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Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp

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HiHo_Silver 17 Nov 04 - 07:56 PM
Bill D 17 Nov 04 - 08:42 PM
Leadfingers 17 Nov 04 - 08:55 PM
harpgirl 17 Nov 04 - 09:03 PM
harpgirl 17 Nov 04 - 09:29 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 17 Nov 04 - 11:10 PM
Bill D 18 Nov 04 - 09:58 AM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Nov 04 - 05:18 PM
Mr Happy 28 Oct 07 - 06:49 AM
Bill D 28 Oct 07 - 09:26 AM
GUEST,Don Meixner 28 Oct 07 - 10:15 AM
Bill D 28 Oct 07 - 11:58 AM
Bill D 28 Oct 07 - 12:28 PM
wysiwyg 28 Oct 07 - 12:36 PM
Bill D 28 Oct 07 - 12:52 PM
bubblyrat 28 Oct 07 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 28 Oct 07 - 07:06 PM
Bill D 28 Oct 07 - 07:13 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 28 Oct 07 - 10:23 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 29 Oct 07 - 12:23 AM
open mike 29 Oct 07 - 02:21 AM
GUEST,hg 29 Oct 07 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Jim 29 Oct 07 - 06:21 PM
Claymore 29 Oct 07 - 08:52 PM
Bill D 29 Oct 07 - 09:43 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 29 Oct 07 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,Jim 30 Oct 07 - 12:05 PM
Bill D 30 Oct 07 - 08:31 PM
MaineDog 30 Oct 07 - 09:25 PM
GUEST 30 Oct 07 - 10:21 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 31 Oct 07 - 12:28 AM
Newport Boy 06 Nov 07 - 07:27 AM
GUEST,harpgirl 06 Nov 07 - 08:48 AM
Newport Boy 06 Nov 07 - 09:38 AM
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Subject: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: HiHo_Silver
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 07:56 PM

I have several clients who play accompiment on their autoharps but do not know how to play a melody line. Although I have repaird a number of these instruments I never tried to play a melody on one. I also have never been exposed to anyone in my area who can play melody on an autoharp. Perhaps Autoharp Girl or some experienced player can explain the process and advise some sites where autoharp meody can be heard. perhaps methods. Thanks, all advice and comments will be appreciated and passed on to autoharpists in my area. I am on the East Coast of Canada. Lots of Celtic and Bluegrass musio. Autoharps does not seem to enjoy very great popularity.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 08:42 PM

The most simple way to learn melody is to put a pick on your thumb and one on either your middle or index finger and do a sort of 'squeeze', bringing the finger toward the thumb...which causes the thumb to move a bit toward the finger, as you play the chords. If you reach higher or lower as the tune/notes demands and 'think' the melody, you will suddenly hear the melody...along with other notes-- but IF the melody note is in the chord..especially if you hit it early in the strum, the mind picks the melody out of the other notes.

With practice, you can control this process pretty exactly, and add more picks..(if you wish...I seldom do)....there are various ways to proceed from there, like 'back-strumming' (making the finger go both ways...usually using a special pick, though I can do it with just plastic..)....this is similar to the process used by Kilby Snow, though he had the 'harp flat on a table..If you hold it to your chest, as is common these days, it is even easier.

It is very hard to NOT play the melody in my opinion, unless you just strum 'glissandos' across all the strings...

have fun!


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Leadfingers
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 08:55 PM

Its very like playing Claw Hammer on a guitar - All the notes are there , its just a case of getting the right string in the chord with either the thumb pick or finger pick to bring out the melody ! Or you can be a real flash git and do it with a flat pick !!


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: harpgirl
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 09:03 PM

Play scales from the low octave to the high octave with these chords and their equivalents= C G7 C F C F G7 C to help you find the melody notes and do what BillD says, as well...Bryan Bowers plays the melody line with his thumb and middle finger in the pinch

look for Cathy Britell's site which I think is larkpoint.com for help


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: harpgirl
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 09:29 PM

Once you have downloaded Cathy's mini lessons on her three tunes, you can go here and download Harvey Reid's complete Mp3's to practice as well: audio/mp3.hthttp://www.woodpecker.com/ml


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 11:10 PM

Pick Silver - pick with care.
Pick - strumming halfs and wholes in a tune's key/tempo and full me-a-sure.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Nov 04 - 09:58 AM

I'm sure glad that was 'sincere', garg...because it left me empty-a-sure.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Nov 04 - 05:18 PM

Translation: Strum half-notes and whole notes in a tune's key/tempo

is quite clear for me, but there are several possible meanings for

and full me-a-sure...

So for say 3/4, you can strum ONE TWO THREE or ONE TWO half THREE.

Robin


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Mr Happy
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 06:49 AM

Just stumbled on this clip of the Carter Family

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ewnfWoSQz3o

The autoharp player's strumming on the narrow end of the instrument.

I've always seen it played on the broad end.

