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I have an autoharp :)

Noreen 18 Apr 11 - 04:48 PM
Noreen 18 Apr 11 - 05:10 PM
Dan Schatz 18 Apr 11 - 05:19 PM
CupOfTea 18 Apr 11 - 05:26 PM
Desert Dancer 18 Apr 11 - 05:53 PM
Bill D 18 Apr 11 - 08:22 PM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Apr 11 - 08:29 PM
Janie 19 Apr 11 - 01:08 AM
GUEST,hg 19 Apr 11 - 11:51 PM
GUEST,hg 19 Apr 11 - 11:52 PM
threelegsoman 20 Apr 11 - 08:38 AM
Bill D 20 Apr 11 - 05:40 PM
CupOfTea 20 Apr 11 - 06:17 PM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Apr 11 - 06:36 PM
Bill D 20 Apr 11 - 08:09 PM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Apr 11 - 10:55 PM
Bill D 20 Apr 11 - 11:08 PM
catspaw49 20 Apr 11 - 11:12 PM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Apr 11 - 01:49 AM
Gurney 21 Apr 11 - 02:38 AM
Noreen 21 Apr 11 - 12:29 PM
Bill D 21 Apr 11 - 12:59 PM
threelegsoman 23 Apr 11 - 04:02 AM
Bill D 23 Apr 11 - 11:55 AM
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Subject: I have an autoharp :)
From: Noreen
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 04:48 PM

I am a good girl :) and have searched for previous Mudcat threads on this subject, but there is SO MUCH there I hope no-one minds me starting my own thread...

I have just bought my first autoharp on ebay, and love it already. It is a 21 bar Ashbury Electro.

From my first attempts to play, it's obvious to me that in needs tuning properly.
The main reason for starting this thread then, is to ask those of you who know, for advice on tuning- is there a particular type of electronic tuner which works best with an autoharp? I'm sure I read something about this on one of the threads but can't now find it.

I'm hoping to accompany my singing, when I get the hang of this lovely new instrument.

All helpful comments and advice welcome!


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Noreen
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 05:10 PM

PS: I've never had an electronic tuner, so don't know much about them.
Not found much call for one so far, playing piano and concertina


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 05:19 PM

I like the cheap Korg chromatic ones, because it doesn't cost too much to replace one if I lose it. Then just get a cord to plug it directly into your pickup.

Good luck!

Dan


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: CupOfTea
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 05:26 PM

Congratulations!

I have two. I hope you're aware that autoharps are like cats- it's difficult to have just ONE. One leads to another and another. I play a 21 chord "Gooseaharp" made by the gone-and-still-missed Goose Acres in Cleveland Ohio. I hope you come to love yours as much as I love mine - I play it daily & perform with it 2-3 times a week. My #2 is destined for interesting things when I can afford to have it chopped to a diatonic someday.

When I started playing a couple decades ago, the Bose tuners were about the best things going, and at that time ran about $60 (as a bargain through a concert harp teacher friend). For some of the shortest strings (especially on other instruments, lap harp, bowed psaltry) they could only be tuned by sympathetic vibration - even the good tuners wouldn't pick 'em up. They used a mic to hear the notes, may make a sound if you tuned to sound, and to tune in noisy places, one needed a clip on wire that had a jack that plugged into the tuner.

NOW, these days, you have your choice of all sorts of tuners in the under $25 price range, many of them with the added capacity of tuning EITHER by mic or by vibration, and clip onto the instrument itself. The range is also much larger - for $22 I got a rectangular one that picked up even the shortest strings' sound. My latest delight is a small clip on tuner with the brand name Snark, which clips on most instruments one way or another. I'm not sure where you'd clip it on an autoharp with an enclosed set of chord bars, but I put mine on the moulding that holds the chord bars in. I've seen 7 or 8 different varieties of clip on - I'd take the aharp with you to try 'em out. With the "vibration" mode, I can tune while others are tuning, choir is running through something else & without having to play loud enough to disrupt them. It also doubles as a mentronome, though I've not explored that possibilty yet. I paid about $23 for it at a general music store.

Have fun, practice yer scales and pluck away!

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 05:53 PM

I'll echo the Snark recommendation on the basis that Snark's are very responsive - quicker to use than others I've tried. Haven't tried one on an autoharp, myself.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 08:22 PM

I have an older Korg..(kinda bulky compared to some you see now).. but it has multiple octaves and an input jack for clamping a cord directly to a post or strap holder...which means I can tune almost anywhere. Those are the features I need.

Note: If your ear is VERY good, (mine is NOT) you might 'feel' that tuning exactly to the electronic tuner is not quite right. Different chords can need teeny adjustment, and high notes & low notes don't sound 'perfect' when tuned mathematically correct...(Bryan Bowers wouldn't use one.) Use your judgment.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 08:29 PM

Bill, that depends whether you are playing alone with a sorta 'just' intonation, or are playing with others tuned to the modern 12 note chromatic temperament, in which case the tuner is mathematically right...


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Janie
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 01:08 AM

Good on ya', Noreen. Enjoy!


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 11:51 PM

I use a twenty dollar korg, and an intellitouch tuner that clips on for guitar and banjo.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 11:52 PM

...and my ears, of course...


