A   Gm Dm Am Em         
Middle:   C7 G7   D7   A7   E7
Bottom:   Bb F    C    G      D

2. When I tried to glue on the chord buttons with silicone glue, they didn't stick. What glue should I use?

3. Some of the chords don't seem to uniformly dampen. Could it be because I'm trying to use three rows rather than two? Or, might it be a problem with the felt? Any tips on exactly where the chord buttons should go?

4. Does this black felt ever stop shedding itself on my Autoharp?

For any and all advice, I'm deeply grateful!


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 15 Jun 10 - 01:28 PM

If 'twer me, I'd arrange the chords thusly:

Top:      Gm Dm Am Em A
Middle:   C7 G7 D7 A7 E7
Bottom:   Bb F   C   G   D

You have a pattern of IV-I-V in the bottom row, but the key of A isn't easy (E7-A-D, in the same pattern) if the A is way off to the other end of the top row). Since you have the A chord, why not use it? The minor chords now fall in line with their relative major chords, although you may want to shift 'em off-line, to make chording easier. Since they're not in the same row as the majors, my assumption is there is a bit of an offset anyway, so you can probably handle them in their relative major keys.

As for the glue problem, I'd try a different kind of glue. Are these wooden, plastic, or aluminum chord bars? The difference will affect which glue would work best.

And the little flecks of felt will stop showing up about the time you need to replace the felt on the old, by-now worn bars.

The chord buttons should be as close to center as can be, since pressing off-center will result in inefficient transmission of the pressing force (one end will tend to stay up and the other go down too far).

That's all I can say now.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 15 Jun 10 - 09:48 PM

Thanks Bob. I really appreciate the info. Clearly, I don't know very much about music. The bars are aluminum but with plastic on top.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: Bill D
Date: 15 Jun 10 - 11:45 PM

?? The 21 bar setup has grooves in the aluminum bar, and the buttons are not glued in. I am not sure why you'd want a kit to reduce to 15...but: ok...

Use epoxy glue ...the kind you mix that gives you 2-3 minutes to set it in exactly the right place- other glues will be either brittle or will not bond metal to plastic..

I set up to place the chords most used near the center of the strings...in my case D,G,C (basically, a mirror of the setup Bob shows)....
Felt is a hassle....many years ago, I bought a chunk of felt from a gasket company and bypassed the stuff Oscar wants to sell (which wears faster)... This denser felt has lasted 30 years. I don't know what I'd if I had to go back to the softer white felt.

The felt needs to all touch the strings at the same time, so sometimes it is necessary to trim it at an angle, so that thicker bass strings don't hit first. (sight under the bars and watch closely how the felt touches)

If you DO need to adjust it, use a single edge razor blade and remove tiny slices until it feels & looks right...one bar at a time.
The ultimate fix is new felt, glued on as one chunk and the V-notches (not square ones) cut above the correct spots..(Ummmm..be sure to mark locations on the side of the bar BEFORE removing the old felt)

Sorry if that's not all clear...it takes some practice and tinkering to tweak it when you are making changes to a original setup.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 15 Jun 10 - 11:46 PM

Me too Bob, that's a great arrangement. Susan it keeps the #1 chord always under the middle finger, the # 4 chord under the index and the # 5 chord under the ring finger. I am no fan of the three row harps but that is because I have large fingers. Smaller fingers may find this a good set up to have three rows.

Ducco cement will glue down the felts if they come loose and it works on the chord buttons on the two row (B Model Harps). The C models or three row harps generally don't glue down the buttons as the big chord bar cover holds them in place. I have never seen a three row, 15 Bar conversion before and they may be a different kettle of fish.

Go back and search Autoharp threads. The felt has been addressed before. There are two camps on using silicone to level the felt surfaces. People are either for or agin it. Those for have no trouble with it. Those against tend to be rabidly against. I have used silicone successfully on many harps. EMail me and I'll send you a description of what I'm talking about and I'll out line clearly the pros and cons.

