How to Find Your First New or Used Autoharp

by happynutritionist

Are you ready to stroke the strings of either a new or used Autoharp? Either can be a great choice, but do your homework first, we're here to help. Learn from my mistakes.

The Autoharp is easy to learn to play, and a popular folk instrument. How and where to buy a good Autoharp is the focus of this page. I hope to take you through a few of the mistakes I made when buying mine to spare you making the same.

We'll talk a bit about buying a used (that's what I did) or new Autoharp. Each has it's advantages.

If you have never played the instrument, or are buying it to give to someone who has never played, we'll look at some of the more challenging features about the instrument. Finally, we'll look at some of the essential tools you need to have when you own an Autoharp.

by Claudia Meydrech aka happynutritionist
New on Wizzley - 10/1/14 ~ Updated 8/615

Intro Image - Taken by me

Things to consider when Buying a Used Autoharp

Learn from my experiences

The first Autoharp I purchased, with little to no knowledge about what I was doing, I bought on eBay. When it arrived, a few of the tuning pins were loose, which meant that after all the work of tuning the Autoharp, it was out of tune in no time. A good Autoharp with tight pins should hold it's tune for quite a long time. The one I purchased later holds a tune for at least a month if not more. The seller didn't mention the loose pegs, and had I known better, I would have asked before bidding.

I ended up reselling the Autoharp, and was honest about the problem with the pins, suggesting that someone buy it that knew how to fix such things, and it ended up selling for a bit more than I paid for it. It really was a nice instrument and I'm sure someone is enjoying it right now.

A few thoughts if you're considering buying used:

* Look very carefully at the listings...are there strings missing?
* Are the tuning pins tight?
* Are there markings or scratches on the wood?
* Do you like the color of the wood?
* Are all the seams where wood joins wood secure?
* Does it come with a case and any accessories?

Ask all the questions you like, a good seller will be happy to answer them...if no answer, then move on, there are plenty of Autoharps available for sale.

Going from a 15 to a 21 Chord Autoharp

It made a big difference


After purchasing a 15 chord Autoharp (the same used one that I returned...see the story below), it didn't take long for me to realize that I wanted a 21 chord instrument.

I had read that a 15 Chord was easier if you are starting out, but in my opinion, the instrument is so easy to learn anyway, that the extra chords make it more enjoyable to play by expanding the list of songs you can play by quite a bit.

Oscar Schmidt is the most recognized name in Autoharp manufacturers. This isn't a bad price for a new Autoharp.

15 Chord Autoharp

Autoharps have two kinds of buttons
Oscar Schmidt OS15B Autoharp

21 Chord Autoharp with fine tuning system added

A second set of tuners

This Autoharp has an additional fine tuning system, to make it easier tune your Autoharp yourself.

The fine tuning is a second set of tuning pegs positioned on the bridge of the Autoharp. The fine tuning system is used to make minute adjustments in the pitch of the strings.

Once you have the string tuned to the right note, you can use the fine tuning system to get the note exactly in tune. I wish I had this feature, it would be very helpful.

Dolly Parton playing Coat of Many Colors

I have never played an Electric autoharp, have you?

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Thanks for visiting today, I hope this page has been helpful to you.

Love the flower shaped sound hole in this one

Oscar Schmidt OS45CE The Appalachian Electric Autoharp

Autoharp Replacement Strings

Buy individually or as a set

I haven't had to replace strings yet, but know that you can search for individual Autoharp strings, or get a complete set depending upon your needs. Make sure you get strings that will go with your brand of Autoharp, and are in the right chord range if you get them individually. You can click on through the link here and search for your brand or specific Autoharp strings.

Autoharp Tuning Wrench or Hammer

Tuning, Your Biggest Challenge

Tuning the Autoharp is going to be your biggest challenge, because there are so many strings to tune...mine has about 36. Many take their Autoharps to be tuned by a professional at a music shop or elsewhere, but if you like a challenge, have a little patience, a good ear, and a good tuning wrench and tuner (I'll get to that next), you should be able to do a fine job of tuning your own Autoharp. I tune my own all the time...and it lasts quite a long time, I haven't tuned mine in at least a few months. Weather affects this, as the season changes from the humid summer to the dryer months of winter because of our indoor heating, my Autoharp usually needs a tuning. The same thing happens when the weather gets more humid because of the affect it has on the wood.

