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15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?

22 Dec 11 - 04:09 PM (#3278559)
Subject: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: GUEST,Wesley S

What are the pros and cons of the 15 chord vs 21 chord auto-harps? Why would somebody opt for the 15 chord model. More is better right? And - why no B minor chord bar. I would think that one would get a lot of use. But none of the auto-harps I've looked at are equipped with one.

22 Dec 11 - 04:58 PM (#3278584)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: bigchuck

A lot of autoharp players that I know have reworked 15 bar harps to cover the keys they like to sing in (customizing chord bars and such. Check the autoharp ring for lots of ideas.


22 Dec 11 - 05:09 PM (#3278586)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: wysiwyg

The closer one is to the soundhole (when felting down on the strings with the chordbars), the better the tone, no matter what wood is in the box. So the 15s just sound better.

But the 21s-- because they permit accompanying in more keys without a harp switch, are better for accompanying (or in my case leading) music in a wider range of singable keys.

But if the main course is going to be bluegrass (or oldtime or oldtimey), and the range of wanted keys is therefore narrower, wal, ole pal, the 15 oughtta do ya proud.

OTOH the 21s sound purdy good with an onboard pickup, which has a tone adjuster in addition to whatever tone-adjusting you want to do in the amp.

That's the real deal on the difference there, Wes.


22 Dec 11 - 06:04 PM (#3278605)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: Nathan in Texas

I don't think most of us can tell any difference in the sound, so I don't know of any reason to choose a 15 chord over a 21, other than the fact that a new 15 chord is a little less expensive than a new 21 chord.

22 Dec 11 - 10:28 PM (#3278729)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: Bill D

The 21 also allows one to rearrange the bars to suit.... I did essentially an end-to-end flip, putting the C-G-F-Bb bars at the
'bottom' end and the A-D bars at the top. I also recut felt and made an Emaj out of a seldom used bar, and put that above the A. It let me both put the chords *I* use most closer to the center/sound hole and use a more comfortable (to me) fingering system.

*IF* you try any of that, plan carefully and label everything.

22 Dec 11 - 11:35 PM (#3278748)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: GUEST,donmeixner

I find that 21 bar harps have less playing area than a 15 or even a 12. I'd rather tune and carry two 15's and have plenty of area to pick in. I find that there is more clatter, if that is possible, with a 21 bar harp. And I think the 15 sounds better than a 21 and 12 sounds better than a 15.


22 Dec 11 - 11:36 PM (#3278749)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: PHJim

WysiwyG is right about the bars of the 21 chord harp getting in the way. If you play it above the strings, like most players do nowadays the short treble strings are almost useless on a 21 chord 'harp. Many players modify their 'harps by moving the chord bar holders towards the base of the 'harp to give more picking room. I have a few 2 key 'harps that use ten bars and, because many of the strings have been doubled, they sound very rich and full. I have bought another 'harp which I intend to convert to a circle of fifths harp, probably in one key.

23 Dec 11 - 02:17 AM (#3278786)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: beeliner

Pearl Charles of the Driftwood Singers uses a 21-chord Chromaharp and only uses three chords.


But she is, in my own experience, the exception. Most serious autoharpists who perfrom for others, even if just at social gatherings, use 12-slot instruments and load up the chord bars they plan to use for a set. I have a 12-slot 'black box' Schmidt and over 30 chord bars for it, some of which I haven't used in years.

For a single key diatonic conversion, a 15-slot harp is nice because you can have your 9 basic chords, a Maj7, two sus4's, two M6/m7's, and an add9 or possibly a subtonic Major.

21-chord Schmidts tend to develop mechanical problems; however, making up a Bm bar and substituting it for the one you use least is not difficult.

23 Dec 11 - 07:48 AM (#3278849)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: Essex Girl

I play a 15 bar autoharp with a pickup which I find fairly good for the music I play, but it is getting old and I have been looking at a new amplified one but most of the music stores in England only seem to stock 21 bar ones which are configured entirely different to mine.
Would it be difficult to reconfigure the chord bars on a 21 chord instrument?

23 Dec 11 - 10:16 AM (#3278908)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: beeliner

If it's a Schmidt, you can put any bar in any position by removing the shroud and switching them.

If it's a Chromaharp, you can change the position but not the row.

23 Dec 11 - 11:01 AM (#3278923)
Subject: RE: 15 vs 21 chord Autoharps?
From: Bill D

If someone is really serious and/or semi-professional, I see the virtues of having 2-3 15 bar 'harps, or even having a custom built model with interchangable bars. Wesley's question seemed to ask as if it was going to be one or the other.

I actually have two 15s and a couple other odd 'harps for certain uses, but if I don't feel like carrying several, I take just the 21, and I 'can' get to those 3 highest strings if I really need to.

The sound one gets with various types does vary, and if that is one of your main issues, do a lot of testing and experimenting.... doubling strings makes a serious sound difference, but I, as a leisure player, just never bothered to dedicate one 'harp that way.