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Help: Autoharps

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Mrs.Duck 04 Dec 00 - 11:45 AM
Bill D 04 Dec 00 - 12:36 PM
LR Mole 04 Dec 00 - 02:09 PM
DonMeixner 04 Dec 00 - 02:21 PM
Mrs.Duck 04 Dec 00 - 03:06 PM
richardw 04 Dec 00 - 05:22 PM
DonMeixner 04 Dec 00 - 05:30 PM
ddw 04 Dec 00 - 06:42 PM
harpgirl 04 Dec 00 - 07:54 PM
GUEST,Arne Langsetmo 04 Dec 00 - 08:27 PM
Mrs.Duck 05 Dec 00 - 12:57 PM
mandomad 05 Dec 00 - 03:46 PM
Susan of DT 06 Dec 00 - 01:38 AM
Mrs.Duck 06 Dec 00 - 11:14 AM
Nathan in Texas 06 Dec 00 - 09:10 PM
GUEST,Arkie 07 Dec 00 - 10:39 AM
Mrs.Duck 07 Dec 00 - 01:26 PM
Mrs.Duck 08 Dec 00 - 01:35 PM
GUEST 08 Dec 00 - 06:39 PM
GUEST 08 Dec 00 - 06:43 PM
Bill D 08 Dec 00 - 07:07 PM
GUEST,popey52 01 Jun 11 - 03:52 PM
GUEST 25 Mar 16 - 02:10 AM
CupOfTea 25 Mar 16 - 10:45 AM
Bill D 25 Mar 16 - 05:27 PM
PHJim 26 Mar 16 - 10:34 AM
Bill D 26 Mar 16 - 10:58 AM
punkfolkrocker 26 Mar 16 - 04:00 PM
GUEST,Charles Vaughn 19 Aug 16 - 11:57 PM
GUEST,LadyJean 20 Aug 16 - 09:27 PM
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Subject: Autoharps
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 11:45 AM

Having struggled for many years to play the guitar without much success I have come to the conclusion that my fingers are just NOT guitar shaped. Bill Sables says I can play the autoharp and is quite adamant about that so I would like to try. I tend to sing in keys between D and F, my favourite being Eflat although since up to now I have always been unaccompanied I suppose that could vary a bit.
I will be picking Bill's brains when I next see him but would appreciate the help and advice of other mudcatters as to the best type to go for eg 15 bar or 21 bar and if any makes stand out as good value. I did see one in a shop that was a 12bar but that appeared to exclude my favourite key unless I'm mistaken.
Thanks


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 12:36 PM

the 21 bar can be re-arranged and new felt cut to make ANY set of chords you might want...but it can do D, F & such right out of the box...( I did re-cut one bar to make an 'E' maj chord...though I seldom use it...)...short of putting out big money for custom models, the 21 bar is about the most versatile.....but ya gotta get an electronic tuner unless your ears are LOTS better than mine.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: LR Mole
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 02:09 PM

I don't think Irish and the automobile mix at all.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: DonMeixner
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 02:21 PM

I have modified many AutoHarpsforpeople with problem fingers. Myself included. While I will admit to the versatility to the 21 Bar I find them cumbersome for me to play with my large and somewhat disadvanged fingers. I find the 15 Bar to be more easy to move about on. If I need more selection in chords I grab another harp set up for that purpose. Is this costly? Yup. But then so is a first rate guitar. I find that the Harp is a good instrument for the "I can't play an instrument crowd". The hardeset thing to do to get moving is tuning. Get a chromatic tuner. There are affordable options to buying specially made harps. Search Autoharps in the forum and Rick Fielding, myself, and others have covered this subject before and probably would again.

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 03:06 PM

Thanks/ As far as tuning goes we already have a chromatic tuner although Geoff is pretty good by ear. I'll have to try a few (if I can find them) and see how I feel about the size aspect. Its a shame but all the instruments I can play are wind and I haven't yet mastered the art of accompanying myself!!!


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: richardw
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 05:22 PM

Do a quick search on the net and you will find lots of sites on autoharps and some luthiers that can help you. You will also find an autoharp e-maillist that can help lots.

