Folkipedia

Get Started

sliki

Autoharp

AutoharpA zither despite it's name but one which can be made to produce chords by strumming the strings while pressing chord button which damp unwanted strings.

The Autoharp is actually a brand name (Oscar Schmidt, registered trademark 1926). The generic name is a chorded zither and the other well known example is the Chromaharp (Rhythm Band trademark). Typically they have 15 or 21 bars (bars holding the dampers and the chord buttons). Different instruments are needed for different chord ranges even though the stringing is chromatic because of the number of bars needed to produce all the possible chords. Most have 36 or 37 strings stretched over a shallow wooden box with a soundhole. This normally give a range of two and a half octaves. The strings on the right form a chromatic scale and those on the left are tuned in groups for chords.

More recently, diatonic autoharps have been produced which give a richer sound by doubling or trebling the strings for a particular note at the expense of versatility.

Commonly used in old-time music. Many think it is a cheats' instrument - press a button and get a chord but in the hands of a skilled player it is much more than that producing quite complex music with the chords and individual string plucking. The hardest thing about owning one is tuning it!