Jody Kruskal Posted May 20, 2017 Share Posted May 20, 2017 (edited) What’s the difference between an autoharp and a concertina? I know it sounds like a joke... but I’m serious. Of course the differences between these two are dramatic, yet I’m struck by their similarities. I’ve been playing Anglo concertina for 30 years or more and during most of that time I’ve also owned a decent 21 key chromatic Oscar Schmitt B autoharp... dabbling with the harp off and on. Recently, I’ve been devoting hours in learning to actually play the little stringed monster, and my new love is the harp. My friend Drew Smith actually knows the instrument well and he’s been showing me a thing or two. As I apply myself to this new instrument, I’m struck with how much like the Anglo concertina it is. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much. Both have buttons and some have button bushings. Both have a dedicated niche following well outside of mainstream music. Both have a thriving internet community. Both have numerous festivals where players come to learn and mingle. Both are manmade contraptions that require an odd approach to melody and harmony that is distant from natural instruments like the violin or flute or theremin where it is much clearer how the physics of pitch is accomplished. Both entwine melody and harmony in a unique and limiting way that makes you consider how to get both working at the same time, like a puzzle with a solution or two or three. Both are acoustic music machines with an eccentric mechanism developed in the mid to late 1800s. Both encourage and even demand instrument maintenance by the players, opening them up for tweaking the mechanism with the resultant danger of losing a little screw in the carpet. With the concertina it’s the reeds that need care, and with the autoharp it’s the felts. Both are deceptively simple and can be played with good results at first go, but require deep study to get beyond those first successful notes. Both have a bewildering variety of systems where nothing is standard. For concertinas there are English, several duet systems and Anglo with both Wheatstone and Jefferies varieties. For autoharps there are from 3 to 21 button instruments, factory setups that differ from the Bowers setup or the triangle setup or custom setups that add color chords or diminished and 6 chords. Then there are chromatic vs diatonic harps that are both quite different from each other. What a wonderful world! I am certainly enjoying discovering it. Edited May 20, 2017 by Jody Kruskal Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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