Monday, July 25, 2011
COLLECTION #17: Autoharps
Technically, they are 'chorded zithers'. Autoharp is the registered name owned by the Oscar Schmidt Co. My collection stems from my love of autoharps, and my own playing. Half my collection is playable, and half is decorative. (Including my original autoharp, purchased for $5 in 1969, which started me on my musical autoharp journey- although it still looks cute with the little hippie artwork I added, it's no longer playable).
All of my 'harps are Oscar Schmidt, including that large one in the back which is actually a cross between an autoharp and a mandolin. (And is coincidentally called a "Mandolin Harp") But since it has push buttons, I consider it an autoharp. The oldest one is from the 1890s (the little black one on the top left), and the newest one is the Wildwood Flower diatonic- middle left, which was built in the early 1990s. The autoharp of my heart is the center left, next to the Wildwood Flower. It's a 12-chord diatonic (adapted) built in 1983. Bruce gave it to me for Christmas that year, and it's been my 'baby' all this time. The 21-chord chromatic 'harp in the center is a nice instrument, and very pretty. But like most 21 chord instruments, it doesn't have the rich tone of the more melodic diatonic instruments.
Perhaps you learned to play the autoharp in elementary school like I did... or perhaps you have never heard one played. As soon as I figure out how to add a sound file here, I'll link a clip of me & my band playing a nice folky tune, featuring the autoharp. (help, anyone?)