The most recent finding from here at Lefty Laboratories is an all mahogany, left handed, chromatic autoharp built for a beginning player in South Carolina. It was ordered by her husband who described her as “petite and left handed” adding that she may play the instrument in either an upright position or on her lap. For simplicity and easier playing, she insisted that there be only twelve chord bars. Because her husband plays music in a variety of keys, additional chords were provided that can be swapped in as needed.
This rather traditional shaped autoharp is built with my one piece laminated frame and back, a solid mahogany soundboard, matching mahogany side veneer, and a mahogany chord set. Fastened to the back is a simple birch plywood resonator stained to match.
The three row chord setup places the major chords in the middle row, the sevenths in the bottom row, and the minors in the top row. With the middle finger positioned over the major chord of the desired key, the index and ring fingers can easily reach the other chords in that key. With the keys arranged in the “circle of fifths”, the same fingering pattern may be played by merely shifting the middle finger to another major chord in the middle row.
The twelve bars installed on the autoharp are arranged in this pattern for the keys of “A”, “D”, “G”, and “C”. Additional bars were provided for the keys of “F”, “Bb”, and “Eb” to be swapped in as needed. You might have noticed that there are two “F” chords. Because of the pattern, “F” appears in the bottom row for the key of “C” and in the middle (major) row for the Key of “F”.
The covers of the chord bar holders are attached with rare earth magnets and the chord bar springs are glued to their bases. Swapping out chord bars is accomplished by popping off the covers and changing the bars (without losing springs).
I have discovered another left hand problem in our right handed world…. cases for the left handed autoharps I make. I have yet to find a “gig bag” type case that is not backwards and upside down in its configuration of pockets and zippers. I have found a more than acceptable but costlier alternative in the hardshell Oscar Schmidt cases. I modify them by removing the inner triangular accessory pocket.