You will have to decide whether you want a chromatic that plays several keys, or a diatonic which has a bigger sound but will require one harp per chord. There is lots of discussion on this.

Harps are easily found on e-Bay but you really need to hear them to know what you are buying.

I use diatonic and have 5 harps, plus some junkers.

Good luck

Richard Wright


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: DonMeixner
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 05:30 PM

I find that as performer with an Autoharp to aacompany voice I prefere a more meaty, lower sound. When I am playing an instrumental piece as a solo or with minimal accompaniment, say just guitar, I prefer the same instrument. But should I play with a string band or a larger group than two or three, I want an istrument with a pronounced high end.

One of my harps plays only in "C" and "F". I have removed as many sharps as possoble to allow for many of the strings to be doubled. That is to say, the C and C# are tuned as C and the slot for them in the felt is enlarged to allow for two strings ro vibrate, Gives a very full sound. But I also sacrifice playing 7ths and in more than one key. Thats another reason I have several harps.

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: ddw
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 06:42 PM

Mrs. Duck — something nobody has mentioned in this thread is the style you want to use to play the A-harp. It has a big bearing on what kind you should buy. If you want to lay it on your lap, you'll want to get one with the bars "up" the instrument — i.e., toward the point where the harp slopes toward the narrow "top."

If you want to play Maybelle Carter style — cradled in your arms and laying against your left ear — you'll need one with the bars moved as far to the bottom as possible.

Autoharp recognizes the different style by producing both; The "Birchtop" (if memory serves) is the lap style harp and the "Appalachian" is used for Maybelle's style.

I recommend 15 bars, regardless of stype; it gives losts more playing room and the bars/springs are thicker and stronger than the 21-bar harps, which use only foam rubber for returns unless they've changed since I last took one apart. I also agree with the advice to get a couple of harps to give yourself more key versatility.

BTW, most people don't really have "preferred keys" to sing in — it depends on the song's structure. I think if you start experimenting you'll find that your "comfortable" keys are all over the map.

One caution: an unmodified harp can run you nuts when you start to get a little speed with the clatter of bars hitting the housing when they spring back up. A simple solution is to take the top of the housing off and glue little felt pads to both ends of each bar. Muffles things beautifully and does nothing to the playing.

Glad to hear you're going to try the harp — it's a beautiful, versatile instrument and a real trip to listen to when it's cradled in your arms and resting right against the side of your head. Talk about FULL sound!

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: harpgirl
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 07:54 PM

...Madam Duck!!!...*wink* If you like to sing in D you can probably sing comfortably in A as well, don't you think? The fifteen bar harp has the following chords as default:

D Gmin A7 Dmin E7 Dmin Amin D7

Eb F7 Bb C7 F G7 C G

I modified my harps almost as soon as I began to play in the early 70's myself but now I have Mark Fackeldy do it. He has a web site under Zephyrhills Autoharp. My favorite is tuned thusly

G9 D4 D6/9 A4 A6/9
Emin F*7 Bmin C#dim F#min
G A7 D E*7 A

. The f#7 and the e7 are partial chords with no third. D and A are good keys for my voice and the harp is well adapted to most fiddle tunes in D and A.

You can move the bars around to adapt to your fingering prefernces on the 15 bar harp as long as the button rows match up with no other modifications. And you can shim the bars with little pieces of rubber band to prevent the famous clacking sound that is a characteristic of the standard autoharps. Look for a blond or maple harp with a sound hole. To familiarize yourself with all the styles of harps watch E-Bay for awhile. The old black harps are kind of rickety and I would avoid them. www.cyberpluckers.org is the primary autoharp list and most of the luthiers post to that list regularly. They like questions.

With some watchfulness you can pick up a good 15 bar harp on E-Bay for about $115 which would probably only need tuning to begin to use for accompaniment. Please feel free to PM me. I love the autoharp and don't mind any questions you would have...harpgirl


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST,Arne Langsetmo
Date: 04 Dec 00 - 08:27 PM

All the comments above are good. Diatonics are nice if you want a full sound in one key; chromatics allow for more freedom if you do wacky stuff with lots of accidentals or modulation (like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow").

