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CHAPTERS - chapterI:Oscar Schmidt chapterII:Chromaharps chapterIII:Beware

OSCAR SCHMIDT and CHROMAHARP are the best known makers of mass produced chromatic autoharps. There can be a large variation in these, even with similar models. Whenever possible, UKA recommends playing an individual autoharp before purchase. If you buy one of these autoharps, you will probably want to make some minor modifications to improve the action of the chord bar - mass-produced autoharps can be made MUCH more playable by some skilled technician work. This may include adjusting the action and replacing or correcting misplaced felts. For more information visit our Autoharp Maintenance & Accessories, Buying an Autoharp and UK Autoharp Suppliers pages.



Oscar Schmidt (OS) is the autoharp industry standard. The company has been manufacturing autoharps for over 100 years. Oscar Schmidt Autoharps are robust instruments that give a good clear sound and have a reasonable chord bar action.

UKA particularly recommends the 21 chord OS73C model for the beginner: it has a good tone and also happens to be one of the less expensive models.

For further details contact one of the UKA approved dealers England FlagMike Fenton or Scotland FlagGordy Reynolds with any queries you may have and for the most up-to-date information on available stock.

Thinking of buying an Oscar Schmidt in the UK, importing one from abroad or buying one secondhand? Be prepared! Visit UKA Buying an Autoharp and UK Autoharp Suppliers pages.

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The most common factory-made autoharp which is currently available in the UK will be one of the many clones of the Chromaharp brand. There have been many instruments imported from the same factory in the Far East, but with names such as Ashbury, Gold Tone, Johnson, Ozark, Rally, Samick, Sonata, Tenayo and Tonewood. See About the Autoharp for more information.


The instruments are very similar except for the name. They have a nice tone and, as with Oscar Schmidt autoharps, it is highly recommended that new players buy the 21-chord model rather than the slightly less expensive 15-bar version because the chord bar layout is so much more logical.

OS Autoharp

They lack Oscar Schmidt's closed cover arrangement for the 3-row 21-bar autoharps. This means that adjusting the factory set chord bar layout to be more ergonomic by having the row of major chords in the middle position will invariably involve re-felting many bars. See our Autoharp Maintenance page.

Thinking of importing or buying a Chromaharp secondhand? Be prepared! Visit UK Buying an Autoharp and UK Autoharp Suppliers pages.

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chapterIII: BEWARE!

UKA Tutor Co-Ordinator Heather Farrell-Roberts:

“When I lived in Chatham I saw an autoharp in the local music shop. I went in and asked to see it. It was so badly out of tune! I asked if the shop would offer an untuned guitar, banjo or mandolin to a customer. No, was the answer, then why offer an autoharp out of tune? The guy then admitted he had no idea how to tune it. I said, ‘If I show you how to tune it can I come back in tomorrow and try it?’ He agreed. Next day he was smiling. ‘I didn't know it could sound so nice!’ I said, ‘Shall I play it for you?’ ‘Yes please. Wow I didn't know you could do that on THAT instrument!!’ Sound familiar?”

UKA Member Bob Ebdon:

“Strumming one autoharp I found in an Oxford music store in the early 1980s, they didn't bother to keep the instrument in tune. So on any instrument bought from a store there would have been a big risk of little glitches in smoothness of bar action, in the way some of the bars damped the strings. No reputable music store would sell a guitar without ensuring that it was set-up properly. Unfortunately, the similar need to set-up autoharps before sale has never been widely recognised by music stores – either here or in the USA.”

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