Autoharp 101 Interview with Marc Gunn

Marc Gunn. Celtic Folk Musician (& Cat Lover!)

Answers from the Godfather.

I have been a Marc Gunn newsletter subscriber for as long as I started blogging.  He writes, performs and at the same time reviews Celtic music. One day I had this idea to drop these questions and see what comes out of them.  Read below:

1. How did you learn to play the autoharp?

It was 1997. My band, Breastfed, just broke up. I was playing mostly
punk, alternative, and grunge music. My songwriting was really bad.
I wanted to write better songs with more compelling melodies and
lyrics. However, I was limited by being a bad guitarist. I couldn’t
focus on good melodies when I had to focus on creating the right
chord. So I picked up the autoharp.

I took one of my dad’s autoharps to college with me. When the band
broke up, I picked up an autoharp songbook and started strumming. I
played these strums over and over again. When I felt I knew the strum,
I created my own patterns and I wrote a song.

Every morning as I walked to the Texas Department of Health, where I
worked, I had finger picks on and practiced strum patterns. Then I
went home and practiced them with the autoharp and wrote another song.
It worked great for me.

> 2. It looks like a complicated instrument but can you give us a closer look at the instrument? What are the things you learned about it and how do you start learning it?

I love the autoharp because it has a short learning curve. You can
start playing the instrument quickly. To play well… that takes a
bit more time.

It has five octaves. That’s amazing for most folk instruments.
However, it is limited by only 15-21 chord bars. That means if you
wanna play a diminished 6th, you can’t UNLESS you replace a chord bar.

My 21-chord autoharps include most of the major, minor and 7th chords.
When you learn to change chords quickly, you can play melodies on the
autoharp fairly easy. It takes time though.

I play with a lot of flourishes. My fingers dance on the strings.
That makes it look more complicated than it is. However, most
everything I learned about the instrument came from that Mel Bay
autoharp book. With time, you learn to hit the right string in a
chord while your fingers dance around the strings. It just takes

But at the basic level, just press a button and strum.

> 3.Who are your vocal influences?

Elvis Presley was my first vocal influence… Well, actually probably
my dad. He was always good with voices. I can sing with my voice or
an accent imitating someone else. When I started playing Celtic
music, I listened to an old cassette of Irish drinking songs. The
singers were very nasally. So I started singing with a nasal sound.
Christy Moore was part of that early education as were The Balladeers
and The Dubliners.

My last band broke up in 2008. After that, I really started singing
with my own voice.

> 4. How many albums ave you released so far?

Ummmmmm…. A lot! My label, Mage Records, has well-over forty albums
to my various names, personae and bands. My old band, the
Brobdingnagian Bards, released 12 official albums. I have 14 that are
currently out. My latest is “Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits”. It an
album hobbit drinking songs.

My success has largely been based on releasing a lot of music. I give
away a ton of music, for free in fact (see ). I want people to hear my music
more than anything. Since I started doing that in 2000, I’ve given
away literally millions of MP3s. It’s pretty incredible.

> 5. You are an amazing media guy when it comes to spreading Celtic music awareness…can you share with us the tricks in keeping everything together?

LOL. Oy. I’m not sure. It’s never been easy. Google Alert is pretty
cool for that. For a while, I spent 60-80 hours per week doing all
aspects of my music business. I’m married with a baby now. So I
can’t do that any more.

Now days, I try to get as much help as I can. My Celtic Music
Magazine and Irish & Celtic Music Podcast are invaluable tools for
promoting Celtic music. Most Celtic bands come to me. I get press
releases and emails. The toughest part is organizing that information
so I can share it. I have a bunch of notetab files for that purpose.
Sometimes I remember.

> 6. What advice can you give me about maintaining my blog?

Blog often. Keep at it. Email any band you feature in it to let them
know they are featured. Ask them to post a link to your blog. Read
Problogger. ( ). I’m not sure blogging for
profit is possible in Celtic music… or least not much profit. But
it has some great advice for building a reader fan base.

Marc Gunn


Cunla Band,It gets better and better!

Check this band out. I think they are awesome. Thanks to my friend Jimmy for posting these guys.

Cunla band plays traditional and contemporary Irish music, with a little pinch
of world music. Cunla are:

Ella Jackson Shlomi – vocals, Bodhran.
Elad Yifrah – flute, tin-whistle, accordion.
Oded Navon – guitar.
Ofer Groman – vocals, bodhran, uilleann pipes, tin-whistle.



3 Replies to “Autoharp 101 Interview with Marc Gunn”

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