Creek Don't Rise

Parts for a 12-chord autoharp
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Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Parts for a 12-chord autoharp

A reader writes:

I have a 12 chord autoharp that needs some parts. I need to know where I can find them. This is an instrument that I have learned on and played since I was about five. I play it across the chest. It is just the right size for me, and the chords are placed where I can access them easily, but it needs new felt and new buttons. Any thoughts?


Thanks for getting in touch. There are two kind of 12-chord autoharps. Unfortunate they have both been discontinued. But if yours is that post-1967 kind, you may be able to buy parts that would convert it to a 15 chorder, or just buy the felt. Elderly also has the oblong buttons that were used on the post 1967 models, which might work on yours. ... sories?p=1

If you can reply to this message and send me a photo of your autoharp, I can probably be more specific.

What kind of music do you use your autoharp for, if you don't mind my asking?

Best of luck,

Paul Race

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Parts for a 12-chord autoharp

Here's a followup: You can also get new felts here: ... 5-bar-felt

Best of luck; please let me know how things work out,

Paul Race

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Parts for a 12-chord autoharp

The reader sent photos.
autoharp.1.jpg [ 55.67 KiB | Viewed 16937 times ]

autoharp.2.jpg [ 105.24 KiB | Viewed 16937 times ]

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Parts for a 12-chord autoharp

The reader also wrote:

You can probably tell me more about my autoharp than I can tell you. I like the size, especially, because it fits me better than the 15 chord I have.

For the most part, I have been playing music my brother wrote. It sounds a lot like the folk music of the late sixties/early seventies. But I have auditioned to be in a Celtic band, and I thought that, if I make it, it might be nice to be able to contribute to the instrumentals as well as the vocals. However, with the felts worn out, my fingers aren't quite strong enough to get a good ring from the strings.

Thanks for your advice. I will continue my research for appropriate parts using your lead. I do appreciate it.

Also, another quick question: I was thinking of adding a strap to hold the weight if I stand and play, but I don't want to ruin the instrument. Do you think the knob for the strap would hurt anything?

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Parts for a 12-chord autoharp

My answer: You have a "Model A" autoharp which were made up until the 1960s, but you have an earlier one that could go all the way back to the 1920s or so.

There's a later Model A on this page: ... p-2-3.html

You can see that it's just a little smoother around the edges and has oblong keys instead of round ones. The "Model B" below is even smoother but has other design changes that are harder to see from the photos.

MOST autoharp restorers won't bother with a Model A since so many of them are falling apart, and the truth is they weren't all that well made in the first place. It wasn't until Chromaharp started making their version that Oscar Schmidt decided they'd better update their sound and their quality.

I have a type A that is even older than yours, and has a cracked face. Ironically it's still playable, so go figure.

If you're happy with a 12-chorder, you might talk to the fellows whose ad I just posted about getting his.

If you can find a 15-chord type A, the size should be about the same as yours. Another thing to consider is that Celtic music is usually played in keys like C, G, D, and A that are guitar and banjo-friedly. MOST autoharps don't handle those keys well. You might could look for a Chromaharp "Bluegrass" model or an Oscar Schmidt Appalachian model, which handle keys like D and A better.

There's more about those models here: ... unings.htm

I even have a Chromaharp Bluegrass model - I bought it when I was researching that article, but it needs new strings and a LOT of work.

I know that's complicated. In fact, my article about Making Your Autoharp Folk-friendly may not be all that clear to a non-musician, but you might take a look at it before you put a lot of money into rebuilding the harp you have. ... toharp.htm

Hope this helps,

Paul Race

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