Jo Ann Smith
You will never see an autoharp the same way again.
You will never see an autoharp the same way again.
Jo Ann Smith is a three-time Autoharp Champion, having won the International Autoharp Championship in 1999 and again in 2013, as well as the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Championship in 2003.
Jo Ann is well-known for her expertise with the diatonic autoharp. Her unique, melodic and expressive playing style has won her legions of followers on YouTube with over a million views to date. She performs regularly, both as a solo instrumentalist and as a lead member of local acoustic bands. Jo Ann is a passionate promoter of the autoharp, and uses her skills not only to enlighten but also to teach others about the untapped potential of this unique instrument.
The autoharp is a zither-like instrument with a hollow body and 36-37 strings tuned to cover a dynamic range of approximately 2 1/2 octaves. A set of damping bars (chord bars) is mounted above the string bed and allows the player to selectively mute specific strings by applying pressure to a chord bar. The autoharp is held upright against the body of the player and is strummed or plucked with the right hand while the left hand is used to press down on a chord bar. This produces chords and notes with harp-like tones and a ringing, bell-like quality.
The autoharp began its life as an early twentieth-century adaptation of the zither. While there is some debate as to its origin, it is generally accepted that Karl August Gutter of Germany developed the mechanism that most closely resembles today's autoharp. Charles F. Zimmerman is credited with promoting the instrument in the United States, where the autoharp became quite popular as a parlor instrument. In the decades that followed, the autoharp continued to gain popularity and has developed a large following of admirers and musicians who utilize the instrument in a variety of settings, from bluegrass to pop, folk, jazz and beyond.
By Ken Ellis of Whippoorwill Acoustics
Back in April of 2016 I sent an email to Ken Ellis, maker and designer of quality custom autoharps at Whippoorwill Acoustics, asking him if he was interested in helping me pursue a dream: A luthier-made autoharp that met my criteria for sound, playability and beauty at a price that would appeal to beginners as well as players wanting to upgrade from a manufactured instrument or purchase their first diatonic. After two years of collaboration and in-depth discussions on everything from wood choices and bridge styles to tuning schedules and chord bars, the Heartland Autoharp became a reality.
I heartily endorse the Heartland Autoharp! It’s constructed of quarter-sawn cherry (my all-time favorite tone wood) and sitka spruce. It has a sweet, bright, clear tone that makes melody picking a dream — and an amazing amount of volume. The smooth, satin finish and incredibly light weight (approx. 6 lb.) make this model extremely comfortable to hold and play. In spite of its light weight, the Heartland will surprise you with its tuning stability. When it comes to tuning, fine tuners (standard on every Heartland) make tuning a breeze.
All Heartland Autoharps have 15 chord bars in three rows. Setups for 15-bar chromatic (four key), two-key diatonic and single-key diatonic are available. The purchase of each Heartland Autoharp includes a personal consultation with me via email, phone and/or online video conference to discuss setup and help determine the tuning, chord selection and bar arrangement that works best for you.
I love my Heartland Autoharps. I think you will love them, too!
New to the autoharp? Need help improving your technique? Interested in learning to play a particular song? Thinking about going diatonic? With three major Autoharp Championship titles and over 20 years of experience playing and teaching both chromatic and diatonic autoharps, Jo Ann can help you to reach your musical goals with lessons tailored to fit your personal needs. FIRST LESSON FREE! Read the descriptions to determine your experience level and click on the the corresponding appointment type to schedule a 50-minute video consultation.
New Students, click REDEEM COUPON and use code FIRSTFREE to claim your first free lesson!
So... you just got an autoharp and don't know where to start? Or you've had one for a while and just can't seem to do much with it? No problem! Jo Ann will go through everything you need to know, from tuning all those strings to finger pick selection to proper body mechanics. We will also go through basic playing techniques and address any problems with the instrument itself (and offer remedies).
Whether you're a chromatic player wanting to take your playing to the next level or someone who's interested in exploring diatonic tuning, this is the choice for you. Jo Ann will help you identify issues in your playing technique that may be hindering your progress as well as options for tuning and chord arrangement that can make the autoharp a better fit for the music YOU want to play.
(Diatonic Only) The diatonic autoharp requires a specialized set of skills to bring it (and the player) to full potential. Chord selection, layout, selective damping and noting techniques, chord progressions and creative tune arrangements are some of the topics Jo Ann can help you with. If you have a diatonic autoharp and want to refine your diatonic skills and repertoire, choose this option.
The links below will take you to articles covering all sorts of autoharp-related topics that I have written over the years. All are based on my personal experience, and are designed to enlighten, educate and entertain. I hope you enjoy them.