Bochsa’s tuning method

Posted In: How To Play

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    Angela Biggs on #60052

    . . . At least, Bochsa is the one who wrote it down.

    My Sylvan has never been in tune. I have an old Korg that only shows five-cent intervals, which gets me in the realm of playable, but it’s frequently unpleasant. I’ve tried tuning by ear in perfect octaves and fifths, which worked with the smaller Pakistanis I had in the distant past, but I found that my current five octaves is enough for that method to create dissonance between the highest and lowest pitches.

    Last night, while searching for solutions (should I put an expensive strobe tuner on my wish list?), I found a site that explained [Bochsa’s tuning method]( I tried it this morning, and **wow**! It sweetened equal temperament enough to almost entirely banish that nagging out-of-tune feeling, but didn’t create an unbearable clash between lowest and highest octaves. It took me a long time to tune this way. I don’t think I’ll be able to pull it off for my performance on Sunday, but I expect to get faster as I become accustomed to it.

    I have the feeling that the reason this is a revelation to me – and such a long time coming! – is simply that I don’t have a teacher or anyone to play with. When I’m playing my freshly tuned harp and grimacing, there’s nobody to say, “Oh, hey, if that’s bothering you, I can show you how to fix it.” So, how many of you harpers and harpists already know about this? Do you use it?

    Sherri Matthew on #60053

    Hi Angela,
    Can you hunt the web for a used Zenon Chromatina quartz tuner? That’s what I use on my wire harp. I get it very accurate with that. I’ve heard they’re not made anymore, but if you comb eBay you might be able to come across one. They cover seven octaves and can do 415Hz, 440 Hz, plus some higher ones.

    I like to check my tuning by octaves, and start with the bottom-most strings first, work up to the middle C pair, then start down from the top G and arrive at the middle. It goes pretty quick that way. It’s like a suspension bridge – the tension on one part is dependent on that in another. So I try to balance it out without the tension going up too fast and coming near the breaking point! I’ve never heard of Bochsa. Just trial and error…

    I don’t rely 100% on my tuner – if it says I’m off by a few cents but I can hear (and feel) that the octaves are in unison I leave it alone. Sometimes for the very lowest bass notes I might intentionally leave it a little bit off by a few cents because it shimmers a bit, in a kind of pleasant way. But not by a lot, or it can be pretty jarring!

    shannon-heather-o-brien-wall–2 on #60054

    I use a tuner on my iphone. It’s not specifically for harps but it does a good job. I think the app cost $4.00.

    barbara-brundage on #60055

    That’s pretty much the standard method of tuning from back in the days when you had a tuning fork for A440 or for the C and you did the rest of the harp by ear–tune the first note to the fork, then go by fifths and octaves for the first (middle) octave, then do the rest of the harp in octaves. You’ll also find a simpler diagram in the back of Fun from the First.

    However, you should be able to get a pretty decent tuner for $25 or less these days. It’s worth spending another ten or fifteen dollars for a pick up wire to use with it.

    rosey-brumm on #60056

    If you would like to make me a ‘ friend’ in music stand I can send you an article about this method that is too long for this area.
    Or join Martha Cook’s Shut Up and Play site (free) and you will find some very useful information and this article she wrote after being taught the Bochsa method by her teacher.
    I read your bio and you are a singer. I have perfect pitch. It is a mixed blessing. You may also, and tuning maybe much harder for you to find a happy medium on play back. I also am physically isolated from other players and the normal intercourse between players which is enjoyed and passing on of information and helpful hints is lost to us. We have to ask about for everything after confirming we are not mad. And I have a huge library now…….. so it takes a lot to confirm I am not mad : ) plus I have 8 tuners!
    In the end I have my harps in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. They love it and so do I. I need air conditioning and humidity reduction also for my health. A/C can do a lot on its own.
    Seems over the top but I love the sound of gut strings and I find them easier to tune because of that more mellow sound and they are more sensitive changes and strings break.

    I have found the smaller the nylon harps 30 – 34 strings the harder it is for me to get the pitch right. I suspect because the strings are narrow and the sound bright and they found better homes.
    My large Nylon Triplett Eclipse 38 built in Bubinga, solid as a rock……….. perfect to tune and hold it’s tune. Not so with lighter harps I have loved and let go. I believe their are many factors to tuning, pitch and keeping the pitch correct. Because of a controlled harp room I rarely have to ever do any more than a few touch ups. The Nylons are happy to. I also found harps have a perfect temperature for perfect pitch. And as much as I hate it, fought it, cause I wanted to see their beauty, the harps out of the Harpery in my home I keep covered with a cheap light synthetic bed comforter easy to slip off and on to encourage playing.
    I am awaiting on a book I found on Melody’s site Scientific Tuning. I will let you know.

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