Does playing either end make a difference to the sound, if not what's the reason?


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 09:26 AM

(well, she is actually playing at the broad end, but I know what you mean)....

Playing near the end close to where the string passes over the metal base bridge produces a 'brighter' sound. Some might call it 'tinnier'. But this is how it was usually done on the lap, or on a table...and most early 'harps had more room at that end, because it was designed to be played flat.
   After Maybelle Carter & others needed to be able to move back & forth in front of single microphones and play it held up against the chest, makers moved the strings down toward the base, to leave more room for real 'picking' and to make the entire 'feel' of holding it more comfortable.

There are many variations to the sound, depending on where the strings are struck, but usually playing near the center gives the best balance.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,Don Meixner
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 10:15 AM

To further confuse the question Youtube Kilby Snow.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 11:58 AM

Mike Seeger says he went to Kilby once, and noted that Kilby put on his brass finger-pick, AND a thumb pick...but Mike could see no wear on the thumb pick, and detected very little use of it. He swore Kilby did almost everything with that one finger fick.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 12:28 PM

well....Kilby 'seems' to use the thumb a bit in that clip. Whatever...he is/was amazing.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: wysiwyg
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 12:36 PM

Look, guys, here's the thing. Autoharp is not something to do RIGHT, it's something to DO. Something to get creative with.

Don't copy what Kilby or Maybelle or Brian (or even Bill) did-- copy their willingness to fool around until they found their own way of getting sound out of that little, inniocent-looking box and all the mysterious wires. Pick it up and make sound come out.

A lot more will come out than whatever you put into it, believe me! Do it YOUR way! :~)

I hereby authorize YOU.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 12:52 PM

(gee, Susan...I tried beating on it with the heel of a hobnailed boot, and I was not really satisfied with the result...should I try something ELSE now?)


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: bubblyrat
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 06:19 PM

Back in the sixties,a friend of mine bought one----It was quite ornate, made in Germany, and was called a "Miranda". It had sheets of some kind of tab. with it---you slid the sheets under the strings, and then you followed this sort of continuous wavy line, and wherever you saw a dot, you plucked that particular string, and a tune ( probably Teutonic ) ensued.It was much more fun to "clawhammer" it with banjo-picks, to be honest !!


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 07:06 PM

My current preference - is a full set of banjo (nickle plated is fine - brass??? why????) and the thumb included but bent to the side.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc pills with vitamine D do not provide the finger-nails that were once like walrus tusks.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 07:13 PM

banjo picks get caught in the strings when I back-strum....I use a double-sided homemade brass pick...and sometimes a Sitar plectrum..(Mizrab)


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 28 Oct 07 - 10:23 PM

Agreed - MR. Bill D.

I use only thumb to back-strum.

PLEASE....elaborate on the "Brass-Pick-Sitar-Plectrum".....

I can acknowledge the sound...but cannot duplicate the technique.

Is it 5/8?????

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 12:23 AM

I have a pair of picks I made from four Dunlop .025 finger picks. Basically I one on my index finger correctly then a second on the same finger upside down. Like a false finger nail.   I wrapped the bands of the upside down pick around the correctly installed pick. The points of the two picks are not touching. Then I silver soldered the tips together. They work OK.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: open mike
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 02:21 AM

How can we have an autoharp thread without mentioning Bryan Bowers ?

He is a master at the autoharp, and often jokes about playing the auto parts. He has a video where he teaches techniques. His new recording
Bristle Cone Pine is not to be missed!

See Also Adam Miller, http://www.folksinging.org/


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 11:29 AM

Well, I am playing without fingerpicks a great deal these days. Please...if you play autoharp, try to play WELL!


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 06:21 PM

Sarah Carter played with the 'harp flat on her lap or a table and she played at the end of the 'harp opposite the tuning pins. She did not play the melody, but strummed chords. Maybelle didn't p,ay Autoharp with the original Carter family, but when she took up the 'harp, she played it against her chest and she played the melody.

In order to play most melodies, you must change chords more often than you would for accompaniment. You can strike the strings in the general area of the melody note. You don't have to be dead on, because the strings next to the melody note are muted by the felts.

Many players, myself included, modify their 'harps to play diatonically(sp?) and create double strings, making the sound much richer. This is difficult to explain briefly, but I tune the strings not needed in the key of the 'harp down to the next lowest string and cut the felts to fit. This is how Bryan Bowers gets the rich sound from his 'harps. Unfortunately, you only get one or two keys per 'harp. That's why you'll see Bryan bring five or six 'harps on stage with him.
Some people also tune the diatonic 'harps to a "sweet" tuning rather than a "just" tuning. (Look it up)


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Claymore
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 08:52 PM

The only thing I'll atempt to add is that rather than soldering two picks together, you can use thimbles. I currently only use one on my third finger to create a tremelo or mandolin type of sound. as for finger picks, the metal ones are easier to bend but the plastic ones give a fuller sound, especially when you have to change from a banjo to a guitar to possibly a classical nylon guitar at a contra dance.