George Orthey has been building the harps that have been consistently chosen by the International Autoharp competition winners in Winfield (from amongst Oscar Schmidt harps, OrtheyHarps, and occasionally some other makes). Many of the top performers like these harps, though some go with others (John McCutcheon has a custom Bob Taylor harp). But George Orthey has retired, so you might have to look for a used one if you want one of his. The OrtheyHarps come in chromatic and diatonic models as well.

You can (if you're handy) turn any chromatic into a diatonic) if you want, including stringing the double courses mentioned by one of the prior poster. You will need to get custom chord bars, or blank chord bars, and cut them yourself.

Diatonic harps can be tuned for perfect intervals, as opposed to the even-tempered intervals of the chromatic harps. This gives a slightly sweeter tone than the even-tempered tuning, but may be apparent in such places as your major third (386 cents versus 400 cents for the even-tempered third) when you play with someone else.

Custom harps are also an option, once you know what you want. I built myself a harp a while back, designed with my tastes in mind. It has 52 strings, with all courses doubled. It is basically a diatonic harp, but with a couple of extra notes (also diatonically tuned) added in for some extra chords outside of the C-F-G/G7 chords. In addition, one of its strangenesses is that it had two D notes (it's a C harp). One is the diatonic D note from a F minor chord (at 182 cents), while the other is the diatonic D note from a G major chord (at 204 cents). This harp is also a bit bigger than your standard harp.

Feel free to e-mail me at zuch@ix.netcom.com if you have more questions or need more information.

Happy harping!

Cheers,

-- Arne Langsetmo


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 05 Dec 00 - 12:57 PM

I'm getting some good advice here but one of the problems I'm having now is finding stockists in the UK. I looked at all the sites mentioned and some other good ones but they all seem to relate to the US. I don't want to buy without trying so I don't fancy the idea of mail order across the pond.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: mandomad
Date: 05 Dec 00 - 03:46 PM

Mel Bay does a very good book which you can use to teach yourself but the secret is practise, practise and more practise. It's not a bad idea to start with a 12 bar which you can play in D and save your money for a big one when you know if it's the right instrument for you. Good quality 21 bar autoharps are not cheap. The big suppliers of folk instruments in the UK will get you one if you ask them and most stock 12 bars as standard.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Susan of DT
Date: 06 Dec 00 - 01:38 AM

It is quite a while since I bought (or played) my autoharp. At some point I traded my 12 chord model for a 15. On this side of the pond, Oscar Schmidt owns the word "autoharp" and is the main producer, but some of the hand made ones are lovely. Does anyone make them in Britain? At least in the 60s, there were 12 chord models and 3 different setups of 15 chord models. The most complete key in the 12 chord was F. One of the 15 chord setups included a bundh of diminished chords. I did not see any 21 models at the time. Oscar Schmidt would sell any chord bars you wanted - real cheap for the ones they put on autoharps and slightly more for other chords. Cuddling up to the autoharp with the echos in my ear is more fun than playing on my lap, IMHO. They ar eeasy to play.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 06 Dec 00 - 11:14 AM

Thanks Susan You all have me convinced. I shall be seeing Bill Sables tonight and he will probably have some ideas about supplioers. I don't have much of a lap these days so upright will probably be best on that count too. Cuddling up to a harp sounds fun anyway.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Nathan in Texas
Date: 06 Dec 00 - 09:10 PM

There are at least a couple of British autoharpers on the Cyberpluckers. Go to www.autoharp.org to join, then post a message to the group and you'll get info on 'harpin in the UK.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 07 Dec 00 - 10:39 AM

You might watch for the name, Mike Fenton. Mike lives in Worstershire, I believe, and is a first rate autoharper and teacher. He travels extensively in England and the United States performing and teaching. He is also a former winner of the International Autoharp Contest in Winfield, KS.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 07 Dec 00 - 01:26 PM

I'm off tomorrow to have a look at a couple of used ones in Redcar (Stan Gee) If they are worth having I should be pickin'n'strumming by the weekend!!!Thanks for all the advice .Oh! and I'm taking Bill with me so I should be OK


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 08 Dec 00 - 01:35 PM

Got a Japanese (Sekova) copy of an Oscar Schmidt which Bill reckons has all the quality of an original and sounds beautiful. I went for a 15 barn and just can't wait so thanks and I'm off!!


