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Thread: Snark tuner

  1. #26
    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Autoharps have, I forget, something like 38 strings, maybe more. I have never heard of anyone restringing an autoharp. I think new strings are like a billion dollars or something ridiculous - it's just a bunch of wire anyway.

    So what I mean is the strings are usually old. I talked about this before somewhere; but old strings might ring the correct pitch/note when you first pluck or hit them. but as they "ring", the note "decays".
    You can see this on an etuna - tune the string to exact pitch by plucking it about every 2 seconds - this offsets the decay factor, since the string is always "freshly plucked". that will yield a fairly steady reading on the tuna gauge needle meter screen whatever.
    After you have it accurately tuned, pluck it once - and watch the needle onscreen lite up on the exact note, and then watch it "decay".
    If you tone in the decay phase, you will be tuning all day. If you tune it before it decays - it will get tuned. Similarly, when it is being played, the autoharp is being constantly strummed or plucked - so the decay factor is not there - it get strummed before the decay becomes noticeable - usually.
    It's the same thing with dead guitar strings, or mandolin strings.
    New strings will resist decay for maybe a day or two - after that, it's a gradual deterioration - and if you don't know this, then your etuna will always leave you out of the ballpark, or out in deep left center field.

  2. #27
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    My friend just had her Oscar Schmidt refurbished. Part of the job was to replace the strings, and replace or reinvigorate the felt pads, anyway, the whole cost was very reasonable. Not to say cheap, but it was not exorbitant.

    Tuning story - I once rented an autoharp, to take to a festival. I rented it from one of these chain music stores that carry all kinds of stuff from fiddles to band instruments. Anyway I picked up the autoharp and we were off to the festival. Drove all the way there and set up camp, and that night I took out the harp and checked the tuning. Every single string was tuned to A 440. Perfectly.

    I spent a lot of time with the black snark that night.
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  3. #28
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by MysTiK PiKn View Post
    Autoharps have, I forget, something like 38 strings, maybe more. I have never heard of anyone restringing an autoharp. I think new strings are like a billion dollars or something ridiculous - it's just a bunch of wire anyway. So what I mean is the strings are usually old. I talked about this before somewhere; but old strings might ring the correct pitch/note when you first pluck or hit them. but as they "ring", the note "decays"....
    Most Autoharps have 36 strings, at least the standard Oscar Schmidt models. The Model 73 "black box" had an extra high "D" string in the 1950's. Older models (I have several smaller 19th-century Autoharps) have anywhere from 21 on a three-bar model, to 44 on the mighty (and rare) Concert Grand.

    Autoharp strings run between $56 and $75 for a complete set; the lower price is for ChromaHarp strings, which (I guess) could be used on Autoharps. Some smarter types who own A-model Autoharps that take loop-end strings, purchase bulk music wire and cut their own strings out of it. Hammered dulcimer players do the same. Of course, this only works with the unwound strings.

    I have restrung an entire Autoharp, and true, it's no picnic; more like an afternoon's steady work. One of the main considerations is how far to back off the tuning pins before attaching the new strings; not too far, not too little.

    Some of my century-plus-old instruments have original strings on them; since Autoharp strings are unfretted, they don't get worn flat by frets or corrode from finger oils, sweat etc. After, say, 130 years of being kept at tension (my oldest Zimmermann is probably from around 1885), the tonal quality of the strings has certainly lost any pretense of "sparkle," but the strings are still usable.

    Maybelle Carter was once asked about restringing her Autoharp; her answer was along the lines of, "Did it once -- never do it again -- replace strings only when they break." Who am I to argue with Maybelle Carter?
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  4. #29

    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    One of my early-'60's memories is watching Mike Seeger tuning his Autoharp with a series of harmonicas -- recognizing that the harmonicas were tempered-tuned, so that an "A" on one might be slightly different from an "A" on another, since each was set up to sound "correct" in a diatonic scale based on a different key.
    Sounds like a wonderful memory of the "good ole days." I also remember thinking how "high tech" I was back in 1966, owning a pitch pipe--even though the term "high tech" had not yet become commonplace. When I worked at a busy guitar shop, I probably had close to perfect pitch--learned from tuning 50+ guitars a day. I'm certainly not as good today, so I keep my tuning fork on the workbench for a handy reference. I remember as a kid, the man tuning my sister's piano and explaining how it had to be tempered. Of course, anyone who plays a fretted intrument must accept tempered tuning as part of the overall design....whether you are "in tune" or not, technically, you are always out of tune (tempered). Somewhat like insisting on knowing the "exact" time of day. Fortunately, most people do not have perfect pitch and also beer is often served at places where I play.....so not really an issue for most of us.

