Sunday, 6 February 2011

"It's An Autoharp"

So in my mania to learn as much as possible about how to play the Autoharp I am ordering another Autoharp instrustional manual. This one was recommended to me by one of the contributors to the Cyberpluckers email list. It is the book (and accompanying CD) - "It's An Autoharp" by Cathy Britell. Cathy is a fantastic Autoharpist and Autoharp teacher who is also a member of the Cyberpluckers group herself.

"It’s HERE!!   The long-awaited second edition of “It’s An Autoharp” with a 47-track learning CD included!  

"In this new book, Cathy builds on over 15 years-experience as an autoharp instructor to give you a proven method for learning how to play the autoharp.  She takes a very personal approach to teaching you how to play, with hard-won pearls from her heart to your fingers.   You’ll find an introductory section with information about positioning, picks, chord bar setups, and how to read the autoharp tablature.
"There are 20 lessons, each with beautiful illustrative songs, designed to bring you gently from absolute beginner to progressing melody player.  If you go through these lessons methodically from beginning to end, you won’t be a beginner any more!" (taken from website)
Here is Cathy's Website at where you can find ordering information on the book - please note that if you are from outside the US then you will need to email Cathy directly for pricing/payment etc.
I did and she got back to me almost straight away and was so nice when talking about her book and autoharp playing with me. Also, if her shipping ETA is anything to go by I'll be getting it delivered quicker than either of the books I've ordered through professional retailers previously.
(I am still waiting for both books ordered although the "Autoharp Owner's Manual" should be arriving next week sometime and "Mel Bay's Complete Method for Autoharp and Chromaharp" that was out of stock has now been shipped so shouldn't be too far away)

Will let you know more about Cathy's book (and the others) once I have it - hopefully it should prove to be a fantastic aid to my learning (anything is going to be a help!!!).


New Strings & Felts On Order...

I have just ordered my new strings and felt from d'Aigle Autoharps' Marketplace and so will soon be able to report on my mammoth effort to restring, retune and refelt my Chromaharp. I'll try to include pictures of me with strings springing everywhere and pieces of felt sticking to everything except the chord bars (just for your amusement, of course).

Now I guess I just have to find exactly which notes should sound in each chord so I don't completely screw it up - or compound any mistakes already made on the harp I have.

Pete d'Aigle has been really fantastic. I wanted to make sure that I was ordering the correct stuff, since the last thing I wanted was to have everything shipped over and then find out that it's useless for my harp. I flicked him an email with two quick pics of my harp and he got back to me within the day (or thereabouts, considering the time difference).

I got the String set right, it's a:
String set  Chromaharp & OS73 (Reissiue) 36 string packaged sets

I had picked the felts as well but if I had just clicked through the order I would have gotten the wrong type...I needed to specifically note that it was for a Chromaharp as they use a different thickness of felt than a standard autoharp (3/16ths inch - to be precise).

So, thanks to Pete d'Aigle...he also mentioned that he thought that there was a growing number of autoharpists in New Zealand. If that is true and any of you out there stumbles upon this site then please do flick me a message.

Here's the two pics of my harp that I sent to Pete d'Aigle, just so that you can see all of the strings I have managed to break in the process of trying to clean my harp...

Take care,

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Changing a string - technicalities...

Just quickly, I thought I'd pass on this video clip from Jo Ann Smith and the Autoharp Avenue about changing strings on an autoharp. Seeing as how I'm soon to be replacing my entire string set I thought that it would be appropriate...

You can find a link to Jo Ann's webpage in my links bar on the side ( )and more fantastic videos from her playing and the Autoharp Avenue podcasts at



The other day I thought I might learn how to play scales on the Autoharp. There was aYouTube teaching clip on how to play a scale that I watched. Because I can't sing I'm relying on playing a melody on my harp rather than just strumming along as background rhythm. I am hoping that by learning scales I might learn the placement of the strings and become a better judge of where to play on the instrument.

I've started with the C scale and am using the C, G7 & F Chords. I alternate the C & G7 chords with the F chord to achieve an A.  I'm slowly making headway at playing sthe full scale but I don't think I'm exactly in time. I find by picking each note with my thumb I have greater control but am slightly slower than using thumb and finger.

I'm hoping that if I get hold of a Metronome at some point I might be able to build up my speed and regularity. It is slowly teaching me to recognise where the different notes are located, although I need to practice much more.

Here's the YouTube clip for playing scales (From Terwilliger Jones) -

A Good Wee Starter's Guide...

One of the first suggestions I had after joining the Cyberplucker email list was to check out an online "Guide for he Occasional [Autoharp] Player" by Laurie Searle.

I'd recommend checking it out as it seems to offer some good basics and things to build on such as strum patterns etc... (and several pieces of sheet music to make use of)

You can find it listed on the links page of the UK Autoharp page, located at


Joining the Cyberpluckers...

So I have recently joined the Cyberpluckers mailing list. This is an email forum for the autoharp and autoharp enthusiasts from around the world. It provides an ongoing and lively exchange about every topic to do with the autoharp. I will admit to being somewhat apprehansive about joining in as I am so new to the instrument and wasn't sure if anyone would want to even hear from someone who has yet to do much on the instrument but it has been a fantastic reception and also a great way to connect with other autoharpists from around the world (especially coming from NZ where there doesn't appear to be any autoharp scene to speak of - oh well, early days).

You can find the Cyberpluckers website at

Or join the list at

Take care and a big thank you to the cyber pluckers for making me welcome amidst their group,

Tuning my harp again...

I was having enough problems tuning my chromaharp as it was before my attempted cleaning of said chromaharp (as detailed in my last post). Now I was going to have to start all over again and once again my strings were going to take time to settle so every time I re-tuned it was likely that the harp would fall out of tune again quick smart.

I have tuned the harp twice since I loosened the strings off and both times I have broken yet more strings from over tightening. It gives one a heck of a shock to hear the ping as the string snaps and whiplashes away.

This is proving to me two very important things:
  1. I really really really need that new set of strings.
  2. I need to learn how far I should tighten the strings before it's too tight. Snapping old strings is one thing - I do not want to lose any of this new set.
In an effort to achieve number two I have contacted a fellow autoharpist who has very kindly (or very unwisely) offered advice to me from the other side of the ocean. In the meantime, I'd better not snap any more strings - I have few enough left to play on as it is.

Take care,