I love the fact that the autoharp is an easy instrument to learn and play (compared to piano, for example), but I'm not a big fan of playing backup! Below are some of my more extravagant melody arrangements.

Notation conventions:

  • Chords and melody notes are spaced to line up with the syllables of the lyrics when viewed in a monospaced font.
  • Chords are major unless otherwise specified as minor (m) or 7th (7).
  • Chords are given for each beat in a measure. If a chord stays the same for more than one beat within a measure, it is indicated subsequent times by -, but in the next measure it will be explicitly named again.
  • If another chord is needed to play a melody note that does not fall on the beat, the chord name will be given in (parentheses) to indicate that it is not on the beat.
  • Melody notes are numbered by octave following the MIDI convention. The lowest partial octave on the harp is numbered 1, the second octave (A through G#) is 2, and so on up to the highest partial octave, number 5. Numbers are only given when the melody moves to a new octave.

Rainbow Connection

By Ben |

Music & lyrics by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. Autoharp arrangement by Ben Stallings.

Note: The final verse of this song is supposed to be a half-step higher than the first two. However, the only major keys my autoharp has that are half a step apart are E and F, and I don't have all the necessary chords to play it in E. So what I have notated instead is F to G, going up a whole step on the last note of the bridge.

We Gather Together

By Ben |

After playing just the melody notes through once, I like to play this a second time with twice as many strokes... it fills the song out somehow.

See below for an MP3 of this arrangement.

Note that this is in 3/4 time, with the first beat of each line held over from the previous measure.

Star Spangled Banner (To Anachreon in Heav'n)

By Ben |

Autoharp arrangement by Ben Stallings

Note that this is in 3/4 time with the first beat of each line held over from the previous measure, so that you should start counting time with the word "say."

I like to play this with the more rollicking rhythm of the original song, "To Anacreon in Heav'n." Click through for a recording of my arrangement... it took two takes, so there's a hiccup in the middle.

Liberty Bell March

By Ben |

by John Phillip Souza
a.k.a. the theme song of Monty Python's Flying Circus
autoharp arrangement by Ben Stallings

This tune has no lyrics, but here's the fully orchestrated tune in case you're unfamiliar. Note that this recording is in the key of F while the transcription below is in G... unless your 'harp has an A#7 (Bb7) chord button, you won't be able to hit all the melody notes in F. But you could practice playing backup along with the music, if you like.


By Ben |

When I was first teaching myself to play the autoharp, I got to feeling pretty cocky about my ability to play by ear. I brought it along to a church youth conference I was chaparoning and asked a teenage boy to pick a tune so I could demonstrate. I was expecting him to choose a rock song, I guess, but hearing a rock song butchered on the autoharp was not his priority: much better to make himself look smart and take me down a notch! He asked for "Greensleeves," and I was stumped... it took me about 5 years to work out this arrangement, and I don't ask teenagers for requests anymore.