This thread started off as something else, THEN the reader told me it was an Easy Chord, which is a mini-Autoharp that is fun to play and hard to come by.
The reader's original e-mail said:
I just recently acquired an Oscar Schmidt 6 chord autoharp. Would like to replace the strings. VERY Disappointed when I contacted "The Autoharp Store". No clue! Never heard of such a thing! Come on!REALLY!?!? These people give me no confidence in purchasing anything from them in the future. Would you recommend buying a 36 string set or do you know the proper string gauge sizes, so I could purchase from say, Songbird hammered dulcimer- at least I could make up a set without robbing the bank. Appreciate a reply,
Chances are VERY good you have an early-1900s autoharp. Does it have
37 strings? If it only has 18 strings, it's a child's instrument made
in the 1970s. If it has 36 or 37 strings, it is a model that hasn't
been made for something like 90 years. It's an early "Type A," which
most autoharp repair people won't work on because almost all of them
have cracked soundboards, failing glue joints, or sloppy tuning pegs
by now. "The Autoharp Store" guys may never have encountered a
6-chord model since so few of them have survived in anything like
In fact, I have two early type-A autoharps. They're both 12-chord,
but they look just like the 6-chord otherwise. Both have cracked
soundboards; one can still be played; the other is a wall decoration.
So the real question is, is the instrument sound otherwise? You may
have to replace the felts, but that's not expensive, and on a 6-chord
instrument not onerous. Replacement springs aren't hard to come by
But before you invest a lot of time and money into it, make certain
there isn't a crack in the soundboard (it may just be a hairline
crack, but it could still cause trouble if you put new strings on).
Then make certain the joints are all sound and the tuning pegs hold
If the instrument is mechanically sound, and you have a special
attachment to it, you certainly may unstring it, clean it up, refelt
it if necessary, and re-string it, all for a cost of less than $100.
Or if your goal is mostly to learn autoharp, period, try shopping for
a used "Type B" 15-chorder. Type B 15 chorders often go online for
less than $50. I checked out the greater Rochester area, and you
don't have many choices locally.
Googling "Autoharp" on http://shopgoodwill.com
will show you a few
examples. You'll see the type B autoharps have a metal plate near the
end with slots in it that the ends of the strings go through. Here's
These seldom go for much
more that $50 on this site.
15 chord Chromaharps are made by another company, but they play about
the same. Here's one with reasonable shipping charges.https://www.shopgoodwill.com/Item/47325671
These seldom go for much
more than $35 on this site.
If you decide to bid on one, check the shipping charges out first,
they can vary from $10 to $40, since each Goodwill store sets their
Yes, it's a gamble. The stores have no idea what they're selling, but
if you get a more modern instrument, it could save you having to
restring it right away, at least until you know what you've got and
whether you think you'll get use out of the old one.
If you decide to go with the one you already own, your cheapest option
is usually to buy a complete set of "type A" strings. These have loop
ends like banjo strings. The "Type B" strings have ball ends like
And you're right, they're not cheap, but if you try buying them
separately, you'll usually wind up paying $2.50-$3.00 a string, and
you'll actually spend more. Plus some of the low strings use pretty
heavy gauges that are hard to come by.
Best of luck - please let me know how things work out for you,
The reader responded.
Sorry Paul, should've said "easy chord". It only has 18 strings. Yes, a child's toy to some, but I was thinking of trying my hand at setting it up diatonic like. Get a Bluegrass "chop" out of it, maybe. So it has the "newer" style ball end strings. Should I get a 36 string set, and omit the first 18?