Friday, 25 April 2014

25th April 2014 - Home Alone Diaries 3 - Chorded Zither and Getting in a Dither

Thought for the day : "No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.."
Tonight I am the proud owner of an Auto Harp - though I understand now that its real name is a chorded zither !! It seems that Autoharp is the name of a particular brand of instrument by one German company. I think it is a little like Hoover becoming the all encompassing name for vacuum cleaners .. much to the distress of all the other companies..

I recall hearing someone tell me that they were visited by the the Grim Reaper one night but that they managed to beat him away with a vacuum cleaner - He said that he was Dyson with Death!!
That joke would have meant nothing to people in the 60's and 70's
Not that great today - but I will not leave my day job - 'cos I do not have one....

But back to the Autoharp - it needs tuning and that could be a real task. It has four octaves rather than the two on the Lyre - and a few extra as well - I count 35 strings but I may have missed a couple... But - on the plus side I can get at least half a dozen tunes out of it to some acceptable standards.. It will certainly form part of the new repertoire...

The autoharp is a musical string instrument having a series of chord bars attached to dampers, which, when depressed, mute all of the strings other than those that form the desired chord. Despite its name, the autoharp is not a harp at all, but a chorded zither..

There is debate over the origin of the autoharp. A German immigrant in Philadelphia by the name of Charles F. Zimmermann was awarded a patent in 1882 for a design for a musical instrument that included mechanisms for muting certain strings during play. He named his invention the autoharp. Unlike later autoharps, the shape of the instrument was symmetrical, and the felt-bearing bars moved horizontally against the strings instead of vertically. It is not known if Zimmermann ever commercially produced any instruments of this early design. Karl August Gütter of Markneukirchen, Germany, built a model that he called a Volkszither, which most resembles the autoharp played today. Gütter obtained a British patent for his instrument circa 1883–1884. Zimmermann, after returning from a visit to Germany, began production of the Gütter design in 1885 but with his own design patent number and catchy name. Gütter's instrument design became very popular, and Zimmermann has often been mistaken as the inventor.
This is very similar to mine ...

So - I now have a fine stable of instruments - I just need to start practising I think ..
Maybe after a glass of scotch ... So I raise a Glass to John Jones who has loaned me this fine instrument upon a sort of long term basis...   

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