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Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp

16 Aug 13 - 12:52 AM (#3549694)
Subject: Chord Req: Tuning An Autoharp
From: LadyJean

When I was younger I had an autoharp. I stopped playing when it got rained on, and didn't work. Well, I went and bought another one this week. Now I have to tune the thing.

The way I tuned the last one, sit down at the piano with the tuning wrench and remember not to curse too often or too loudly, would be difficult since I don't have a piano.

The other way I used to tune it, let mom do it, isn't practical in that my mom died in 1992.

Anyone have any ideas?

16 Aug 13 - 01:47 AM (#3549702)
Subject: RE: Chord Req: Tuning An Autoharp
From: GUEST,Denis McKay

The advent of the chromatic tuner makes tuning the "wee box of strings" a doddle. A chromatic tuner is inexpensive .

Once you have played for a while you may want to the 'sweet tune' the bass and treble by ear.

I plat both diatonic and chromatic autoharps and am happy to help, if I can.

Denis McKay in Oz.

16 Aug 13 - 03:40 AM (#3549726)
Subject: RE: Chord Req: Tuning An Autoharp
From: open mike

there are several clip on tuners .. intelli is one, intellitouch is another..there are several....they tell you what note is being played and tell you if you need to tighten or loosen the string to get it to the tone you need.

there are also several online tuning helpers...
one that generates a tone and you can match that note with your instrument ....
others can "hear" the note you play, and let you know what you
need to do to get it on tune...tune up or down...

try this...
or this:

your computer will need a microphone or speakers for these.

16 Aug 13 - 10:02 AM (#3549834)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: alex s

I use a Snark chromatic clip-on tuner. Don't get one just for guitar.

16 Aug 13 - 11:51 AM (#3549873)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: Backwoodsman

You could try sending a PM to 'Catter 'autoharpbob'. I know him, he's a very nice guy and a great player, I'm sure he'd have good advice for you.

Maybe Bob will read this thread and chime in?

16 Aug 13 - 11:57 AM (#3549876)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: Bill D

A lot depends on the age and style of the instrument.... the really older types (light weight, usually black bodies) are more 'delicate' and can warp. Newer styles in brown/blond woods made after the 60s are usually stronger. *IF* you have an older one, be very careful if you ever replace strings to match the string diameter, as newer strings are heavier and can warp an older instrument.

A digital tuner is easily the best way. I prefer the older style with a 'hand', rather than just digital read-out, but just be sure it will handle all octaves.

If the 'harp hasn't been tuned recently, go slowly! I suggest tuning all of one note... that is, all the Cs, then all the C#s, then Ds,,,etc. to even out the stresses. (An autoharp has a large amount of pressure from all those strings.)
Once you get to the last strings, it will almost surely need to have the first ones adjusted as the wood AND the strings respond to the new settings. After a few playings & retunings, it will settle in and, if played & retuned semi-regularly, will not need as much adjustment. Still- weather and humidity changes will affect it, just as on a guitar, but over 6 times as many stings of very different length.

Tuning is easier using a T-handle wrench which fits well, as the L-shaped wrenches are a bit harder to get exactly the right amount of torque/pressure. (I prefer an 8-point, rather than 4-point wrench, as they tend to slip less.)

16 Aug 13 - 11:53 PM (#3550039)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: PHJim

I prefer the eight point long handle L shaped tuning key. These seem to give me more leverage. I have a T shaped wrench with a square socket, that came with one of my 'harps, but prefer the long handled one.
I have trouble finding a good place to fasten the clip-on tuners to the 'harp, but the red Snark has a mic option and it doesn't have to be clipped on to use this.
Before the advent of electronic tuners, I used to tune to an "In Tune Guitar". The range of a standard chromatic 'harp starts at the F on the first fret of the 6th string and goes to the C at the 20th fret of the first string. I found it easier to tune a plucked string to another plucked string. I try to budget about 15 minutes to tune a 'harp, unless it's badly out of tune.