Make sure you have a sturdy Autoharp tuning wrench or tuning hammer, whatever term you prefer. It makes turning the tuning pegs and tuning the Autoharp a lot easier.

Korg Chromatic Tuner to Tune the Autoharp

And more information on how to tune

I use a Korg Tuner, purchased a few years ago, so it's not as up-to-date as the one pictured below, but it works great. I lay it on the Autoharp and play a string and adjust until the note I'm looking for appears on the display. There's instructions with it, and it takes a little getting used to if your new to it.

What I started out doing was to first use a small electric keyboard that we own, and worked through the stings by ear...then fine-tuned using the Korg tuner. Now I'm used to using the Korg and don't need to do that. Your final test is going to be actually strumming out the chords one by'll know if they're off, believe me.

Autoharp Case or Gig Bag

To protect the fine wood and strings

While my old-but-like-new 1970's Autoharp came with a hard case (the previous owner had it stored away for years), many now use these lightweight gig bags. If you already have an Autoharp and just need a case, here's a nice one, or click through the link and search "Autoharp case" for other varieties.

Finger Picks - Metal or Plastic Finger Picks to Play the Autoharp

Some Use All 5 Fingers, Some Don't

Many use plastic finger picks on the thumb and metal finger picks all fingers to play the Autoharp.

Other times you may want to use picks on the thumb and two fingers, and there are other variations as well. One of the things about playing an Autoharp is that you develop your own style.

You can learn more about that at Strumming the Autoharp.

National Finger & Thumb Pick Set - 4 Finger & 2 Thumb - Black - Large

One of the most popular items at Ant Hill Music! These are really nice quality picks at a reasonable price from the name you know and trust.. NATIONAL.FeaturesIncludes 2 sets (6...

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Ernie Ball 4 Pickey Pickeys Finger Picks and 2 Thumb Picks - Medium

Ernie Ball Pickey Picks and Thin Thumb PicksThese fingerpicks are made from Genuine "German Silver" (Nickel, Zinc, and Copper Alloy) of extra light weight. Pointed Tips make a p...

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Autoharp Song and Music Books

I Love Mel Bay Songbooks

Mel Bay books are wonderful for both beginners and experienced Autoharp players, I have all of the books you see here, and there's more if you click through and search using key words "Mel Bay Autoharp".

Also, any song book that has chords written along with the music has potential, you just have to find the songs that have chords that match your Autoharp...and as you become more advanced in knowledge about music, can change the chords to match. I like to play and sing along with praise songs, and love the green and red Maranatha praise books...they are thick books, should be spiral bound, and all have chords written with the music.

Mel Bay's Hymns for Autoharp

Gospel music is rooted in the folk tradition of America. It is music from the heart and soul and appears wherever people gather to express their spiritual joy. Folk instruments ...

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Mel Bay You Can Teach Yourself Autoharp

A step-by-step, self-instruction method. Includes care of the autoharp, playing positions, chord changes, back-up strums, arpeggio strums, melody picking, rhythm picking, and mu...

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Mel Bay's Fun with the Autoharp

A great beginner's autoharp book containing basic technical instruction plus melody lines, chords, and lyrics for 48 folk favorites. Includes information on playing positions, f...

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More of My Autoharp Story

This isn't my first page about the Autoharp, I share the story of why I exchanged my former stringed instrument for the Autoharp and much more at Strumming the Autoharp. Stop by and learn more about my personal story there.

Updated: 08/06/2015, happynutritionist
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happynutritionist on 07/09/2015

@RuthCox I'm happy to help, and yes, I do like that song...she's one talented lady.

RuthCox on 06/15/2015

You have shared some great information on things an autoharp buyer needs to consider, especially for beginners. Great song choice, by the way!

happynutritionist on 10/03/2014

@burntchestnut If you have ever wanted to play an instrument this is an easy one to learn. Thanks for the visit!

AngelaJohnson on 10/01/2014

Seems like a fun instrument. I might have to try one some day.

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