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I am new to the music of India and this website has been a valuable resource for me to learn.

I play the Autoharp, a swarmandal with chord bars. The India Autoharps I've seen played on YouTube and in documentaries have had the chord bars removed, making them swarmandals or zithers. In this video, Pandit Jasraj plays a vintage Autoharp (circa 1969) with the chord bars removed, making it a swarmandal

The Autoharp is an easy instrument to learn to customize. I learned to take them apart, put them back together, change string schedules (wire sizes) for optimal tone in specific tunings, cut felt on chord bars to create unique chords, and cut felt on lock bars so only the notes of one scale will be available to play while the bar is engaged.

I will visit Jodhpur soon to teach career planning and visit public health programs. I plan to take several Autoharps with me and leave them with teachers. They are vintage instruments shared by other Autoharp players. I would like to customize them to play ragas.

My thoughts on set up for Indian music:

1. Keep the chromatic tuning for 36 strings, then make lock bars to leave open only the notes in a specific raga scale. All notes not in the scale would be muted by the felt. It will be possible to have up to 12 raga scales if all bars are lock bars. This would mean that a musician could change from one raga to another without retuning strings.

2. Keep the chromatic tuning for 36 strings, then make a combination of lock bars and chord bars. This would allow playing just with chord bars using the full chromatic scale, or to engage the lock bars to play specific raga scales and use the chord bars to get partial chords or drones.

3. Keep the chromatic tuning, then cut a combination of standard chords and complex chords for specific ragas. For instance, C with a flattened 9th. (My problem here is knowing which cords would be most useful when limited to 12 chords.)

4. Set up a single key diatonic Autoharp with doubled strings for a rich sound with twelve chords. (Richer sound, rich chords, could be used for only one raga scale)

5. Set up a two-key diatonic with lock bars and doubled strings, which would sacrifice two chord bars and reduce the number of chords used for each raga scale. (Richer sound, limited options for chords)

I don't have examples of Autoharp used in classical Indian music, but Jo Ann Smith has two videos (among many) that may help to understand the sound possible with a diatonic Autoharp.

Jo Ann just posted a video the explains how lock bars work on a two-key diatonic Autoharp.

Here is her explanation of a chromatic vs. diatonic setup on an Autoharp.

Please accept my apologies for the long post and lack of knowledge about music in India. Let me know if there is a more appropriate section to address my questions.

(Autoharp Rose)
Kevin Weed

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Reply with quote  #2 
Cathy, Autoharp Rose. This is an old post. Are you still here? I was just thinking of how to use an autoharp is a swarmandal and be able to change keys (ragas). I had never heard of the locking bars. Do they work for blocking out just one note at a time? Chord bars have such thick felt to block out several notes. I didn’t know if you could make one effectively to block out just one note here and there. I couldn’t find anything on mine. If you’re still there and have some resources about how to make custom walking bars maybe you could post some links. Thanks.
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