next up previous contents
Next: Pickups Up: General Info Previous: General Info   Contents

Chord bar options

The most frequent autoharp renewal and customization questions relate to chord bars, principally the following:


To refelt or not to refelt?

We do not recommend refelting chord bars just because the felts are old. Usually the felts continue to work well and it is a bit expensive to simply replace all of them. The main reasons for replacing some or all of the felts are:
One or more felt pieces are loose or missing

Some of the felt pieces are not working properly,
either because they are simply in poor condition or because of poor previous repairs. In this case it is best to simply refelt the bar (See section 3.2).
You want one or more chords
that are not part of the standard chord set.
In this case you must also decide which chord(s) to do without, and in what order you want the resulting chord bars arranged. (In other words, do you simply want the new chords where the ones you are eliminating were, or will it make fingering easier if you rearrange the whole set?) The instructions for refelting a bar are in section 3.2

We have recently arrived at a chord bar order that may better serve autoharpists who regularly play with guitar--based groups, dropping the keys of Bb and Eb in favor of full functionality in the keys of E and A. At the same time we have made the fingerings of the standard progressions consistent in every key. To do this requires refelting five of the bars and rearranging the bar order. The new bar order is:

C7G7D7 A7E7B7 F#7
GmDmAm EmBmF#m C#m


Individual Chord Bars and Chord Bar Kits

We carry or can special order individual replacement chord bars for any chord currently in production. This is sometimes a good alternative to refelting your original bar.

We also carry chord bar kits, which are intended for upgrading 12- or 15-bar instruments to 15- or 21-bar configurations. These are also a good alternative to refelting a large number of the chord bars in a set on account of poor or damaged felts. Installation is not inherently difficult for a person who has familiarity with basic tool use and the eye and patience for detail. We include a set of instructions with the kit, which can be also be found here in section 3.3. Though the instructions were written for the 21-bar kit, it should not be difficult to figure out the necessary adaptations to use it for the 15-bar kit as well.


The String Spacing Issue

There is a known problem using new chord bars on an older autoharp. While the string spacing has in theory remained unchanged at 1/4" since the early days of autoharps, in practice the spacing on the newer autoharps made in Asia is very slightly narrower, adding up to 1/16" or even as much as 3/32" across the entire width of the strings. Usually the new chord bar kits can be used with older autoharps without modification if great care is used in the exact placement of the chord bar holders. Sometimes some of the felts near the ends of the bars will need to be trimmed a tiny amount in order to allow the strings to clear them properly. When replacing a single bar in an existing set, you may have more difficulty with the spacing issue, since you will be using the existing holders in their existing locations. In these cases it will likely be easier to simply refelt the bar instead of replacing it with a new stock one.


Custom Chord bars

If you would like to have chords available to you that are not part of the standard chord set, then you will have to either replace or refelt some of the existing bars. Since you cannot simply add more bars to the instrument (other than going from a 15- to a 21-bar configuration), you will have to figure out which chords you are going to do without in exchange for your new ones. If you want to keep your existing bar against the possibility of putting it back in the instrument at a future date, we carry all of the parts necessary to make new ones. Otherwise you can simply refelt the bars you are going to change. The proceedure is much the same in either case and the basic instructions can be found in section 3.2. Also, give a thought to what order you want the chords arranged in after you have made your changes.


next up previous contents
Next: Pickups Up: General Info Previous: General Info   Contents

Arnold M.J. Hennig
Elderly Instruments Repair Dept.
April, 2003