Today I spent more than an hour attempting to tune my autoharp to a “sweet” tuning. Tuning can be done many different ways. This is a recent thing I learned while attending an autoharp workshop with the excellent teacher Charles Whitmer. In his book, Intermediate book II, there is a page which he went over with us.
Tuning can be done diatonic, which best I can understand means that one key sounds fabulous but the other keys, if there are any on that autoharp, will not sound so good.
Then there is Mean Tone Tuning, which means that you can get the autoharp to sound really good in two or three keys, but it won’t sound so good with other instruments unless they are tuned the same way.
Bringing us to Equal Temperament, which means that each note is tuned precisely. This is how most instruments are tuned and if you tune the autoharp this way it will play pretty well with other instruments BUT it won’t sound anywhere near so good as tuned diatonic or mean tone.
Our instructor, Charles Whitmer, explained his compromise tuning which gives the autoharp a nice sweet sound, perhaps not so sweet as diatonic or mean tone, but good, and still is close enough to equal temperament to play with other instruments.
What I learned was that my autoharp sound MUCH better to my ear and to my husband’s ear when tuned to Whitmer’s compromise tuning.
So, after all the effort to tune my autoharp correctly I practiced the song Scarborough Fair for awhile and then took a shot at the accompaniment for Swing Low Sweet Chariot. My assessment was that while I did OK practicing that the last two weeks of not so regular practice has slowed my improvement considerably.
Practice time is now set as an alarm on my cell phone.