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What can I do to improve the autoharp's scratchy sound?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 7:16 pm
by Bob Lewis
Q. What can I do to improve the autoharp's scratchy sound?

A. As you drop keys and scale tones from an autoharp, for example, the common GDA autoharp, the ratio of muted strings to ringing strings improves for every chord. At a 9 tone scale, limited to three major keys, the scratching sound on dead wire is no longer so distracting and is dominated by the sound and power of the ringing strings.

A felt pick, cork faced pick, or stout plastic finger picks seem to lessen the <scratch> sound most prevalent on a fully chromatic harp. I used to use all plastic finger picks and expect to return to them on a harp with more than three keys. I doubt if the average player, if any, should expect to pick so precisely that only live strings would be played. You really can't chord without hitting <dead> wire.

When in a band or jamming situation, the overall sound covers most of the autoharp's little noises anyway and, in any event, there is rhythm value in some of the scratch effect. When we are not playing alone, I think we should all think about how we want to sound, as opposed to just jumping in and doing our usual thing, no matter what. Pick choice is one factor to consider.