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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Songster Bob Autoharp Buying Advice ? (13) RE: Autoharp Buying Advice ? 05 Aug 02

The preference for solid woods over laminates isn't as important in an autoharp as in a guitar, but avoiding the sound-hole models is probably a good idea. As for 21- vs. 15-chord models, I note that 21-chord autoharps have narrower chord bars than 12- or 15-chord models, and a too-narrow bar may mean you get a harmonic on some strings with some bars, instead of the damped string you want. That is, a narrow bar, if the felt hits the string at a harmonic node, could, particularly on a harp that's been used a bit, so the felt is getting "dimpled," give you an octave of a note that's supposed to be eliminated from the chord involved. To avoid same, you have to press harder, and this can be annoying and (because it further creases the felt) eventually self-defeating. So if you don't need the extra chords, don't get the 21-bar model.

I'm not sure how the factory setups are on the new models, but I always try to set up my chords so that the I/IV/V chord patterns are the same from key to key.

I once set up a 12-bar harp to play in F, C, G, D, A, and E, by eliminating the -7th chord bars (no G7, no A7, etc.). My chords ran as you see them, with a few relative minors interposed. I think it went Bb, F, Dm, C, Am, G, Em, D, F#m, A, B7, E -- every other chord is in the "other" row, so that the major keys were in the bottom row and the minors in the top, plus the odd major chords (Bb & B7 -- my only 7th chord).

The result is that it was alway IV/I/V, whichever key I was in, except for E, which had the V chord in the other row. Middle finger the I chord, index finger the IV, and ring finger the V. Now, I think some 15-bar harps use this arrangement (without the loss of the 7th chords), but the older 15-bar harps just took a 12-bar and added three diminished chords(!). Not so useful, that.

Now that I think about it, I bet the 21-bar harps use this pattern much better than the 15-bar harps, because they can relegate the relative minors to the top row, the V7ths to the middle, and the majors (I & IV) to the bottom. Am I right? If so, then, despite the problems with harmonics, the 21's are the way to go.

Now I'll have to look over the harps I have. I got one off of Ebay a while back, and it now has the felt falling off the alunimung bars, thanks to a basement flood that also mildewed the cases. I need to get either replacement felts OR replacement bars. I'm not sure which I will go with. Trying to replace the exact short section of felt in exactly the right places is a non-starter, for sure.
Well, back to the drawing board.

Songbob Clayton

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