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 02:49 AM

Dear Bill,
Thanks for all the info. I really appreciate it. FYI...I didn't reduce it to 15 chords. It came with no chords and no chord bars. I already cut the felt, and it seems to be okay. I really just ruined one chord, and hopefully can refelt it. How great that your felt has lasted so long. I appreciate the info on the glue.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 03:04 AM

Dear Don,
I so appreciate all the info. Thank you! It may be that I don't need three rows. I've never owned a 21 chord Autoharp (except for one I returned to an eBay seller). Actually, the advice you gave me about that harp a few months ago convinced me to continue playing 15-chord harps. But, I thought it might be "neat" to play with three rows. I read the MaryLou Orthey book, and learned about how many people use three rows--even for 9 or 12 chord harps.

But Don, if I play with two rows, what would you suggest for the setup?

I do have some Ducco cement, and appreciate the info on that.

Thanks for your offer about sharing info on using glue on the felt. I read George Orthey's article on that, and it seems fairly clear. I now think my problem wasn't with the felt. I spent a few hours sanding the bars and I guess they weren't lying correctly in the chord bar holders. They seem to be dampening fine now.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: DonMeixner
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 10:01 AM

AH, you are setting up a B model with three rows. Never considered that. GIve it a try. The button spacing will be wider so my fat fingers could navigate the bars OK.

For me with that set up I'd put the 7ths in the front row, the majors in the middle and the minors in the back row.

D


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 12:18 PM

Thanks Don. I'm trying out the setups you and Bill suggested with the songs I play the most. I've used Duck tape to attach the chord buttons until I figure out what arrangement works best for me. Then I'll glue them on.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 12:53 PM

Don and Bill,
I just talked to someone from Elderly Instruments. I don't think the three row set- up will work. Any suggestions on how to set up my chords with two rows? Thanks.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: DonMeixner
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 01:21 PM

Susan,

I Only use 2 row sets with no 7ths as a rule. My harps are strictly melodic set. BUt I will ponder this a moment and get back to you.

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 01:31 PM

Since I assume Google knows all, I looked for images

http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/instmnts/autoharp/autoharp-keys.jpg

I'm sure there are variations on this that might work.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 01:51 PM

I just remembered I have a Japanese model with a 2 row setup, so I took a digital pic and uploaded it.

http://my.opera.com/extree/albums/showpic.dml?album=3544582&picture=51156022


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 01:53 PM

(you can see it better if you right click and select 'open image'...or whatever your browser calls it. I'm in Opera)


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 03:29 PM

Dear Bill,
I can't thank you enough. I've been struggling with this all morning, and came up with something somewhat similar to your Japanese set-up. Seeing it made me feel like I hadn't wasted my time. I'll also look at the Dartmouth photo and compare. Again, thanks!

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 03:29 PM

Don,
Thanks to you as well!

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: DonMeixner
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 04:02 PM

Susan,

My 15 bar set up is like this. I cut my own chord bars.

Eb
   Gm
Bb
   Dm
F
   Am
C
   Em
G
   Bm
D
   F#m
A
   C#m
E

I Have one harp set up like this with several strings C# D# G# so on
tuned to the natural tone where ever possible to make the chords fuller in sound. (I keep one F# for the D chord for instance)

Bb
   Dm
F
   Am
C
   Em
G
   Bm
D

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 07:05 PM

Thanks Don. I tried setting it up the way it was in Bill's picture, spent an hour carefully measuring it, and gluing the chord buttons. I played a few of my favorite songs, and my fingering was way off, and awkward. I guess a little knowledge is a huge problem. I was better off when I knew nothing. I'll look at the way yours is set up, and see if that works--with the addition of the 7th chords. I'm ready to go back to the original setting.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 07:25 PM

DonMeixner - "keeps the #1 chord always under the middle finger, the # 4 chord under the index and the # 5 chord under the ring finger"

