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DOT NEWLAND | Music Therapist talks about Autoharp for therapy

Autoharping Meets Social and Emotional Needs

In Music Therapy I have found that the Autoharp can be an ideal instrument to reach people, who may be bedridden or isolated in hospital units, as it is portable and accessible to both music therapist and patient. It is also versatile because many different styles from folk and blues to rock may be played on 21 bar chords. In addition a music therapist has flexibility in  using many different music moods through accessibility to a row of  7ths for Blues, a row of minor chords for possible “Dirges” and both majors, minors and & 7ths for uplifting energetic and joyful sounds.
As an educational tool, the Autoharp can be easily adapted for use with people with special needs, who may have a physical disability or visual impairment and who may be encouraged to accompany themselves on the autoharp while singing. And in other social groups such as teens, the ease of autoharp playing can be a bridge into the world of music learning and education.
In community singing groups the singing potential of shy or socially isolated people in groups may be easily nurtured and encouraged through singing and playing the autoharp as an accompaniment.  Many folk and gospel songs adapted for the autoharp such as “Amazing Grace”, “I Saw the Light” or “Hard Times Come Again No More” can often strike a sympathetic chord in the hearts of people, who have experienced some kind of hardship and need emotional support as a group. Confidence in singing and self-expression may improve and new social bonding may develop in such a singing group with a common purpose and invested interest in learning new songs.
Currently I am playing an adapted left-handed autoharp with fine tuners (custom built for me by Evan Mathieson) and tuning takes less than 10 mins a day with an electronic tuner. The efficiency of tuning, accessibility to internet autoharp networks and autoharp mentors are some of the factors creating a supportive environment for educating new autoharp players.

Dot Newland
Music Therapist
Member of  BTCMSA