    I've had customers who wanted me to refurbush their old Silvertone or Harmony guitar and add a tunematic bridge and make their guitar play "in tune." I tell them that I can improve any guitar, but sometimes the player's ear is better than what the guitar can ever achieve, technically speaking. (unless you remove the frets, but then it wouldn't really sound like a guitar anymore.)

    You just have to find where you fit into the scheme of things, as a player and who you are playing with.

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  6. #30
    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    thx Allen.
    Yes, I am with Maybelle - I have replaced a few. Never a full set.
    quote you:
    "One of the main considerations is how far to back off the tuning pins before attaching the new strings; not too far, not too little."
    I did not know that - I guess I got lucky; missed the problem. I wondered how those work, however. I'll keep that in mind for future reference.
    I have always wanted one that's louder. They seem mostly to be the same construction, altho the woods vary a little. I think to get a good one might involve a custom builder, I found they exist on the net.
    Yes, I just pick one up once in a while, play it a bit, then sell it. I think I need to find a jug band or something. Last one I had was a 21chord. I liked that; but still ended up selling it. It even had the original case.
    I have looked at some Chromaharps. Haven't seen one I liked.
    I will probably get another one someday; but right now I'm mostly not playing guitar, playing and repairing mando, and there's a fiddle on the back burner. all nice instruments. I know nothing about fiddle; it needs a real violin guy to set it up. I found one; just gotta get there. It's olde and all flamy maply and like that - big sentimental value also. I don't know if I will ever learn to play it. I think I could make a note or three.

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    "The intellect is a boring load of crawp. Aye. Next wee chune".

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  8. #31

    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post

    Maybelle Carter was once asked about restringing her Autoharp; her answer was along the lines of, "Did it once -- never do it again -- replace strings only when they break." Who am I to argue with Maybelle Carter?
    I concur with Mother!

    With 4 harps, 3 hammered dulcimers (and scads of other stringed gear), this is my approach. (Not to mention that I'm a guy who would rather play than work - even if it's just changing strings ..)

    Unfortunately, strings do break with some frequency on wire harps. Some (like mine) are quite sensitive to climactic fluctuations - I've had several strings pop overnight while the house cools down. It's kinda interesting - hearing the pops and groans and tones of vibrating strings on my soundboards periodically as they adjust to ambient conditions - I have floating soundboards on my hammered duclimers, so at least when they pop - although quite loud - the strings aren't breaking and I know the woods aren't cracking - merely the movement of the floating soundboards, under tension. My harps though - freak me out when this happens.

    *Happy Mother's Day
    Last edited by catmandu2; May-09-2015 at 11:15pm. Reason: *

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  10. #32

    Default Re: Snark tuner

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    Quote Originally Posted by MysTiK PiKn View Post
    ... a custom builder...
    I like what one of our local builders is doing with autoharps -


    I wondered how those work..
    Zither pins - it's what I work with primarily (and on trad clarsach - where no pivots are used - the windings determine string alignment - an important aspect)

  11. #33
    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
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    I like what one of our local builders is doing with autoharps -

    Zither pins - it's what I work with primarily (and on trad clarsach - where no pivots are used - the windings determine string alignment - an important aspect)
    I think there's big room for improvement in the oscar design - mainly by finding way to enhance vol and tone.

