Tuesday, November 29, 2005

If you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need

If you are like me, for most of your life you thought of the autoharp as a fake instrument for nursery school teachers and people who are too lazy to learn guitar.

My opinion began to change when I saw a Johnny Cash tribute on TV (not the recent one, but a 1999 TBS one) on which June Carter Cash--70 years old and gorgeous--sang "Ring Of Fire" and accompanied herself on the autoharp. I got more interested when I read Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? and learned that Sara Carter played the autoharp. I decided I would get one, especially since I hate playing electronic keyboards and that was my only possible accompaniment when I lead music activities at school or Scouts. Then I found out that autoharps are really, really expensive. In the meantime I realized that schoolkids and Scouts don't know or care if you are playing D, G and A7 (works better than C, F and G7 for my voice and hands) on every song and I started trundling the guitar around.

I didn't forget about the autoharp, though--it has a special sound that's different from a guitar and it really has a place in Appalachian music, which interests me. (I also have a yen to learn mandolin but talk about expensive. A friend of ours bought a cheap mandolin and warned me away.) So I mentioned it to a friend who is a music minister and she said her church had a closet full of autoharps gathering dust. I got one on permanent loan. The only problem was it was really, really out of tune. I tried tuning it with every socket wrench head in the basement, and then with a combination of pliers and a crescent wrench. Painful and not entirely successful. The autoharp sat in the corner of the sunroom for a couple of years.

And then last week I thought, there has to be a tool for this. Froogle search for "autoharp tuning tool" turned one up at an Amazon affiliate for $2.99. Of course it should be a national law that one of these tuning wrenches is inside every autoharp case but what can you do?

So now my autoharp is tuned and I am practicing strums and singing "This Land Is Your Land," "Who Knows Where I'm Going," "Good Night Irene" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Only 6 years after the first vague stirring of autoharp lust.

If there's something you need to move your life forward, do me a favor and find out if it only costs $2.99 plus shipping. You'll be glad you did.

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