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19 messages

Tuning an autoharp

14 Jul 03 - 08:14 PM (#983407)
Subject: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: GUEST,Mary V.

Does anyone have good advice on the best tuner to buy to tune an autoharp?
Thank you !

14 Jul 03 - 08:29 PM (#983418)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Bert

I like the Korg chromatic tuner.

14 Jul 03 - 09:03 PM (#983437)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Bill D

yes...Korg has several models...get the best one your budget will allow. If it has a needle as well as flashing diodes, so much the better.

If you can find a music store which also sells a clip-on piezo-electric plug-in for the Korg, it is WELL worth the few $$$ they cost. It allows you to tune independantly of ambient noise.

14 Jul 03 - 09:17 PM (#983443)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......

You're supposed to tune it? That explains a lot.

14 Jul 03 - 10:32 PM (#983467)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Billy the Bus

Bert & Bill, do they really have electronic tuner thingies for Autoharps? Mary, all you need is a 'good ear' - which is why I got mine touched up by the visiting piano-tuner - if it needed it or not, Sinsull ... ;)

Here's to 'Mother Maybelle' and Bradley Kincaid. Let's not forget Mike Seeger - who's the only person I ever saw play the old Chinese folksong 'Tu Ning' by ear, on stage, on autoharp. It took him something like 10 secs of tweak, and he was right back into it.

Mary, best of luck. It's a fine instrument, used by some fine singers to tell some fine ballads - but it's a sod of a thing to tune.

Cheers - Sam

14 Jul 03 - 10:50 PM (#983475)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: JohnInKansas

You might be interested in looking at Tuner Problem, where a difficulty with tuning an autoharp was apparently traced to a mismatch between the new tuner and the clip-on contact pickup being used.

The relatively cheap Korg was giving different readings using the built in mike vs. using the clip on. Problem solved by getting a Korg pickup to match the Korg tuner.

Shops in my area tend to carry only the cheapest and occasionally the most expensive tuners, but there are quite a few "in-betweens" you might want to consider.

I've had good luck with a couple of kinds of Korg. They seem to post the most complete specs, so you might want to browse their selection, even if you're considering something else.

If you need to select for UK or US, you can start at the Korg Homepage and make the selection. If you get a "you are here" when you hover your mouse over the country/language of choice, you can go directly to "Gear" on the upper left, and then select "tuners."

In the US, this takes you to Korg Tuners, where you'll find about 10 tuners and one pickup in the current lineup.

I'm saving up for an OT-12, but it's about $130 US list. There seem to be quite a few web sellers where you can get it for about $90 (plus shipping, of course).

Regardless of what tuner you choose, the phenomenon described in the thread noted above would suggest that you get a pickup that's matched to the tuner - probably easiest if you buy them together.


14 Jul 03 - 11:19 PM (#983492)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Nathan in Texas

One bit of advice: tune it often and it holds its tune better. If you only tune it once or twice a year, it goes back out of tune quickly. If you tune once or twice a month it will usually just need tweeking (although the weather can always throw it off a bit).

Also, if you put new strings on, you should probably tune it daily for the first week.

And always tune before playing with other instruments!

14 Jul 03 - 11:49 PM (#983502)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: DonMeixner

I use a Korg-T1 that I have had for sometime. Get any chromatic tuner that allows you to calibrate the tuner. ( Move the "In Tune" arrow up or down a little bit, A- 440 or A-445 or A-435) Why this is important may not be immediately apparent but it will be a help at some point. And also, buy a cheap contact pickup. It will make tuning a breeze, a long tedius breeze, but a breeze none the less.


15 Jul 03 - 03:00 PM (#983920)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: GUEST,James H. Silver

The Boss TU-12H chromatic tuner has been my favourite for tuning autoharps over the years if they have a built in pickup or if you have access to a contact mike to to use along with the tuner. There is
nothing better than a well trained ear on acoustic autoharps. Tune from a well tuned piano or guitar.   This has been and still is my favourite method. Just a note. Autoharps like all instruments are affected by atmospheric conditions and although not necessarily out of tune will be up or down in pitch and will not correspond well with instruments such as guitars or violins that have been tuned recently at 440. Autoharp must be raised or lowered to match the pitch if you are using fixed pitch instruments such as a piano or accordion. Easiest solution is to slightly raise or lower the pitch of easier tuned instruments such as guitars etc to match the autoharp. We used an autoharp in the group for several years. It was a pain in the but for this reason as we used a diatonic accordion and problem of pitch came into play constantly. Hope this adds a bit of info for you.

