>>Harp Info - Harp String Tying
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Harp String Tying
Your harp has just broken a string and you need to replace it?
These instructions and illustrations will help!
Some Background Information
Each model and make of harp has its particular set of strings – called a stringband and computed by a professional luthier to produce the best sound and least string breakage for the style and construction of your harp..
These instructions apply to nylon or gut strung harps with or without bass wire strings. A 36-string folk harp will commonly be strung with the bottom 3-8 bass strings in wire, the lower middle strings in wound nylon, and the top 3+ octaves in monofilament nylon. The bass wire and the lower middle wound nylon strings do not generally need to be tied as the string length is made to the specifications of the particular harp and arrives at your door with a knot and leather or cork plug already in place.Hence these strings are pricier to purchase but less hassle to put on. Make sure you purchase the strings specified by your harp-maker for that model of harp. String manufacturers such as Robinsons, Vermont Strings and Markwood keep on file the stringbands of most popular models of folk harps.
Hence, more specifically, these string-tying instructions apply to monofilament nylon or gut strings.
The gauge (thickness) of these strings may be very fine - from.020 inches in the top strings to very thick – .055 inches plus in the middle or bottom strings.
Diagram of harp with tuning pins, bridge pins, eyelets and lever, bass, middle and treble strings, access hole
First remove the broken string by unwinding the tuning pin and pulling any broken string end out of the soundboard eyelet.
Thread the new string (don't cut it to length at this point) through the eyelet hole from the soundboard side. Pull the end out through the nearest access hole in the back of the soundbox.
Fold over the last 2 cm of the string. Crimp it hard with your nail so it retains the fold (the thicker the string the more challenging this is to do)
Pinching the crimp between thumb and index finger and holding the length coming out of the soundbox with the other hand, loop the crimp around the length and enter the loop from the other side
Hold the crimp in place inside the loop and pull the length to firm it there.
Option: Have a cut piece of heavier nylon string for a cross-piece. (preferably a colour different from the string you are tying for easier visibility inside the soundbox) and insert it in the loop alongside the crimp. This will prevent the string knot being pulled through the eylet and is usually only necessary for the smaller gauge strings though I tend to use them on all monofilament strings as insurance.
Pull the string length from the soundboard side, keeping the knot firmly pinched until it reaches the back of the soundboard. Keep enough tension on the string to ensure the crimp and the cross-piece don't fall out.
Maintain tension on the string length with 1 hand while threading the free string end through the tuning pin hole.
Leave 3 fingers width in slack before starting to wind the tuning pin. (Have your tuning wrench within easy reach!)
Start winding! On most harps this is in a clockwise direction (ie away from you as you stand facing the pillar). However check the other strings on your harp – they should all go around the tuning pins in the same direction. In most cases the string should be wound onto the tuning pin so that the wraps move towards the neck of the harp. Exceptions are when tuning pin holes are located adjacent to the neck already and wraps must move out.
Ensure that the string is aligned correctly with the lever pins and the bridge pin (look at the nearby intact strings for models)
Check the crimp and cross-piece are still in place before you bring the string up to tension.
Most folk harp strings can be brought up to desired pitch tension right away though on some synthetic fibre strings this is not recommended (Eg. Savarez KF strings). The string will immediately go flat after tuning it and this will happen repeatedly as the string stretches. With frequent tunings it should stabilise in a few days.
For fine gauge top strings you may want to lock the string on the tuning pin as it can have a tendency to pull through of the hole. Do this by threading the end of the string through the tuning pin hold twice in a complete loop.
Push the wraps together on the tuning pin so the threading hole is covered. This also locks in the string, and is particularly important for the lighter guage strings.
Give it a few days before you cut the extra remaining length at the tuning pin. The loose end will remind you which string needs extra tuning.
Don't leave your tuning key hanging off the tuning pin without your hand on it. If it falls off and strikes the soundboard it may dent or even crack the wood.
If there are too many wraps on your tuning pin, you can unwind the string on that pin, pull some length through then rewind the string back up to tension. 3 – 5 wraps on the tuning pin is all you need to lock the string. Too many wraps may run into the neck wood or create an acute angle of string to bridge pin hence popping the string out of the bridge pin groove.
Changing All the Strings on Your Harp(s)
There is lots of speculation and discussion on how often one should change their full set of harp strings.
- Some players change strings once every year or every 2 years, others like me wait until they hear a difference in the quality of the sound from the instrument before changing.
- If you notice that you are playing harder (with more pull) and still getting a thin sound from your harp then a change of strings will likely make a huge difference.
- A new set of strings on a good harp is like having a new instrument as all the rich harmonics return and the instrument is more responsive and true to pitch
Before starting check that you have an entire replacement string set - specific to your harp make and model.
- Start at either end of the harp and remove one string, replace it immediately, then go on to the next string.
- You can stop anywhere along the way but avoid leaving your harp "gap-toothed" or you may have strings adjacent to the gap breaking with the additional tension.
- Leave the long ends on the new strings at the neck until you finish restringing the harp.
- This enables you to visually check which strings you've already changed.