The secret is to get a large teacup boiling with water out of the microwave, and hold the pick half in the hot water with tweezers. As you see the plastic start to return to its original "T" shape take it out and quickly mold it to the finger you are going to use it on. If done quickly as you blow on it, there is little discomfort. Then hold the pick end in and pull it out to bend a slight recurve hook in the end of the pick by placing it in between the edge of the stove and the countertop and pulling it out slowly as it cools. (You can also set the angle of the thumb pick the same way.)

From the top, the finger-pick will look oval instead of round (like your fingers) and from the side you should see a slight up-side-down "S" shape to the pick surface. This will work well on all strings from nylon to autoharp. Finally, for either metal or plastic, make a rolled piece of heavy grit fabic-backed sandpaper into a thin cigarette and run it around the interior of the finger portion of the pick to create scratches which will keep the pick on even if you are sweating or using the picks in a percussive manner.

Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 09:43 PM

here is my basic picking setup

Unfortunately, the brass pick shown is not the main one I use, but imagine it with a bent end like the mizrab shown (with red plastic)...
I use the double-sided brass pick on my middle finger, for greater length, and can strum both ways with a curved surface hitting the strings no matter which way I go. The Mizrab is used the same way, but it is much lighter and gives a lighter...almost 'tinnier' sound, and is harder on the finger..(mizrabs come in a number of sizes, and you need to be careful when choosing one)

The brass pick was just cut out of a sheet of brass using tin snips, and twisted around with pliers until it seemed to fit...(and of course, sharp edges filed and sanded smooth) The longer you play, the smoother it gets)..These brass picks are 25-30 years old.

I seldom use the plainer, one-sided one in the photo, except for a couple of tunes where I wear 3 picks and 'tap' a tune against the strings...or have a simple tune which needs little speed.

All I really do is pick the tune with my middle finger, varying the stroke to fit the type of melody, and use the thumb as bass counterpoint...(it takes 17 times as long to describe as to demonstrate).

Maybe I will take some pictures of my hand with picks in place, if anyone needs more detail.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 11:18 PM

CLAYMORE - the thimbles are a brillant idea.

Off to a millanry shop tomorrow.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

BILL D - what is the triangular gymnastic Jungle-Gym contraption? OUCH!!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 30 Oct 07 - 12:05 PM

Never thought of Claymore's idea of keeping the pick on. I dip the part of the pick that goes around my finger in a rubbery plastic that I got from the hardware store for insulating screwdrivers. Not only does it keep the picks from sliding off, it makes them a lot more comfortable.

The jungle gym contraption is a Mizrab (Sitar pick)


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Oct 07 - 08:31 PM

...and a Mizrab must be adjused carefully, or it IS an 'ouch'...but it works for some just fine. I do prefer my brass picks.


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: MaineDog
Date: 30 Oct 07 - 09:25 PM

Sometimes it is helpful to depress two chord bars at once, for example:

the C bar allows only c - e - g ...
the G bar allows only g - b - d ...

the result is that ONLY the g strings will sound... so you can be a pretty poor guesser at where your note is, and still get it to sound alone .

MD


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 07 - 10:21 PM

Mr. Dog....

Do you care...to share...the entire scale?


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 31 Oct 07 - 12:28 AM

Hi Guest,

Each bar only plays the notes needed to create a chord. Major triads and minor triads. The constitute notes for the seventh chords and diminished are contained on those bars.

C = c e g

G = g b d

F = f a c

To play a simple C maj scale start wit C =c, G = d, C = e,
F = f, G = g, F = a, G = b, C = c.

A little skull work and any scale you want will present itself with in the confines of the keys available.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Newport Boy
Date: 06 Nov 07 - 07:27 AM

Just to give you all some thought - I have a battered copy of a piece by Peter Seeger (from about 1960) in "Sing Out" which outlines "Stoneman-style" autoharp playing. The interesting bit for me is:

"Some songs ... that use a melody note purposely dissonant with the chord accompanying it are impossible to play in this method. On the other hand, ingenuity can conquer many obstacles. Mike Sherker, an art teacher in the Willow Run public school system in Michigan, does Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" superbly on the autoharp."

I'd like an mp3 of that!

Phil


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: GUEST,harpgirl
Date: 06 Nov 07 - 08:48 AM

Could you give me Mike Sherker's email address or a way to contact him, Phil? I'd appreciate that. Abby


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Subject: RE: Tech: method of playing melody on autoharp
From: Newport Boy
Date: 06 Nov 07 - 09:38 AM

Sorry, Abby - the information was from Pete Seeger, around 1960. All I have is the copy of the 2 pages from "Sing Out".

A Mike Sherker (artist & musician) was recently active in the Beacon Sloop Club (beaconsloopclub.org). A leading member is Pete Seeger, and their sloop is called the "Woody Guthrie". This must be the same guy. Over to you.

Phil


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