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1882, name on a patent taken out by Charles F. Zimmermann of Philadelphia, U.S.A., for an improved type of harp, an instrument considerably different from the modern autoharp, actually a chord zither, which was invented about the same time by K.A. Gütter of Markneukirchen, Germany, who called it a Volkszither.
stringed instrument of the zither family popular for accompaniment in folk music and country and western music. A musician may position the instrument on a table, on the lap while seated, or resting against the left shoulder. An autoharp player strums the strings with a stiff felt or plastic pick held in the right hand or less commonly with the thumb of the right hand, while the left hand operates button-controlled bars that damp all strings except those of the selected chords. Autoharps may be tuned diatonically (i.e., using a scale or scales based on seven steps to the octave) or chromatically (i.e., using 12 semitones to the octave), and the number of chord bars varies from as few as 3 to as many as 27, with 15- and 21-chord models being the most popular. The instrument has been used for teaching simple harmony