thumbnail of Bluegrass and mountains; Autoharp in old time music
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Welcome to bluegrass and program of all time American music. If there is one instrument of American music that's indigenously American it's the autoharp United States patent was granted to Mr CFA Zimmermann its inventor on May 9th 1882. Basically the instrument is as if there are two which have been added an ingenious combination of springs and bars which permit the player to sound an entire chord at once instead of plucking individual strings. The chord bars fit across the top of the instrument and have felt glued to their undersides in places where one wishes to damp out a string which does not belong to a particular chord. Thus when a bar is depressed an entire chord may be produced by running one's hand across the strings. Modern auto harps and they're still being manufactured in Jersey City New Jersey have three chromatic scales and either
6 12 or 15 chord bars. Most of the instruments play in the major keys of C G and F while the Appalachian auto harp also plays an D major and a major. Our program's theme song features the autoharp in an old tune called Wildwood Flower. Let's listen to the whole song. You're. You're. You're. You're. You're. You're.
You're. You're. You're. You're. You're. You're you're. You're. Reading from an advertisement of the 19th century we learn that the autoharp encourages the musical effort of the person who is least musical and will respond with a harmonious chord to the touch of any body. It never is ill tempered. Practice cannot disturb those who listen for it knows no discords people of more or less musical skill find it charming in its simplicity delightfully easy to become acquainted with and companionable at all
times while it baffles the attempt of the skilful to find its musical limitations. Let's hear an autoharp duet next by the brothers and Kenneth Benfield recorded in the field by Mike Seeger. It's a piece called weeping willow tree. With the. Wow thanks. OK. Wow. Wow
OK. OK. Thanks. To our. Thanks to our. Thanks to our. Thanks to our. Thanks. To our. Thanks to our. Thanks to our. Thanks.
The autoharp is frequently used in string bands both as a backup instrument to fill in chords and also as a lead instrument. The New Lost City Ramblers in an album called String Band instrumentals. I found a song called Victory rag which I would guess was written just after the Spanish-American War. In it the guitar States the melody first the autoharp plays a solo and the guitar finishes a recapitulation and a denouement of the tune of particular interest is the circle of fifths tacked on at the end of the stanza as a form of adornment and to add interest to the melody. One of the grammar songs of the Great Depression was all I got some gone. The version we're
about to hear is by Ernest Stoneman who plays both mouth harp and autoharp. The lyrics include these two verses country doods riding in a car tailor made suits and smoking cigars running through the barbershop primping and robbing. But you're right now they're ploughing and grabbing. I don't like to see the women wearing satin dresses husbands bankrupted in great distresses should have been home washing up the dishes and patching up the dresses with their husband's old britches. Us. Are saying there are. Things that. Go. Around.
Us. Oh out of people on my. Wall and pretty well didn't. Go all that long and the good news although it was. All or go. With. Your dog tailor made suit is moving the dog to the bombshell criminal wrongdoing that you are going to go with those are. Already gone. But you. Know out of all the other articles. I have about drug dealers.
When a local GC is. Going to give organized a. Growly dog. All those dogs. With your lives the women I was out of breath and out of the bag. Good. Better best. Watch enough of it is no good without a little review for all those are. All or go. With you. The big. Stuff. Is not very often that an autoharp is played in a minor key because the placement of the chords on the autoharp is such that it's considerably harder to get around the instrument if you have to play in a minor key.
Nevertheless kind of the Benfield has recorded a stirring rendition of old Joe Clark complete with a rhythmic bass accompaniment provided by his thumb. At the who thanked. Thanks thanks thanks. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks thanks. Thanks thanks thanks.
Thanks. Thanks thanks thanks thanks. Thanks. Thanks. Just as the advertisement proclaimed the autoharp can be a very harmonious sounding instrument when it's in tune. This is no small chore since it has 36 strings and three octaves which vary in pitch with changes in the weather and many other variables. Nonetheless the last song on today's program entitled Ellen's grave is a pretty catchy and harmonious too. Ah yeah.
The three. Days program has been given to the music of the Ono. Our next week's program we're going to hear how guitar sounds and music. Bluegrass and mountains a program of all time American music is produced at the University of Michigan suffered by Dell speaking. This
is the national educational radio network A.
Bluegrass and mountains
Autoharp in old time music
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-3j393w4m).
Episode Description
This program focuses on the autoharp and its role in old time music.
Series Description
Recordings of and talk about a wide variety of old time American music.
Broadcast Date
Old-time music.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Fidell, S. A. (Sanford A.)
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-36-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:36
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Bluegrass and mountains; Autoharp in old time music,” 1966-09-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “Bluegrass and mountains; Autoharp in old time music.” 1966-09-22. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Bluegrass and mountains; Autoharp in old time music. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from