15 Jul 03 - 05:15 PM (#983989)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Bill D

if it of any help to see one set up, here is my Korg AT1 clipped onto the 'harp. You can sorta see the lights and the needle and the general size...tuners DO come smaller these days, but you can't plug into all of 'em)

(Billy The Bus...yeah, a good ear is great, but both mine are 'average'..*grin*...I can't wait for a piano tuner, so I use Mr. Korg.....I have a t-shirt that says "I tune my autoharp every month or two--need it or not")

16 Jul 03 - 08:39 AM (#984369)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: GUEST,Redhorse at work

Two things I've found help when using an electronic tuner with an autoharp.
1.Damp out the strings you are not tuning. The resonating of the other strings particularly when out of tune can confuse my Korg.
2. On the bass strings play the octave harmonic. The tuner responds far stronger

18 Jan 04 - 12:40 PM (#1095587)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: GUEST,Mary V.

I haven't been on this site for awhile. I sure appreciate all the great advice on tuning.
Thanks from Mary

18 Jan 04 - 01:19 PM (#1095620)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: open mike

The tuner i prefer is "intellitouch" which clips on to an instrument
and the only problem i can see with using it for auto harp is the
clip is fitted to head stock or similar part and cannot see what part
on the autoharp would be the right size and shape to clip it. It is nice because the LED screen swivels to be seen from any angle, has a light so can bee seen in any lighting conditions, turns off automatically to save the battery, has a nice case to protect it, and tells you the note that it hears....LED lights show it to you....not a screen with a dial or needle pointing to the note, but arrows showing if you are above or below the exact pitch.

i got to thinking maybe there is a site you can go to on the web where you can hear a tone - an "A" note at 440 cycles per second (Hz) to use for tuning....I didn't find it (yet!) but found some interesting links
on the physics of sound:http://www.philrees.co.uk/links/physsm.htm
and: http://www.exhibits.pacsci.org/music/MusicPhysics.html

18 Jan 04 - 02:22 PM (#1095653)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Bill D

I think the intellitouch might clip ok to the strap peg on the autoharp..like mine in the photo...but I don't know whether you beed specific models for different sound ranges..By far the easiest way would be to take ANY instrument to a good music store and try different tuners.

19 Jan 04 - 02:36 AM (#1096053)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp.......
From: Kaleea

    Tuning is a common problem for Autoharpers! First of all, you might want to invest in the Autoharp Quarterly Magazine. They have a website with lots of great info. Maryanne sells a terrific book which includes everything you need to know about the autoharp & how to take care of it. www.autoharpquarterly.com
There is also a cyberspace autoharp group called the "Cyberpluckers" you can be part of, which is an email group. You can ask questions & get great info!   www.autoharp.org
    (Sorry, I couldn't get my 'puter to cut & paste the blue clicky)
    I don't know what kind of Autoharp you have, but if you are really wanting to keep it in tune you might consider having fine tuners installed on it if yours does not have them. I have a professional one by a very fine American Luthier rather than one of the old Oscar Schmidt ones. It came with the fine tuners. One is able to achieve precise tuning, whereas the average Autoharp is often a few cents off. This can be quite difficult to adjust to if one is accustomed to a well tuned instrument. I have several tuners, to include a Korg and at least 3 tuners with tuner mics, & have tried them all & others, too. I have better accuracy with my old Seiko chromatic tuner without the mic. I prefer to place it directly on the strings, sometimes over the sound hole, using the internal mic. This way I can see with both the needle & the dial showing the numbers + or - how many cents the string sounds above or below the correct pitch.    I have actually found this more accurate with my 'harp than clamping the tuner mic to the tuning pins. If you have the standard Autoharp, use your wrench to turn the pin & tune it every time before you play. Always tune your instrument before you play with other musicians. The more you tune it, the more you will become accustomed to being able to get as close to accurate pitch as possible.

20 Oct 14 - 04:46 AM (#3670687)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp

Hi there,

Does anyone have a note chart for tuning an old Lohengrin autoharp? It's 32 loop ended strings, 12 bars.
Also, the bars seem pretty loose (i.e. wiggle from side to side). Is that because the springs are old? Any ideas on fixing that?

Thanks, Bobbie

20 Oct 14 - 10:22 AM (#3670762)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp
From: Bill D

Note chart? this picture shows the notes named both on the bars and under the strings. The instrument looks almost identical to other 'harps of the same vintage, I assume tuning would be be the same.

In that era, the bars were rather loosely placed in between tracks at each end so they did not bind.... the springs have little to do with side to side movement. About all you can do is press straight down, and because you never need to operate two neighboring bars at the same time, it shouldn't make much difference.

20 Oct 14 - 02:04 PM (#3670830)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp
From: Bev and Jerry


Lay the harp on its back and remove the two plates which secure the ends of the bars. Don't pick the harp up or the bars and springs will fall out. You can now see what the ends of the bars are doing when you push them down. If you want to keep them from moving so much, you can shim the ends of the bars either on the sides or on the end to prevent motion in those two planes. Don't shim them too much or they won't move smoothly.

Or, as Bill D says, you can just be careful to press them straight down.

Bev and Jerry

20 Oct 14 - 04:02 PM (#3670865)
Subject: RE: Tuning an autoharp
From: PHJim

Before the age of electronic tuners, I used the guitar. The lowest note on a standard tuned 'harp is F, the second lowest note on the guitar. The highest note on a standard tuned 'harp is C, found at the 20th fret of the guitar, often the highest note on the guitar.

Now that electronic tuners are available, I have lately been using a red Snark. If you have an extra tuning wrench, you can put it on a post and clip the tuner on the metal part of the wrench. If you just have one wrench, clip the tuner onto the metal part of the wrench you are using. I always give it a last minute fine tuning before each show or jam.