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BUYING AN AUTOHARP TIPS

CHAPTERS - chapterI:Beginner's Autoharp chapterII:Buying British chapterIII:Importing chapterIV: Questions To Ask Seller Of Autoharps chapterV:Lure Of Ebay chapterVI:What Next?

chapterI: BEGINNER’S AUTOHARP

OS73c

UKA strongly recommend a 21-bar closed-cover Oscar Schmidt as a Beginner's Autoharp, as opposed to the older OS models with 15 or fewer buttons, or the various brands of Chromaharps which do not have the advantages of the OS 'closed-cover chord bars'. The 21 chord OS73C model is UKA’s choice as a first autoharp.

There can be a variation in the tone of individual autoharps. Whenever possible play the instrument before buying. Particularly with some older autoharps, you'll want to make certain that it stays in tune and so, if possible, you should play it on two different days and for a period of time. It is possible to do this at UKA events, which are fun and friendly affairs. You may be able to borrow a UKA Loaner Autoharp to help get you started.

Have a look at our Events Diary OR send a query through links on our Contact Page. Alternatively UKA Facebook may provide additional information. Remember, all new instruments will need to be set-up properly and tuned before they are playable.

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chapterII: BUYING FROM A BRITISH SUPPLIERUKA Recommended

Visit the UK Autoharp Suppliers page for a comprehensive list. Buying from a ‘Recommended by UKA’ supplier has excellent benefits especially for the first time buyer. Both these suppliers are very knowledgeable about autoharps and will also look over any new instruments which pass through their hands. They will do any set-up necessary to make sure that they are playable.

Contact England FlagMike Fenton or Scotland FlagGordy Reynolds with any queries you may have and for the most up-to-date information on available stock.

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chapterIII: IMPORTING AN AUTOHARP

  • We don’t recommend this for a first autoharp. It is not necessarily as cheap and easy as it may appear. Your purchase will attract handling charges, shipping charges, Import Duty and VAT, all of which can add significantly to the original price.
  • Vendors may not be prepared to ship to the UK – check before bidding or buying.
  • Do they have experience shipping autoharps? You want them to be VERY careful about how they pack the autoharp. For more information read UKA article How Not to Ship An Autoharp.pdf.
  • Visit HMRC Tax information - Buying from abroad on the internet and what to look out for.

chapterIV: QUESTIONS TO ASK SELLERS OF SECONDHAND AUTOHARPS

strings
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  • Does the instrument have any splits or cracks in the wood, or separation of the joints?
  • Are there signs of dishing of the top of the autoharp (seen by looking across the top from the side to ensure that it doesn't dip towards the sound hole – or, less commonly, bulge upwards).
  • Are the tuning pins tight and without rust? If they are not in good condition, it can be difficult to tune the instrument or keep it in tune.

***! IF AN AUTOHARP HAS ANY OF THE ABOVE FLAWS, DON'T BUY IT!***

OTHER QUESTIONS TO ASK VENDORS OF SECONDHAND AUTOHARPS

autoharp
  • Do the chord bars work easily and smoothly? (New 21-bar closed cover sets can be purchased for around £65.)
  • Are the felts in good condition? (Felts can be bought cheaply, however the job of replacing them can be time consuming.)
  • Are the strings shiny and without rust? (A full set of new strings costs about £75.)
  • Is a tuning wrench (T-shape or L-shape) included? (These can be bought in the UK for around £10.)
  • Does the instrument have a pick-up or fine tuners? (These can be added to instruments if not already built in.) Visit Autoharp Maintenance & Accessories page for more information.
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chapterV: Ebay THE LURE OF EBAY

It’s clear from eBay’s listings that many vendors do not have a clue about the instruments they are selling, and may not be able to identify problems with the autoharp on offer. On the other hand, some vendors can be knowledgeable and are able to include detailed information and photos to reassure potential buyers that the instrument is good.

Possibilities are out there, but it’s definitely buyer beware!

There are many more secondhand Oscar Schmidt instruments for sale on USA eBay.com than on UK eBay.co.uk. If you are a gambler or bargain hunter, it is possible to buy a used Oscar Schmidt autoharp on Ebay. Of course if you place a bid, it’s a case of trusting the vendor and hoping it is shipped really securely. For more information read How Not to Ship An Autoharp.pdf

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chapterVI: ONCE YOU'VE ACQUIRED YOUR AUTOHARP: WHAT NEXT?

Invest in a chromatic digital tuner - they are available at very reasonable prices. It's a good idea to take the autoharp into the music shop and try out several models. The lowest wound bass strings are always hardest for any tuner to pick up because of the overtones they generate.

Visit Autoharp Maintenance & Accessories pages for information on tuners, tuning wrenches, strings, felts etc.

It's very helpful to get together with more experienced players who can give you a few tips about tuning, playing position, etc. A UKA Event is a great place to start!

Happy ‘harping!

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