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The Harmolin, how it works...

The harmolin, like the autoharp, plays chords by means of allowing one to play only selected strings at will, namely those which are tuned to the notes of the desired chord. The means by which it accomplishes this is altogether different from that employed by the autoharp. In my opinion, both are altogether ingenious and successful contraptions.

I should point out that some of my photos came out less than great, so I had to do some "doctoring" on them. It is very obvious and not at all artfully done, but it provides simulated visibility that better answers to this page's goal than would have the unaltered images. That said, let's have a look at the harmolin.

metal grate attachment

In the first photo, the metal grate is in playing position, resting on top of the instrument. The instrument itself is to be on a table, lap, or other horizontal surface. This metal grate is removable, and also adjustable, as you will see. The 15 slots in the grate each represent a chord. Also shown is the damper bar, which silences all the strings when pushed down. This is so you can silence a chord as you're changing to a different chord, so the two don't overlap and run together. The red arrow indicates the direction we're going to flip the grate for the second photo, in which the grate will be upside-down.

pin and notches in bottom of grate

Here you can see a row of 12 little notches in the bottom side of the grate. The grate is set onto the instrument with the little pin in any one of the 12 notches. This produces one "set" of 15 chords (one chord for each slot of the grate). When the grate is repositioned so that the pin is in a different notch, this produces a different "set" of chords. So in other words, there are 12 sets of 15 chords, for a total of 180 chords. There is some duplication from one set to the next, and I don't know the actual number of different chords it produces, but suffice it to say it's a lot.

Also shown (though obscured by the arrows) is one of the 4 side stops, which prevent the grate from moving left-to-right. There's one at each corner of the grate, and all 4 are pointed out in the previous image above.

bottom view of pick

The harmolin is equipped with a special pick, and we'll be looking at some different views of it in the next few photos. First the bottom view. The pick is equipped with a clear plastic "arm", which bears the plectrum (the part that actually plucks the strings) and a small wheel. The arm is hinged on a pin near the end opposite the wheel, and is pushed downward by a spring. The body of the pick also has a ridge cast into it, and this is the part that rides between the rails of the grate.+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + ++++++++++++++++++ + + + +++++++++++ + + + +++++++++ + + +

side view of pick

Next, we are looking at the side view of the pick, from the wheel end of the arm. First, it is shown with the arm/wheel/plectrum down, in which position it would be plucking a string. In the second image, the arm/wheel/plectrum is retracted, in which position it would not be plucking any string. When the arm is in retracted position, the strings are out of the plectrum's reach.

end view of pick

Now we see the end view of the pick, again in both "engaged" and "retracted" positions. Here we get the end view of the casting ridge and the hinge pin for the arm.

side view of pick in action

Now let's look at how this special pick works with the grate to play music. As above, we'll start with the side view. You can see that each rail of the grate has rounded notches cut out of it. In the top image, the arm/wheel is in retracted position. The tip of the plectrum can't reach any string to pluck it, because the arm is being forced upward by the rail.

But in the second image, the wheel falls into one of the rounded notches, and the arm is forced downward by the spring. This also lowers the plectrum, enabling it to now reach and thus pluck the string directly below this particular rounded notch in the rail. Incidentally, I raised the body of the pick up off the rail a little so you could see better how it works; it would normally be riding on the rail, as in the top photo.

end view of pick in action

And last, we have the end view of the pick in playing position.