Embracing the autoharp

Full story: Pennlive.com

Last year, when actress Reese Witherspoon played an autoharp in her portrayal of June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line," she unwittingly fortified the zitherlike instrument's popularity.

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seth armstrong

Hollywood, AL

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#1
Aug 4, 2006
 
you are a good autoharp player Reese.
merfwriter

Marriottsville, MD

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#2
Oct 14, 2006
 
My parents bought me an autoharp years ago for Christmas and but I never really got into it. I wasn't playing it and the harp ended up iting in the corner of our living room. My mother was a teacher and took the harp, brought to her school where she was teaching and gave it to the music teacher. Just this summer I went to my mother's school where she worked and asked the music teacher if I could get it back from him. He said sure and gave the harp back to me. Now that I have my autoharp back, I don't know how to play the darn thing. Any tips on how I can go about learning how to play it.
bigbike4

Hillsborough, NJ

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#3
Oct 27, 2006
 
Merfwriter:

Autoharp is probably the simplist instrument to play. All you do is press the chord bar button and strum. To change chords, press another chord bar and strum again. The thing I would recommend if you are interested learning this great little instrument is to get a book-Melbay publishes several, then get some felt picks and strum to your hearts content. The thing you might also want to do is get an electronic tuner and tune the instrument, since it will sound so much better when each string is at least close to "in tune".

The thing that will make it easier is if you get a song book with at least one tune you know. That way you will get a feel for rhythm. There are other ways to play it, but start easy and then progress after a few months.

The more you play this great instrument the more you will want to. I started with a used Oscar Schmidt black model 73 and just bought a brand new Oscar!

“iWMCE - Crossroads Music - Dir”

Since: Dec 06

Lebanon, IN

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#4
Dec 9, 2006
 
There's a couple of cool models out now too, one with a built in pickup, for amplifying, church and bluegrass festivals, even rock shows and one that comes in a built in case
Mary

AOL

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#5
Jul 19, 2007
 
I am new at playing the autoharp! Can anyone tell me how to tune it? I am so afraid of breaking the strings, and do not know what comes first , like C or C# help please! Thanks
dww

Boulder City, NV

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#6
Jul 28, 2007
 
Mary wrote:
I am new at playing the autoharp! Can anyone tell me how to tune it? I am so afraid of breaking the strings, and do not know what comes first , like C or C# help please! Thanks
Get to a well-tuned piano and tune to it. Start with the second 'F' below middle 'C' on the piano, tune your first (Biggest string) to it then follow right on up the scale of white keys on the piano.
Tighten your harp strings gently - i have never broken one.

dww

Since: Jul 07

Boulder City, NV

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#7
Jul 29, 2007
 
dww wrote:
<quoted text>
Get to a well-tuned piano and tune to it. Start with the second 'F' below middle 'C' on the piano, tune your first (Biggest string) to it then follow right on up the scale of white keys on the piano.
Tighten your harp strings gently - i have never broken one.
Correction! I goofed in my response. Please ignore the words "OF WHITE KEYS", there are also black keys in the scale. My old schmidt has the piano key marked at the bottom end of each string.
(hope i didn't send this twice)
Dave Manchester

United States

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#8
Sep 20, 2009
 
Mary wrote:
I am new at playing the autoharp! Can anyone tell me how to tune it? I am so
afraid of breaking the strings, and do not know what comes first , like C or C# help please!
Thanks
Mary, first notice that in the lower register there are a few missing notes. If Your harp has a
decal of a piano keyboard at the bottom, the missing (piano) notes are the keys in outlined in
dotted lines. Don't worry about the missing notes - they were left out on purpose.
Next, notice that there are, on the piano keyboard, 13 notes between octaves (this is called the
chromatic scale - all black and white keys - each a half-step apart). Similarly, there are 13
strings between octaves on the upper 2 registers of the autoharp.
Some people say to tune a note (say, C), and then move up to the next string (C #), then the next
(D) and so forth. I disagree. Use the circle of fifths. In other words, tune a note (say, C).
Then tune the fifth above that - in the case of C, the fifth is F. Then tune the octaves of
those. So for this example, starting at the bottom, You will tune F, then C, then F, then
(middle) C, then F, then C'(the octave above middle C), then F', and so on up to the top string
(C).
Then jump up to the next note, G, then the G an octave above, then the fifth (D). Then sound
them in sequence to hear if it is in tune - G - D - G. Follow on up the harp in this manner.
Then tune the next fifth pair - from the bottom up. E, and it's fifth, B. And so on.
While most sources today recommend getting an electronic tuner (available from $15 and up), and
while this is a great idea for those without a sense of pitch, it is not strictly necessary for
those with any sense of pitch. I use a chromatic pitch pipe that goes from F to F, 1 octave.
Also, try to tune the string upwards to pitch, NOT downwards. This avoids overtensioning and
breaking a string when you put too much tension on it on the sharp side of the pitch.
The advantage to tuning by this method of fifths is that, even if You have no pitch pipe or piano
available, You will still be able to tune the strings relative to each other, and they will sound
okay.
I hope this helps You.
Best Regards,
Dave Manchester
http://dredeyedick.wordpress.com
Dave Manchester

United States

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#9
Sep 20, 2009
 
Sorry about the line breaks in my response. One thing I forgot to mention, Mary, about tuning.

If You have fine tuners and the strings have settled from the last restringing (2 weeks to a month to stop stretching), then use the fine tuners when possible. This saves wear and tear on the tuning pins and pin block.

But when tuning with the tuning pins and wrench the most important thing is to GO EASY!!! Be gentle and slow and cautious when bringing a string UP to pitch, and DO NOT tune it intentionally sharp to tune down to the pitch. As I mentioned, tune UP to the pitch. Slowly. Gently.
Maria

Nigeria

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#10
Jun 24, 2010
 
Hi, Can anyone recommend a teacher for the Autoharp in Manchester (M33 Preferably but will travel!) Never played one before been keen to learn!

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