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Dec 00 - 06:39 PM


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Dec 00 - 06:43 PM

The English do make Autoharps. But when you to strum up or down, you get different chords from the same chord bar. ;-)

Cheers,

-- Arne Langsetmo


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Bill D
Date: 08 Dec 00 - 07:07 PM

LOLOL...good thing she didn't find a Duet harp!


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST,popey52
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 03:52 PM

Can some body (HELP) me I play the guitar and the autoharp When I am capo 2, or 3, frets the autoharp is not matching in the same tone, in the same cord, HELP what do I do???


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 16 - 02:10 AM

this harp looks like and auto harp but it doesn't have cord keys I can remember the of it I seen one at silver dollar city in Bronson Missouri. If you can help I would be so grateful.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: CupOfTea
Date: 25 Mar 16 - 10:45 AM

Popey,

When you capo (as a verb to indicate putting a capo/noun on your guitar) you are changing the key you are playing in, using the "chord shapes" from your original key.

You need to transpose the chords for your Autoharp to match. Depending on what chords you have, this may or may not be possible. Most modern autoharps are set up so that to change key, you orient yourself to the transposed first chord, and the other chords will be in the same proximity.

It frustrates the daylights out of me that guitarists need only capo to play in E, A or B, and I haven't a hope with my 21 chord Autoharp.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Bill D
Date: 25 Mar 16 - 05:27 PM

Guest... that is probably a zither...


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: PHJim
Date: 26 Mar 16 - 10:34 AM

GUEST with no name, I agree with Bill D. There are several weird and wonderful instruments that were invented and sold at the same time as the Autoharp, but the Autoharp seems to be the only one that really caught on.
The Guitar zither has chords to the left and single strings to the right (no chord bars) and has a shape similar to the Autoharp.
The mandolin zither is similar to the guitar zither, but has two string courses.
The ukelin works similar to the last two zithers, in that you have chords played by one hand and melody with the other, but on the ukelin you play the chords with your thumb or a pick and the melody is bowed.
There were other similar, but different instruments that you'll see at garage sales, pawn shops and flea markets. Not many folks actually learn to play them and they end up hanging on a wall or sitting in an attic.
There is a concert zither which is still used, usually in Europe, which has a fretted fingerboard on the left side and single strings on the right, but I doubt this is the one you've found.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: Bill D
Date: 26 Mar 16 - 10:58 AM

My wife plays a guitar zither.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 26 Mar 16 - 04:00 PM

My great grandad [ died at 90 approx 1967 ] played the "Piano Harp" - that's what was printed on the artwork.

But it was a standard setup of chords to the left, and single notes to the left.

But obviously, no mechanical piano keys of any sort......

That and the recorder and glockenspiel were the first instruments I ever tackled at infant school age.


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST,Charles Vaughn
Date: 19 Aug 16 - 11:57 PM

I am 72 and disabled. I live with my wife on SS. I am looking for a handout or a trade of a lightweight autoharp in decent condition. I have a laptop PortaHarp 15 chord keys and and a 15 Key AS autoharp that I would be willing to trade. They are both in good condition and hold their tuning quite well. I have had four back surgeries and the these two autoharps are just too heavy for me. If you are interested, please email me at thevaughnfamily1@verizon.net. I live in Southern California. te's talk please.
God bless you,
Charles Vaughn


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Subject: RE: Help: Autoharps
From: GUEST,LadyJean
Date: 20 Aug 16 - 09:27 PM

I spent some time looking for an inexpensive autoharp on Ebay. I bought one. I decided to pay a friend's son to tune it. He took it apart. I gave it to another catter. Proceed with caution when shopping for autoharps, especially on Ebay.


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