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AUTOHARP MAINTENANCE & ACCESSORIES

CHAPTERS - chapterI:Accessories chapterII:Maintenance chapterIII:Replacing Strings chapterIV:Re-felting Chord Bars chapterV:Mr FixIt chapterV:Useful Links

chapterI: ACCESSORIES

Once you have your autoharp you will need some accessories, such as:

OS Fine Tuners
Tuning Key
Tuning Key T

- TUNING WRENCH, and, if your autoharp has fine-tuners, a fine tuning tool (usually an allen key type device, which must be of the right size and profile for the fine-tuners fitted to your autoharp). Most autoharps will be supplied upon purchase with a tuning wrench – either with a T-handle, or a long-handle – (and, probably, a fine tuning tool too if needed). Many players prefer to tune their autoharp with a long-handled wrench, believing that it gives far more control when making very small adjustments to the pins – especially when no fine-tuners are fitted to the ’harp. If your autoharp did not come with tuning wrenches, you will need to buy them. See below for some possible sources.

tuner
tuners

- CHROMATIC TUNER. There are many different models available from manufacturers such as Korg, Snark, Seiko and many others. Some take a plug in lead which could clip on to a tuning pin, or plug into a pick-up socket, while others clip directly to the tuning pins – these methods have the considerable advantage of enabling an instrument to be tuned without the reading being affected by background noises. The read-outs on the tuners vary considerably, often using different coloured lights, a needle arrangement, or a combination of both, to indicate whether flat, sharp or on the note – the name of which should also be displayed. Tuners will normally be available from the suppliers listed below, or even via the internet.

UKGordy Reynolds and UKAlec Anness.
UKMike Fenton no longer supplies autoharps but is still able to provide felt and strings. One of the music stores listed in UK Suppliers may be able to supply the items discussed above, as well as other spare parts such as new strings and felt for re-felting chord bars - see Maintenance below. Remember though that many of the music stores may have little or no expertise when it comes to the needs of an autoharp player.

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chapterII: MAINTENANCE

Many players will carry out their own simple maintenance tasks such as changing/replacing strings and re-felting chord bars, while others prefer to have these tasks done for them by a specialist ‘Mr Fix It’ or autoharp luthier. For those prepared to have a go, advice is available from our specialists (such as those listed below), specialists and luthiers in the US, and from books such as the excellent Mel Bay publication The Autoharp Owner’s Manual (ISBN 0 – 7866 – 5883 -5) by the late Mary Lou Orthey, which contains specific guidance on these tasks and many other aspects of owning an autoharp – including converting autoharps to play in diatonic keys. You may also be able to get advice or help from experienced players who have carried out these tasks for themselves. Your best chance of obtaining such support will generally be at a UK Autoharps Event.

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chapterIII: CHANGING & REPLACING STRINGS

OS strings

From time to time strings may break, either while playing, or, more likely, as a result of over tensioning while tuning. In addition, in due course strings may need to be replaced because they have become worn out or lifeless and dull sounding. How frequently this happens will depend both on the age of the string, and the amount that it is played, and different people have very different ideas about when their strings need changing.

LaBella

Most autoharp strings are made in the USA (or for US companies). However UK Suppliers may be able to supply single or complete sets of strings. You will need to provide the make and model of your autoharp, and in the case of a single string, which string it is, in order to ensure you get the right one(s) for your instrument.

For more information visit Oscar Schmidt, Autoharp Help Files String Changing Tips

Fladmark

Not sure what type of Fladmark Strings fits your model? There are 2 different types of autoharp strings. Type A model strings are used on 73 models and older models that were made pre 1967. These strings have a loop ending that slips over pins in the side of the autoharp down by the bridge. The pins are covered with a plastic cover to prevent them from snagging on clothing. Type B model strings are the most common. They have a ball ending with a small hole in the ball. These are used on autoharps with the bridge that is set in the body and autoharps with fine tuning systems. New 73 models come with strings with large-hole ball ending. Replacement strings have loop endings.

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chapterIV: RE-FELTING CHORD BARS


The damping mechanism on an autoharp works because the felt (or in some cases neoprene, or other rubber) muffles those strings not required for the chord selected. After some time, the felt may no longer do the job effectively because it has become grooved and compacted, and at this stage it usually needs to be replaced. Alternatively you may have decided to convert your autoharp to a diatonic instrument, or just to add some chord bars that you really want or need, and this will also involve re-felting. More information on this is also to be found in The Autoharp Owner’s Manual (see above) or in George Foss -Going Diatonic: a comprehensive guide to autoharp conversion. (see our Playing the Autoharp page).

With the right materials and tools, re-felting is a relatively simple task involving removing the old felt from the chord bar and replacing it with a new piece which is then cut to allow the required strings to sound. Felt is held in stock by some UK suppliers, but you will need to ensure that the felt provided is the right width for the chord bars on your autoharp – the supplier will know what you need provided you can supply the make and model of the instrument.

Those who will supply strings and/or felt include UKMike Fenton, and ScotGordy Reynolds. Gordy will also carry out the work for you if you did not wish to undertake it yourself. UKAlec Anness will also undertake this work on many autoharps, and may be able to supply materials too.

These experts will also be able to help with any other maintenance and repair work which needs to be done. Some other music shops may also be able to help, but generally lack specific autoharp expertise, and may not carry the necessary spares.

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chapterV: MR FIX IT

Further sources of help are generally available at UKA Events and also the annual Sore Fingers Summer Schools Easter Week where a ‘Mr Fix It’ – usually a visiting autoharp luthier from the USA – can be found. However, if you want work done on your autoharp, whether you are attending the classes or not, you would be best advised to find out in advance who ‘Mr Fix It’ will be, and arrange to have your work done, as he will almost certainly be very busy!

If you need more information or are trying to find someone who can help in your area contact:
Sue Edwards emailVice President@UKAutoharps.com

Autoharp How to...

Thinking of doing the work yourself? Below are some useful links. If you have any questions contact:
Sue Edwards emailVice President@UKAutoharps.com

chapterVI: USEFUL LINKS

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