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A simple musical instrument with 36 strings, tuned in half steps from a low F to a high C. Chords are made by pressing on the keys (which squash unwanted strings with muffling pads) and strumming the strings with a plectrum of some type or the fingers.

The autoharp is a folk instrument that, like the dulcimer and the lute, has been largely superseded by other stringed instruments such as the guitar and the various fiddles. Autoharps can play a very limited number of chords and are primarily useful (if you are forced to play one) as accompaniment to voices or other more versatile instruments. I keep a really old one a friend gave me as a conversation piece and as something to do when I'm bored.

Au"to*harp (?), n. [Auto- + harp.]

A zitherlike musical instrument, provided with dampers which, when depressed, deaden some strings, leaving free others that form a chord.

 

© Webster 1913.

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