Compare the Accordion Stradella Bass:

the # 1 chord under the middle finger,
the # 5 chord under the index and
the # 4 chord under the ring finger

for the left hand

unless you are pushing the bar buttons with the right hand - then you have two mindsets - keep the real world layout and adjust your mindset to what is there, or do a mental 'mirror image' and use Don's fingers.... I'd probably play netter using Don's fingers, but he would probably want to keep them himself.... :-)

Should you actually play both instruments, then you may need two heads... personally I'd prefer both the instruments to be the same.... as per Songbob.... :-)

... makes me wonder which came first - I suspect the Stradella myself, but am prepared to be documented into submission... :-)


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 16 Jun 10 - 08:39 PM

Dear Foolstroupe,
At least you made me laugh! And thanks for the fingering tips. Actually, I do everything "wrong." I play on a table, and since I'm left-handed, I play chords with my right hand. And...I do play the accordion...so there!

I, too, could use Don's fingers. Actually, at this point, I'd like to use anyone's fingers, and certainly someone else's brain. But, for better or worse, I finally came up with a plan that seems to work (for me). It's a combination of Don's plan and one from Drew Smith (adapted...so undoubtedly it's musically incorrec)t. And, if it doesn't work I'm going to dump the Autoharp altogether, and play my accordion and bowed psaltery!

In the meantime I'm setting it up this way:

GM Bb Dm F Am C G7 G D7 D Am A E7 C7 Em.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 17 Jun 10 - 07:33 AM

You people really do not want my fingers. Two of them on the left hand are re-attached and don't work as well as they once did.

D


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: DonMeixner
Date: 17 Jun 10 - 11:00 AM

Susan,

Playing on the table is fine. Kilby Snow was a lefty and played Autoharp lap style, backwards.

If you are using Drew Smith's set up in combo with mine I think you'll find it works pretty well. Mine works great for me and I have played Drew's harps in the past and they worked fine for me as well.

Do you sing in "F" or use it as a key that much? I find the "Gm" to be a useless chord for me so I cut it up and made a "Bm" out of it which I find I use a lot more.

If you want to try holding the harp have you considered turning it upside down and reversing the chord bar order? That way you won't have to cross over your hands, the bars are easier to see, and you have a broad playing field. It should be easier to play this way sitting down. You'd have to balance the point of the harp on your leg.

I've always wondered if this was a doable technique.

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: sbwrites
Date: 17 Jun 10 - 02:00 PM

Don,
Sorry to hear about your fingers. Yikes! (Hope you weren't offended by what we wrote. Who was to know? I figured that maybe Fooleshoupe knows you.)

Thanks for the info on Kilby Snow. I have seen photos of him, and it made me feel good. I've tried playing every which way, including upside down (but didn't think about reversing the chords). I have a problem with my left wrist--a carpal tunnel thing that rears its ugly head when it's bent for too long.

I appreciate the info about Gm. Oddly enough I do use it. I mostly sing in G and C. I sometimes sing in F. Last night after the glue dried, I played for hours--and tried songs I'd never been able to play before. It was so much fun. What I learned was this:

1. I may change the position of C7 and Em. It might be better to follow the Bb.
2. I probably could use a Bm (sometimes), and a B7 (sometimes). I'm going to keep a list of the chords that prevent me from playing songs I like.And, I probably don't need all the 7ths I have, but I do like the way they sound.

Clearly, this is a work in progress. But, at least I'm set for the time being. What's quite wonderful is that the sound of this Autoharp is so much better than the Chromaharp I'd been playing--which I'm going to try and convert to a Diatonic when I recover from this experience.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST,rocky road to ruin
Date: 17 Jun 10 - 02:50 PM

Wow Susan, You work fast!
rocky road


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Mar 11 - 10:54 AM

How can I change the 21-bar from Oscar Schmidt set us to an easier one. I ha


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: Bill D
Date: 23 Mar 11 - 11:17 AM

???


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Subject: RE: Autoharp conversion
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Mar 11 - 12:49 PM

Looks Like Oscar Schmidt has a 15-chord conversion kit for $115. Look here (click). $115 seems like an awful lot of money.

-Joe-


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