17 Aug 13 - 12:03 AM (#3550042)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: LadyJean

Thanks for the advice. I'm checking out tuning wrenches. The local acoustic store doesn't sell them. The guy says, he only gets one request a year. So let's hear it for Amazon

17 Aug 13 - 12:49 AM (#3550050)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: PHJim

The top one is cheaper, but either of the two at the bottom will serve you better:   Elderly's Autoharp wrenches

17 Aug 13 - 12:07 PM (#3550179)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: Bill D

Also... I strongly recommend a tuner with a ΒΌ" input and a clip-on like this for an auutoharp. It clips to the strap peg...or even a tuning peg. Lets you tune in a crowded, noisy room.

(I still use an older Korg electronic tuner. The newer ones are digital and a bit smaller & lighter, but.. if it ain't broke....)

05 Jan 17 - 07:20 PM (#3830653)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp

I suggest that you tune your autoharp with a digital tuner that will give a readout in cents. if you don't know about cents then your probably tuning to 12 tone equal temperament!
confused? then I suggest that you read and study a type of tuning called JUST intonation or otherwise known as pure tuning,you will enter into a new world of sound. very briefly a much more melodic sound is produced using this type of temperament amongst others. some notes are tuned flat by as much as say 12cents, while others are tuned sharp by as much as say 6cents.
ok you may want to know what particular values in cents are required for each note.
ANSWER go to a website on JUST INTONATION by KYLE GANN its an eye/ear opener.
you don't know what your missing.
hope this helps, best of luck

05 Jan 17 - 07:59 PM (#3830659)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: Jack Campin

ClearTune (for iPhone or Android) is dirt cheap and lets you use dozens of different tunings, or define your own.

23 Aug 21 - 08:27 PM (#4117656)
Subject: RE: Some Autoharp Questions
From: GUEST,LinB

Please check out the Youtube videos of Hal Weeks and Jo Ann Smith....both are great resources for everything Autoharp and they both explain what you're asking about in detail. Lots of tutorials there about playing, playing styles, tuning, strings and general maintenance. You can't go wrong with these two professionals! Good Luck!

23 Aug 21 - 08:30 PM (#4117658)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: GUEST,LinB

I agree, get an electronic chromatic tuner. I use a Snark. Also, check out the Youtube tutorial videos of Hal Weeks and Jo Ann Smith. Both are professionals and are a gold mine of information on all things Autoharp!

23 Aug 21 - 08:35 PM (#4117659)
Subject: RE: Help: autoharp :-)
From: GUEST,LinB

I use a Snark Chromatic Electronic tuner that clips on to the tuning pegs. Cost is reasonable, I paid about $20 Canadian for mine. Works great, easy to use. Get the Chromatic one, that way no matter if you have a Chromatic Autoharp or a Diatonic, you'll be able to tune it correctly. A chromatic tuner can tune the entire Chromatic scale. Think of a piano key board, the white and black keys. That gives you the Chromatic scale. A Diatonic scale would be the white keys only. Some Autoharps are tuned to be Chromatic others Diatonic. A Chromatic tuner works for both. Check out the Youtube tutorials by Hal Weeks and Jo Ann Smith....they explain and show you everything in detail. Great resources! Good Luck!

23 Aug 21 - 10:20 PM (#4117667)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: Joe Offer

Welcome to Mudcat, Lin. Our general policy is we allow only once thread open on a given topic at a time. We do our best to discourage people from posting to multiple threads that are more-or-less the same, and we especially don't like it when people post more-or-less the same message to several different threads. It just gets too confusing for readers when there are several closely-related threads active at the same time. I've moved most of your messages into this and one other thread, and deleted a few duplicate messages. You'll note that all these autoharp threads are crosslinked up top in the thread.
-Joe Offer, Mudcat Music Editor-

03 Nov 21 - 02:37 PM (#4125091)
Subject: RE: Instruments: Tuning An Autoharp
From: GUEST,Robert Briehl

Tuning an Autoharp is no big task providing you are gentle with the tuning wrench. If your strings are old and rusty you might need to replace them, otherwise you are ready to do the job.
I recommend tuning with the help of an electronic tuner or a pitch pipe. The strings are numbered 1-36 with #1 being the lowest one.
The instrument also has three octaves (low, Med. and High).
Match the Low "F" with the Medium "F" and the High"F".
Work your way up so that the tension of the strings is spread out over the whole instrument rather than in section.
Be patient!!!! It might take an hour or so to fine tune the whole 36 strings.
If you have any questions please call me at (905) 845 0638 or 289 242 5979. I will gladly help you out.