This is THE original
autoharp. 100 years of experience in manufacturing high
quality musical instruments makes the present-day Oscar
Schmidt Autoharp the standard of measure for all autoharps.
Oscar Schmidt utilizes premium woods, high-quality hardware
and excellent workmanship in a modestly priced instrument.
Manufactured overseas in state-of-the-art factories, each
autoharp is inspected and adjusted in the USA by a skilled
technician to assure quality of materials, workmanship and
The Autoharp- an American
The Autoharp is uniquely
American in origin. Invented in Philadelphia in 1881, the
Autoharp peaked in popularity as a nineteenth century parlor
room instrument and then faded into obscurity with the rise
of the phonograph. Relegated to dusty attics and forgotten
closets, the Autoharp was gradually reborn as a mountain
folk instrument and is now a staple in the folk and Americana
About Oscar Schmidt
Oscar Schmidt has
been making stringed instruments since the company was founded
in 1879. Guitars, banjos, mandolins, zithers, autoharps
and ukuleles were produced through the 1920's with five
factories in Europe and a factory on Ferry Street in Jersey
City. Oscar Schmidt instruments were sold in many rural
areas through General Stores, dry good stores and furniture
stores and due largely to their availability and low prices
they were popular with country guitar pickers and blues
musicians living in the South and Appalachia. In addition,
Oscar Schmidt instruments were known for excellent tone
and high acoustic volume, a very important quality in the
days before electronic amplification. Today, Oscar Schmidt
instruments are manufactured as a part of the US Music Corp
based in Mundelein, Illinois.
About the Autoharp Features
Also sometimes called the "pin block", this
is the portion of the autoharp that holds the tuning pins
securely in place, similar to the sound board of a piano.
A strong and durable pin block material is critical in order
to have a quality instrument that will stay in tune and
last over the years. Since the tuning pins are the metal
posts that are mounted into the autoharp soundboard, they
are the key junction where the top end of the strings are
attached to the instrument and they must hold up to a lot
of tension as the strings are tightened and tuned. The preferred
material for the pin block of most autoharps is hardwood.
Natural hardwoods are very strong, very durable and very
resonant to enhance the tone quality and sound projection
of the autoharp. Hard-rock maple, mahogany and spruce are
the preferred tone-woods most frequently used in the construction
of the pin block. In the case of most modern autoharps,
the pin block is "laminated"- this is a special
wood-layering process (outlined below) that improves the
strength and durability of the wood.
Many modern day instruments utilize laminated woods for
the back, sides and/or tops of the instruments. Lamination
is a special process where multiple thin layers of wood
are sandwiched and glued together, with the wood grain of
each layer running perpendicular to the adjoining layer(s).
This process creates a stronger block of wood that actually
has less sensitivity to weather changes and is much less
prone to cracking, splitting and shrinkage than solid wood.
When properly manufactured, laminated woods are a stronger,
more durable and less expensive alternative to solid wood
and can have tonal quality that is favorably comparable.
Solid Spruce Tops
Frequently used in the construction of high quality guitar
tops, solid spruce is a preferred tone wood for musical
instruments. The tonal qualities of spruce lend themselves
to pure tone with excellent projection and depth. Spruce
gives a rich tone, highly complimentary to the strings and
softening the trebles and highs as compared to the brighter
tones of maple or mahogany.
Back and Side Woods
The wood that is used in the construction of the back and
side of the autoharp affects not only the look and durability
of the instrument, but the tone as well. The back and side
woods will affect the projection off the sound, as well
as the timbre, sweetness and brilliance of the treble notes
and the resonance of the bass notes.
Mahogany is a hardwood
that delivers excellent tone and projection, with a depth
and sweetness that compliments stringed instruments. Mahogany
tends to record very well is studio situations and is a
favorite of recording artists.
Maple as a tone wood
has excellent projection and volume and is highly favored
in live performances. It tends to be brighter, with more
clarity on the high notes especially. When used in an acoustic
jam, maple projects and allows the player to stand out.
Most autoharps have a choice of two traditional button configurations-
the 15 chord button configuration that plays in seven keys,
and the 21 Chord Autoharp that plays in eleven different
keys. The traditional button configurations make it easy
to learn and play the autoharp.
Standard autoharp accessories include a Tuning wrench for
adjusting the string tuning at the pin block, and an assortment
Fine Tuning System
The Fine Tuning System is an absolute "must have"
for any serious Autoharp player. Tuning an autoharp can
be difficult when using only the standard tuning wrench.
The fine tuning system provides a quick and easy method
to tune and keep the autoharp in tune through the effects
of temperature changes, humidity and any other factor. The
fine tuner is an adjustable block at the end of each string
(opposite the pin block) that allows fine tension adjustments
with the use of a (provided) small Allen wrench. For easy
tuning, simply "rough tune" the autoharp at the
pin block end of the string with the larger tuning wrench,
then "fine tune" the string with ease with the
smaller fine tuners at the other end of the string.
The exclusive Oscar Schmidt pickup system is factory-installed
and includes an active 4-band EQ along with a specially
designed pickup to optimize the sound and tone of the amplified
autoharp. This system features a volume control, LED indicator
and easy battery replacement.
There are also various
after-market pickup systems that can be installed in virtually
any Autoharp. Two of our preferred pickups are the Pickup-the-World
system, and the Dean Markley Artist Transducer.