Calgary busker delights commuters with an unusual instrument — the autoharp

Most buskers provide a soundtrack to the rush-hour commute playing a saxophone or guitar, but busker Darryl Minsky does it with an unusual instrument called an autoharp.

Darryl Minsky can usually be found playing his autoharp at the Brentwood and Dalhousie LRT stations

Darryl Minsky plays his autoharp 2:21

Most buskers provide a soundtrack to the rush-hour commute playing a saxophone or guitar, but busker Darryl Minsky does it with an unusual instrument called an autoharp.

The former computer consultant has taken to playing in LRT stations and parks around the city for the enjoyment of passersby. 

"I love seeing people smile or dance when I play ... it's a general recognition that it's a cool sound coming out of this thing," Minsky told the Eyeopener.

What's an autoharp?

The autoharp is a chorded zither — a stringed folk musical instrument that plays one chord by muting all other strings.

Although "harp" is in the name, the autoharp is not considered to be one, but it does sound a bit like one. 

Darryl Minsky busks on his autoharp. (Atiba Nelson/CBC)

According to Minsky, the beauty and ease of the autoharp is that, "You don't have to aim directly at the individual strings that you need to play a melody."

"It's simple to play. I often tell people that I could show them how to play it in five minutes," he said.

Minsky purchased the instrument at a local Goodwill store, tuned it, and taught himself how to play. He has been busking with the autoharp ever since.

He takes requests

After a decade of busking, Minsky has taken hundreds of requests, but his 'go-to' song is Hotel California by the Eagles — which also happens to be the most requested.

Darryl Minsky taught himself to play the autoharp in under a day. (Atiba Nelson/CBC)

"The opening chords are so recognizable. Even though people may not know the name of the song, they often hum along," said Minsky.

Minsky busks on his own schedule, but his main stage is the Brentwood LRT station, followed closely by the Dalhousie station.

With files from the Eyeopener