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Help: Autoharp Buying Advice

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GUEST,Claymore 06 Mar 02 - 11:52 AM
Kaleea 06 Mar 02 - 01:16 AM
Bev and Jerry 05 Mar 02 - 03:58 PM
harpgirl 04 Mar 02 - 08:10 PM
ddw 04 Mar 02 - 06:27 PM
GUEST,Don Meixner 04 Mar 02 - 04:46 PM
saulgoldie 04 Mar 02 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Sarasota Slim 17 Jul 00 - 01:07 AM
SINSULL 16 Jul 00 - 10:13 PM
GUEST 16 Jul 00 - 08:11 PM
Homeless 16 Jul 00 - 06:25 PM
GutBucketeer 16 Jul 00 - 02:52 PM
dwditty 16 Jul 00 - 01:30 PM
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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: GUEST,Claymore
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 11:52 AM

Another ggod festival is the Mt. Laurel, put on by Dr. Orthey in central PA (check Cyberpluckers festival site for particulars). The problem with the really well established autoharp makers is that they have standardized their models to the point where the chord bar set-up is the only thing you can change (other than diatonic setups). But, by going to the festival, you can meet some of the up and coming builders, who might be willing to make modifacations to their harps for a reasonable price.

For example, I play a lot of Irish jigs with Hammered Dulcimers, and needed a harp with plenty of volume and a special drone string tuning, with keys in C,G,D and A in a chord pattern exactly reversed from Bowers. I met a fellow from Latrobe, PA (Don Brinker) at the festival, and we struck a deal to use a floating bridge construction technique developed by Nick Blanton (high-end HD builder).

The result was superb, with Fladmark and Orthey types jealous of the sound and the price. The secret is duplicate chord bars which allow the drone strings to ring while giving the melody to the upper end of the chord bars, duplicate drone strings to give volume and presence, and a deeper box with HD laminate pin blocks to give the sound some room to grow.

The best advice I can give you is to save your money until you can go to a fairly big festival in your area, and then see the harps and talk with the builders. (By the way, the Mt. Laurel was really cheap, with a $65 entry, camping on-site or cheap motels a short distance away, and excellent food served at good prices by a local VFD. I am more advanced than most of the classes, but there appeared to be something for everyone). Good Luck!


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: Kaleea
Date: 06 Mar 02 - 01:16 AM

They are sure fun to play! Yu might try subscribing to the cyberpluckers@autoharp.org which is a message board. Individuals frequently have some for sale, and you can get advice from people whose lives revolve around autoharps, so to speak. I found that the real key to being able to play the instrument is the way the chord bars are set up. I had an old 12 bar for several years which I could not do anything with. Then I found someone who has a 21 bar autoharp (several actually!) which have the Bryan Bowers set up, and it clicked in my brain. I could instantly play and I'm serious. It was just that simple for me, however I also have a strong background in music. I have, however, known others who got their 'harps set up that way, and after a few weeks of getting used to it, they were able to get it and blossomed quite well into playing some dificult tunes & understanding the instrument. The instruments come out of the factory with the chord bars set up in a way which makes sense to few people & is generally considered unplayable. Most autoharp people who get an Oscar Schmidt (or whatever) immediately send it in to someone to have it converted to their favorite set up. I had an Oscar Schmidt Adirondack Professional Series which was sent right away to Buck Lumbert to redo, and he put on his beautiful set of 21 maple chord bars and set it up for me as I asked him to. Only then was it playable. I then got a Fladmark, which I believe is one of the top 2 brands. I like it best! I would suggest that you look for one which is already set up with the Bryan Bowers chord bar arrangement, and if the person selling it is a dealer or person who does work on them, just ask them to set it up for you. You will find just as many persons who prefer other chord bar arrangements, but I can just about guarantee that you will not be able to play the right out of the factory set up as well as a good chord bar arrangement! So, talk to lots of folks, and try to find someone local or at a music festival to help you out. There is the annual Autoharp Jamboree coming up in mid June (13,14,15 at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas which is a festival of about 3 days with beginner & etc workshops going non stop.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 05 Mar 02 - 03:58 PM

"One trick I learned to keep the bars from clacking when you're playing quickly is to get some of those little green felt pads that you put on the bottoms of vases, cut them in half and (after removing the two screws each and the bar covers) put one on each end of the bar. You'll never hear a sound out them, just pure harp."

This is a great idea but certainly not a new one. We own an 1898 Dolgeville Model 73 (12 bar) and the bottom sides of the bar covers have a thin piece of felt glued on. Does a great job of quieting the bars.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: harpgirl
Date: 04 Mar 02 - 08:10 PM

do what Sarasota slim says...


