Where to start

Ideas on how to get a good start as a player. This relates more to the left and right hand, not the instrument or the chord layout, diatonic versus chromatic or other stuff covered elsewhere. Now it's time to actually play, hopefully something recognizable or nice accompaniment for your song.

Where to start

Postby Bob Lewis » Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:53 am

Bob can you tell me what's most important for a beginner like me to do. Is it important to learn basic strums first, then move on to scales, pinches, or what. Playing and singing together are going to take a lot work. Is there a video that would help. I just want to be able to play something that others recognize.


If you learn to play a tune you already know (in your head), you are free of learning that part and can concentrate on making it come out of the autoharp. Something you can do with your eyes closed is ideal, because you can focus on your right hand. Set any book aside for now. Use it for ideas, not for chord changes or strums.

You need to find a strum that gets the rhythm right. Then you need to keep a steady beat. Then you need to set a tempo at which you can play without stopping or searching for chords and with which you can hold steady at that tempo. Go as slow as necessary. Don't play full tempo until you have controlled everything else to acceptable levels.

You may consider a melody recognizable before anyone else can, so ask them at some point. Your head can fool you. "No" needs to be a good answer. Don't be insulted...you need to know. The autoharp is not as easy as its reputation indicates. It depends what you expect. Recognizable melodies are well beyond elementary level playing.

The place to start is to just use the thumb to do the beat and set the tempo. Drop in the fingers to get melody notes and rhythm effects.

As far as exercises, I suggest doing scales as pinch/pluck. That would be pinching on down beats and on every other note using the forefinger pluck. The pinch then is thumb and middle finger. You are not just grabbing a handful of strings. Eventually you need to listen and get the feel for both the thumb and middle finger landing in the melody area but an octave apart, the thumb in the bass direction. That won't be very precise for a long time, but figure out what it sounds like and keep it as a goal in your progress.

The scale then would be pinch/pluck/pinch/pluck/pinch/pluck/pinch/pinch. The double pinch at the end sets you up to go back down the scale in the same way. The chords in G, for example, would be G/D7/G/C/G/C/D7/G. In reverse going down, so the whole sequence is G/D7/G/C/G/C/D7/G/D7/C/G/C/G/D7/G.

-addendum for others-

The context is being past the part where the instrument is held right, and strap, pick, and chair issues have been covered. The instrument is already in tune and in proper working order. It also has a custom chord bar layout that will suit. All that is behind us, and the topic is actually playing.
Bob Lewis
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