    That's a nice picture. Looks like rosewood ('saddle'?) and maybe mahogany frame - it's a "frame" in oscar's - that one maybe has sides like a guitar. Notice the brace through the soundhole, I've never noticed one of those before. And the hole has a nice inlaid ring. Nice touch, and possibly a tone enhancement also. Is the top made of spruce or maple??? or other? Do you have more pix of that one? Also it has binding. Improvements like that can run the price up; but if I owned one, I would not be selling it due to the onset of boredom, which is what I more or less experience w oscar stuff. I don't think an automatic player, like an autoharp is, will ever achieve the respect that a real harp gets, not to mention many other instruments; but the ho-hum simple design idea just maintains some kind of low position in the great hierarchy of instruments - autoharps are not taken seriously, or are simply relegated as weird, or "what's that thing"? Compare that to the extreme attention that a 'harp guitar' gets - most of those are museum pieces, which sadly renders them as untouchable - and if they do appear 'for sale', they are again cheapies, and lack potency. Even 'bones' get more respect - and they are just 2 sticks banging together. I was scanning a beach for potential "guitar pick stones", and found a couple pieces of driftwood that I kept as bones. (acoustic percussion). I also had an array of empty tin cans that I filled with varying amounts of rice grains. But that's another jam session that never really happened. It's hard to generate enthusiasm, unless maybe people see you doing it. Then they all want a turn.

    = The Loar, LM700VS c.2013 = "The Brat"
    = G. Puglisi, "Roma" c.1907 = "Patentato" - rare archBack, canted top, oval
    = Harmony, Monterrey c.1969 = collapsed ply - parts, testing, training, firewood.


    "The intellect is a boring load of crawp. Aye. Next wee chune".

  12. #34

    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Well the AH isn't a harp, of course, it's a zither, so it's not going to provide the same depth, timbre, resonance, etc of a harp. Take a look at the soundbox on harps - huge box. Without belaboring, a resonant harp is huge sound, and very sensitive, and highly responsive.

    For idiomatic applications, AHs do what they do nicely. The Oscar Schmidt AH I had was a pretty resonant thing (of course, not the same thing as a harp), although I've had smaller and lighter AHs that were pretty good too. I love zithers, although myself I like something more like the kantele. Many folks in the clinical environment use AHs to provide clients with opportunities to strum a harp-like instrument, as this type of musical experience is often quite evocative and therapeutic for folks. I've used AHs for this - currently I use a small lap harp (Stoney End, nylon, which is a really resonant instrument for its compact size - and is an amazing tool to use in this milieu).

    Here's the link to Pete's AH page - http://www.netguitar.com/en/framedpages/autoharps.html
    Last edited by catmandu2; May-10-2015 at 7:23pm.

  13. #35
    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Thanks for the link.
    Stringed Instrument Division - seems like an interesting place. I kinda felt like I was back in Europe again.
    Nice autoharps, or chorded zithers, to be more precise.
    There's a pix of a cello - I saw one for sale, very cheap, a while back. It was pretty rough. But cleaned up, it would look much like that one. I kept a picture of it. Expendable income kinda got in the way on that one. It was only 500. Needed a fair bit of work. Edges had been banged around. Lots of scratches.

  14. #36
    Shredded Cheese Authority Emmett Marshall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    I've currently have two "Snarks." An older model, and the newer model which is supposed to be more accurate. Both have served me well over the past several years. The batteries do last a long time. Because they are inexpensive, I will take them anywhere and don't much care what happens to them. I had three at one point, but gave one to a banjo player in Colorado who forgot his. When I'm practicing, I will sometimes forget and leave the Snark on my peg head.

    When I'm playing with others, I don't leave a tuner on the peg head. I try not to tune back up unless I absolutely have to because I don't want to be the only one playing in tune when environmental conditions are affecting everyone who is playing. If the others are tuning though, then I'll take advantage of the moment and tune back up also.

    Lately, I've become very fond of the "Peterson Strobo Clip." It's not cheap, but I think it's "da bomb" for a clip on tuner. It's extremely accurate, (1/1000th of a semi-tone) and has compensated tuning specifically for the mandolin, as well as settings for instruments without a lot of sustain. Okay, I just love the darn thing. Due to it's cost though, I tend to put it right back in the instrument case after use. The Snark usually goes into my front blue jeans pocket. If I'm going to be playing in a "high risk" environment, then I use the Snark only - use it, then put it back in my pocket or the instrument case depending on the situation.
    Last edited by Emmett Marshall; May-11-2015 at 7:52am.
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  15. #37

    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by MysTiK PiKn View Post
    Thanks for the link.
    Stringed Instrument Division - seems like an interesting place. I kinda felt like I was back in Europe again.
    Nice autoharps, or chorded zithers, to be more precise.

