A typical chromatic autoharp has 36 strings and 15 or 21 chord bars. To play a chord, you simply press a button and strum. The chord bar dampens all the strings except the strings for that chord. If you hold down the “C” button, the only notes you hear are C, E and G.
If you know anything about music, you can pick up an autoharp and strum along with singing almost immediately. Picking out melodies is a little harder, but if you’ve played other instruments, you can pick up some basic songs fairly quickly.
Here I am after only one month of playing the autoharp:
I hope to improve with practice. The following video shows how wonderful an autoharp can be. This is Bryan Bowers, well-known autoharp master, at a recent concert I attended:
Bryan uses “diatonic” autoharps: autoharps that have been tuned to just one key. It’s easier to pick out a melody on a diatonic autoharp, and it produces a louder and usually more beautiful sound. The disadvantage, of course, is that you can play in only one (or sometimes two) keys.
I hope to add more posts about the autoharp as I learn more about this amazing instrument.