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: threelegsoman
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 08:38 AM

I use a Guitarman GM11 Mini Tuner for all my stringed instruments including my autoharp. Clip it on to one of the pegs (not the one you are tuning) and move it when necessary. It is not perfect, but reasonably priced (mine cost me £15)and seemingly the battery lasts forever. (Well I have not had to change it yet and have had the tuner over three years to date.)
I have been playing autoharp for over 40 years, but recently a group of people here in the Isle of Man have taken an interest in the instrument and have got together with a couple of experienced lady harpers and we meet once a month and just jam together, picking up ideas as we go along. Great fun. I hope you have great fun with yours too. You might like to check out my autoharp playlist on my YouTube channel 'threelegsoman' where you will find examples of great harpers plus some of my own modest offerings.
Kind regards from the Isle of Man,
Tony


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Bill D
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:40 PM

Well! Quite a collection of videos you have there! I will work my way thru some...especially autoharp. Lots of classic 'folk' songs...and more.

I am just about to listen to "Bristlecone Pine", as my retirement is devoted to woodturning, and I have several images of Bristlecone Pine for computer wallpaper.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: CupOfTea
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:17 PM

I believe Bill D's note :...you might 'feel' that tuning exactly to the electronic tuner is not quite right. Different chords can need teeny adjustment, and high notes & low notes don't sound 'perfect' when tuned mathematically correct...(Bryan Bowers wouldn't use one).,,, refers to what I've heard of as "sweet" tuning. Bryan Bowers plays diatonic autoharps, where "sweet" tuning works best. I've been told to forget about trying to do this with a chromatic 21 chord autoharp: you're likely playing in a large range of keys, and what would be "sweet" tuning for one key would be off for another.

My memory is fuzzy on this - because I've not done it - but I've heard the suggestion that even with a 21 chord range you can get a better sound by tuning the bass range a bit high and the high range just a touch low (or was it t'other way round? I do forget.) But those were fractional adjustments & definitely beyond my capacity to hear.

I know my 21 chord autoharp plays from (most of) the key of A through Bflat. The logic of having a diatonic autoharp tuned in one or two adjacent keys is to facilitate that "sweetness" of sound in both how the strings are tuned and in how the strings are set up (and with fewer strings having to be damped out at all times). The tuning issue is one to stick in the back of your mind as a beginner - might be more important if you've very precise sense of pitch. I need to be in tune with the other instruments I play with, anyrate.

Are you having fun yet?

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:36 PM

A regular trick of some accordion tuners was to tune the treble a little higher. But the real trick was to tune each higher note a little more high (more spread in the higher octaves) - so that each octave was definitely a little higher. I can't remember if any such trick was done on the Bass. You thus gut a 'beat' with the harmonics of different octaves, rather than having the octave of one note in exact tune (zero beat) to the next.

But if you tune the whole instrument a tiny amount higher, it will sound 'brighter', and tend to stand out if playing in an ensemble. Piano accordions were often tuned to A=442 for instance.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Bill D
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 08:09 PM

A search on "sweet tuning" got this, among others


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 10:55 PM

All I get is

"You have either reached a page that is unavailable for viewing or reached your viewing limit for this book"


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Bill D
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 11:08 PM

hmmm.. it still takes me to a Google books page about Bryan Bowers and tuning. Maybe it is restricted in Oz?


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 11:12 PM

They're trying to discourage the use of Autoharps in Oz........also Dobros.


Spaw


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 01:49 AM

Noooooooooooooooooo!


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Gurney
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 02:38 AM

Somewhere in my collection of outdated software is a computer program to make it a chromatic tuner. W98. It covered almost the full range of my concertina, and it was free. It worked through a microphone.
In Noreen's position, I'd go searching the freeware sites first, after making sure my virus-killer was absolutely up-to-date, of course.

The program, by the way, was VERY good, steady, fast-reacting, and easy to use, large on the screen, and better than any 'unit' I've seen.
Can't remember what it was called, but after the Beta it went commercial for big money.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Noreen
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 12:29 PM

Brill, thanks all, for advice and support.

I am enjoying trying things out and realise I have to keep the picks on- strumming without has shredded my nails.

Thanks Gurney, I found an online tuner which seems good, for now: tunerr.com (until I can get to a music shop).


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 12:59 PM

Maybe this one is the one Gurney had.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: threelegsoman
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 04:02 AM

With regard to picks. I have used a plastic thumb pick plus steel finger picks ever since I bought my first autoharp, but recently here in the Isle of Man we have started an autoharp group and one of the more experienced players pointed out that plastic finger picks can be moulded to the shape you require by steeping them for a short time in warm water. I am going to try this out myself as I find the steel picks have a habit of catching and pulling off if I am playing too enthusiastically.


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Subject: RE: I have an autoharp :)
From: Bill D
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 11:55 AM

When I first started playing, I had the problem with catching standard picks in the strings. Then I read about Kilby Snow making a pick from an old brass auto headlamp and shaping it with a bent tip so that he could pick both ways.
I never found a direct image of his pick, so I 'invented' my own using a piece of sheet brass. I use it on my middle finger Like this. And here is a closeup of just the pick.

I have also used a formed wire sitar plectrum ("Mizrab") as in this photo, but they are hard to find and pinch my finger. (they come in many sizes....perhaps I never got just the right one)
   That photo also shows another brass pick which was not bent at the tip, which I sometimes use along with the bent one for tapping/patting the strings..mostly for just one song.."Silver Bell"

I have used that bent brass pick for about 25 years now... I'd hate to have to re-make it.


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