    I'll be following yall's discussion on the tuners - for the first time in my life I'm in a position where I could really use something...unfortunately, the consensus on the harp forums is that they're not very effective for our needs (as I'd mentioned). Maybe something will evolve in tech, or someone will have insights in how better to solve these issues.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; May-12-2015 at 8:15am. Reason: Per posters request

  16. #38
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    ...That said, they are kind of fragile if you're not careful with them. My wife broke the little plastic collar that holds the neck piece to the clip. So you have to be careful about twisting and bending the display, or cramming it in a case.

    This has happened to me x3; that's why I prefer the Orb Tuner, NFI Orb Tuner by Tune Tech
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  17. #39
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    I have been using a Snark SN-8, like the functionality of it, have had no issues with the clip.


    Today i'm sitting with a dead battery in the Snark and have resorted back to my

    Intellitouch, which uses two of the same batteries as the snark, the Intellitouch hasn't

    been used for over a year and when I fired 'er up, it worked like a charm.

  18. #40
    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by emmettw View Post
    I've currently have two "Snarks." . . . The batteries do last a long time. . . .
    This has not been my experience . . . or maybe it depends on what you mean by "last." They die gradually, unfortunately. This could be the reason for Catmandu's bad experience. It would be better if they died all at once instead of giving bad readings.

    A guy I jam with keeps a pocket full of batteries and hands out fresh ones on a fairly regular basis.
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  19. #41
    Shredded Cheese Authority Emmett Marshall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
    . . . or maybe it depends on what you mean by "last."
    I think it probably has to do with how often it is used, or how long it is used for? I might change batteries a few times a year. I keep extra batteries in my mandolin case. It's not a "biggie" for me, and it's never been so bad that I felt it was worth complaining about. To me, a long time would be 4+ months, and they have lasted that long.
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  20. #42
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    They die gradually, unfortunately.
    Any battery-operated tuner will have that problem. It's a battery problem, not a tuner problem. Unfortunately, that's the nature of how batteries die. They don't just quit, they taper off slowly. So they'll start reading on the flat side as the batteries near their end, just like they'll cause a digital watch to run slow or the numbers to turn dim.

    We had a dobro player show up to our jam, and he sounded awful and out of tune (not that a dobro ever really sounds good, LOL), despite having just tuned up before we started. Turns out, his tuner battery was near dead and giving him flat readings. He borrowed someone else's tuner and all was well. But I had never really realized just how much difference a low battery would make.

  21. #43
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    In a band rehearsal, a guitarist, who shall ever remain nameless was continuously out of tune. When I pointed out the needle needed to be green, not red, the tuning issues subsided.
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  22. #44

    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
    This has not been my experience . . . or maybe it depends on what you mean by "last." They die gradually, unfortunately. This could be the reason for Catmandu's bad experience. It would be better if they died all at once instead of giving bad readings.
    Just for clarification - I have no direct experience with the snark (nor any other e-tuner, save for a brief encounter many years ago). The findings I mentioned are reports from others (specific to a given application/instrument).

  23. #45
    Shredded Cheese Authority Emmett Marshall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    They could redesign the circuit to cut off once voltage/current fall below a certain amount?
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  24. #46
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snark tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by emmettw View Post
    They could redesign the circuit to cut off once voltage/current fall below a certain amount?
    That would be a smart move. My Ryobi electric tools which use rechargeable batteries do this. I feel a slight loss of power in my weed-eater for a while, but then it just shuts off rather than going into that sad slowly-dwindling power stage that previous models did. I would think that any battery-operated device that needs full power to operate properly would benefit from such a cut-off. Or even just a warning signal for low battery power, to notify the user that they need to change batteries. Surely the electronics for such a sensor wouldn't drastically affect the cost.

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