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: ddw
Date: 04 Mar 02 - 06:27 PM

Ditty Wa — Interesting project you've set yourself. I play a lot of blues on guitar and old-timey, banjo and fiddle music on Autoharp, but hadn't tried blues on the harp.

Listen to Don M. 21-bar harps suck. They use foam rubber rather than springs for the return, the bars take up too much space and they're generally harder to modify.

A 12- or 15-bar harp is what you would need for blues. Some serious players even have a whole bunch of 5- or 7-bar harps. A lot depends on how much money you want to lay out. I suggest a good 15-bar to start with. That'll give you an idea of whether you want to dig deeper.

I would look for an Oscar Schmidt birchtop (one step down from the Appalachian) and the main things to look for are cracks, top separation from the body and loose tuning pegs. All are pretty rare, but can seriously inhibit playability.

The great thing about Autoharps is that you can cut pads for any set of chords without much trouble. There are hundreds of instruction manuals out there, but the things are pretty simple to figure out on your own.

One trick I learned to keep the bars from clacking when you're playing quickly is to get some of those little green felt pads that you put on the bottoms of vases, cut them in half and (after removing the two screws each and the bar covers) put one on each end of the bar. You'll never hear a sound out them, just pure harp.

Also, if you do get the birchtop, you may want to unscrew the bar assembly from the instrument body, measure about an inch toward the bottom (using the line of the original holes), redrill and move the bars down. That will give you even more room to pick between the bars and the tuning pegs.

Good luck,

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: GUEST,Don Meixner
Date: 04 Mar 02 - 04:46 PM

I'm not a fan of the 21 bar harps. Too much clatter and hum for my taste. I like the 15 bar harps set up with any chord plan you like. I actually find it more better to have three harps to tune and siund the way I like than to have a bunch of chords I don't use soaking up vibrations and stealing sound.

Another plusto the 15 bar ( or less) harps is the added playing surface.

There are a number of blues auto harp articles about. Some I recall in the Auto Harp Quarterly about twelve years ago,

Don


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Subject: Autoharp Buying...Custom?
From: saulgoldie
Date: 04 Mar 02 - 11:05 AM

Dear Catters, I am thinking about buying a custom harp, like on the order of maybe 15 chords and more robust capability--more chords, and duplicate strings--in one or two keys rather than a chromatic that plays more keys but more thinly. So, I would appreciate feasibility and set-up guidance from the collected wisdom, herein. Should I go for just one key, and maybe only eleven chords? Are there two fairly complimentary keys that would allow for some duplicated strings, and still have depth within each key? I am also pondering going "custom" rather than converting an "off the shelf" model. I realize that this choice will trim my "roving & ramblin" budget for a while, but I am considering it, nonetheless. Again, who makes a really nice one, and just how much should I 'spect to pay? Thanks so much. It is so good to have this place!

Sincerely, Saul


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: GUEST,Sarasota Slim
Date: 17 Jul 00 - 01:07 AM

...call Mark Fackeldy in Tampa Florida at Zephyrhills Autoharp and chat with him about what chording arrangement you might want. He can suggest a chording arrangement and any modifications necessary based on your vocal range and songs you might want to play. Then you can buy a used 21 bar harp and add or subtract chord bars yourself. A good used 21 bar harp should cost in the $225 to $275 range unless you are lucky enough to find one at an estate sale. Or ask among your friends about a 21 bar harp which is not in use... some of my humble advice...


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: SINSULL
Date: 16 Jul 00 - 10:13 PM

Do it! and get Bryan Bowers' latest CD. Pure inspiration.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jul 00 - 08:11 PM

Don't do it! It's not worth it. Things are not that bad.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: Homeless
Date: 16 Jul 00 - 06:25 PM

dw - I just asked a similar question not too long ago when I saw one in a pawn shop. Here are the answers I got.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: GutBucketeer
Date: 16 Jul 00 - 02:52 PM

When I was looking for my first Autoharp I came across the Autoharp.com site. It has an article by Cathy Britell on how to buy and autoharp here:

http://members.aol.com/autoharps/buyaharp.html

Another useful site is the Autoharp FAQ page. It is here:

http://ram.ramlink.net/~stewart/CyberFAQ/

JAB


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Subject: Autoharp Buying Advice
From: dwditty
Date: 16 Jul 00 - 01:30 PM

I am considering buybg an Autoharp. I have never played before, but would like to try to play blues on the autoharp. So far I think I want a 21 chord to give the ability to play in as many keys as possible. I've seen prices ranging from $50 used to $1500 new. Could someone please give me some advice. What potential problems should I look for in a used instrument? etc. Thanks

dw


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