Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Zither and thither!

Just tackled the task of perking up the springs and retuning my autoharp.

Each saggy spring under the 15 chord bars needs to be taken out and lengthened a bit to give the bars and their felt pads a bit more bounce when damping the strings.

Easier said than done! Every time I screwed down those fiddly screws again to retain the bars in place, and looked down the length of the strings, another pesky little spring was peeping out there going: "Haha, look, I've fallen over again - are you coming in to get me, sucker?"

Tuned it to itself. Then discovered my tuning fork and so needed to repeat the whole process to get it singing in tune with the fork's perfectly pitched "E"!

A kind American friend passed the lovely instrument on to me when I worked in Bolivia. They knew I loved music and had seen my guitar and accordion. Apparently they hadn't used it for years. It was just gathering dust in an attic in La Paz!

It came without a tuning key, so I had to source one when a friend was visiting me in the wilds of the Andes from the States. At that time, I didn't know anybody back home in England who even knew what an autoharp was! 

Having seen Brian Dewan opening for They Might Be Giants on his self-built electric zither a few months before travelling to South America, I was keen to give it a go!

I'll never be up to Brian's luminous, genius standards of musical experimentation, but my humble little zither always brings a smile to my face and reminds me of those heady days when the altitude made an instrument you could sit down to play a very appealing prospect!

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