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.
We Gather Together

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.

Ben Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:34


Star Spangled Banner (To Anachreon in Heav'n)

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.

Ben Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:32


Spirit of Life

By Carolyn McDade
Autoharp arrangement by Ben Stallings

For some reason when I play this ordinarily sedate hymn as an instrumental, I like to use a sort of calypso rhythm. Don't ask me why. Click through for a recording.

Ben Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:30


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg.
Autoharp arrangement by Ben Stallings.
Click through to listen to this arrangement.

Ben Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:22


Liberty Bell March

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.

Ben Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:14


Loveliest Night of the Year

by Mario Lanza
autoharp arrangement by Ben Stallings
see below an MP3 of this arrangement

This is a good warm-up piece before attempting the Liberty Bell March, since it uses some of the same chord progressions. Click through for a recording of this arrangement.

Ben Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:12



Submitted by Ben on Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:10

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.


Blue Boat Home (Hyfrydol)

Submitted by Ben on Fri, 02/27/2009 - 13:06

lyrics by Peter Mayer
tune ("Hyfrydol") by Rowland Prichard.

Peter Mayer's tune differs from the traditional hymn in that the last three notes are drawn out to three beats apiece; traditionally they get only one. Additionally, in the last verse during the words "sky my sailor song" he holds the Em chord while singing G for the entire line.

I play this in C or D because it's easier for me to sing. Your harp may sing it better in G. Here is a video of me performing it in D.