Creek Don't Rise

Song sounds good on Autoharp, bad on piano
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Author:  paulrace [ Wed May 30, 2018 6:44 am ]
Post subject:  Song sounds good on Autoharp, bad on piano

A reader writes:

Hello Paul. I am a beginner when it comes to playing instruments of any kind. I have a 15 chord autoharp (Chrom AharP used) on which I play a song using the chords E flat major, D major, G minor, and F 7. The autoharp has been tuned professionally. I would like to play this song on my keyboard but the chords sound completely different to me. Why is that? If I tried to play these chords on a guitar would they sound like the autoharp? Thank you for your help. PS. It is scary to give you my personal info.


I apologize if asking for your real name and address seems intrusive, but I've spent too many hours interacting with people whom I found out later were actually only trying to scam my readers or hack into my system or some such.

To your Autoharp question. Because of compromises Oscar Schmidt and his predecessor Zimmerman made to fit as many chords on the Autoharp as possible, they made compromises. Not all chords on the Autoharp are created equal. Some chords are stronger than others. C and F tend to sound fuller than Eb, for example. So it's possible that when you're playing the Eb on the Autoharp, it's really coming across to you like a different chord (say C minor or G minor). But when you play a Eb chord on the piano, you're hearing all the notes, so a chord you're "getting away with" on the Autoharp sounds "wrong" on the piano. D major is also relatively weak on some Autoharps, and you may not be hearing all the notes evenly, compared to playing it on piano.

Here's another thought - very few songs in Western harmonies (say, Bach, Bluegrass, or Country) use BOTH Eb major and D major. Spanish guitar songs and some Eastern European songs like Hava Nagila might (depending on the key the song is being played in). Is it possible you have the wrong chords and the Autoharp's tendency to play some chords more fully than others is hiding that as long as you stick to that instrument?

Is there a recording of the song in question that you could send me the link for? Or sheet music? I might be able to sort it out more specifically.

Best of luck,

Paul Race

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