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Tech: Unusual Autoharp

09 Dec 02 - 04:26 PM (#844048)
Subject: Tech: Unusual Autoharp
From: John MacKenzie

Anybody ever seen one like this?

See here


09 Dec 02 - 04:40 PM (#844060)
Subject: RE: Tech: Unusual Autoharp
From: Bat Goddess

Difficult to see as the photo wouldn't enlarge for me at all -- but it looks sort of like a Marxophone or Celestaphone. These were instruments that were sold door-to-door in the early part of the 20th century.

"The Marxophone is a musical instrument that has four sets of chord strings (Cmajor, Gmajor, Fmajor and D7) to be strummed with the left hand and two octaves of double melody strings (Cmiddle - C'') which are struck by metal hammers activated by the right hand. The hammers are mounted on spring steel and produce a mandolin-like sound from repeated bouncing on the strings, hence the name mandolin-guitar-zither that was sometimes applied to the Marxophone." (from one of the websites)

I first ran into one about 17 years ago being played by Katharine Rhoda, who also plays another unusual stringed instrument, the ukelin.

I've got a Celestaphone under the couch, waiting for time to restore and re-string.

They sound great, easy to play, but have limited keys they can play in.


09 Dec 02 - 04:51 PM (#844067)
Subject: RE: Tech: Unusual Autoharp
From: John MacKenzie

The seller reckons this is about 1900, it also has a slide mechanism, which you might see sticking out of the top, in the picture. Seller describes it as some sort of adjustable tuning system. Odd aint it!!

09 Dec 02 - 05:36 PM (#844089)
Subject: RE: Tech: Unusual Autoharp
From: curmudgeon

This appears to be a fancy looking six chord autoharp. The "slide" may enable one to change the six chords, but I'm not sure how that would work.

IMHO, it's already overpriced as a musical instrument. For a decorator, however, who would augment the decor of some non-musical ostentatious manor, the price is far too low -- Tom

27 Oct 21 - 02:09 AM (#4124295)
Subject: How to make quick-change chord bar holder covers
From: GUEST,Nealybug

Does anyone have a suggestion for how to make chord-bar holder covers that can be quickly opened to facilitate changing chord bars? Some kind of cam or toggle clamp?

27 Oct 21 - 07:34 AM (#4124311)
Subject: RE: Tech: Unusual Autoharp
From: Felipa

I don't have an answer for Nealybug, but I'd be curious to see a picture of an instrument similar to the one that was being sold in Dec 2002. Maybe one of the people who participated in the discussion back then could source a picture.

Wikipedia item re Celestaphone

and Marxophone, with good photo (I'd like to have one of these, if it's durable!)

27 Oct 21 - 07:40 AM (#4124315)
Subject: RE: the Marxophone
From: Felipa

from Wikipedia article about the Marxophone:
"Because the hammers are made of white lead, the instrument sheds small amounts of lead powder. Musicians who actively use this instrument have adopted the practice of coating the hammers in Epoxy glue, which does not affect the sound but stops the wearing away of the hammers (and prevents the poisoning of children, cats and other small creatures). "

I suppose new hammers could be made for an instrument.

Modern day usage: "The Marxophone did not become widely known to the general public, but recording artists have occasionally used it. The Doors, The Beach Boys, and John Prine used its unique sound on studio recordings of the 1960s and '70s and it is still used more recently including such notables as Norway's Avant-Garde artist Sturle Dagsland and American rock band the Stone Temple Pilots.

"The instrument was prominently used in the soundtrack of the BBC’s series Dirk Gently (TV series) "

The description says that "The player typically strums the chords with the left hand. The right hand plays the melody strings by depressing spring steel strips that hold small lead hammers over the strings." The photo shows someone with both hands on the hammer keys.

29 Oct 21 - 10:00 PM (#4124602)
Subject: RE: Tech: Unusual Autoharp
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

Felipe - Thank You

It will be fun to find one.


And of course give it a whirl.