If Camac Nylgut is more like pedal gut than Artist Nylon is, why is Artist Nylon still made the way it is? What is the point of (supposedly pedal-tension) Artist Nylon at this point, particularly in the middle octaves, if it’s thinner than either pedal gut or Camac Nylgut and has less tension than pedal gut or Camac Nylgut? Now that Camac Nylgut has proven that it’s possible for Nylon to be made more dense with thicker guages, why hasn’t Bow Brand redesigned their pedal Artist Nylon strings to be more like Camac Nylgut, especially so that those of us who would like to replace our pedal gut strings with nylon don’t have to then get the whole harp re-regulated? Are there any advantages of Artist Nylon (as it currently is) over Camac Nylgut?
Artist Nylon is made by Bow Brand. Camac Nylgut is made by Aquila.
Artist Nylon has been much longer on the market than Nylgut for pedal harps.
That’s all I know about it. I once used Artist Nylon for the upper register of a harp I don’t longer own. I was not very impressed by its sound, but I don’t know whether nylgut at that place would have sounded better.
Nylgut is not nylon, but a different polymer. Nylon is _less_ dense than gut. Fluorocarbon is _more_ dense than gut.
In practical terms, at a given tension and pitch, a nylon string will be thicker than gut, a fluorocarbon string thinner, and nylgut about the same. The thickness not only affects the feel, but also the regulation, as you have noted.
Artist Nylon cannot be redesigned to be the same thickness as gut, because it would then be at too low a tension to properly energize either the harp or the string.
As another twist, nylon, gut, fluorocarbon, and nylgut each react differently to humidity in the air, changing pitch different amounts. They also stretch differently, sound different, and have different lifetimes.
Thanks for the info, Charles! I didn’t realize that pedal gut is actually thinner than Artist nylon, but I suppose it makes sense! Somehow I thought gut would be thicker, but I suppose I’m confusing that with being more dense. I also didn’t realize that Nylgut isn’t Nylon. In a way, calling it “NylGut” is almost false advertising on 2 counts! Hah!
Hello Gregg and all,
I checked the string chart that came with my Camac Atlantide Prestige. It specifies, starting at the highest string G of the harp:
G00 to F7 –Special Nylon for gut string harp
E8 to A33 –Standard Gut or Light Gut “English Gauge”
or Heavy Gauge Gut or Nylgut
G34 to C45 (to the lowest C string, which is string 47 actually) Galli wires for concert harp, standard gauge or light gauge
As you can see, Nylon is still used at the top. Nylgut is only supposed to be used as an option further down, at E8 and lower. E8 begins the “second octave” of a concert pedal harp.
I hope this sheds a little light on the subject.
Best wishes and harp hugs,
Thanks, Balfour! What is “Special Nylon for gut-strung harp”? Is it analogous to Artist Nylon? By the way, I really wish there would be a real standard for referring to harp string notes. Numbering the strings from the top creates confusion since there’s so much variation in harp compasses, and it sounds like Camac doesn’t even start counting up from string “1” until the 1E string, which somewhat makes sense. But why are harp octaves defined as E down to F? Why not B down to C, or C up to B? I would prefer that harp strings be named by the more conventional musical octave number where C4 is middle-C, and the bottom C of a concert grand would be C1. I suppose it’s somewhat coincidental that 4C on the harp = C4! I was so confused back when I initially researched what the usual concert grand harp range is, because the information I found cited something like 0G to C7. Coming from my organist background (which I know you are one, as well), I thought that was low-to-high, which made me think that concert grands went down to 32′ G in the bass, especially since in the rest of the music world, G0 would be 32′ G!! Haha! 🙂
Yes, some harp stuff is confusing and some makers have their own terminology. It frustrated me too at first! To address some of your questions though….
If the harp is assumed to be a pedal instrument or played like one it will be tuned open to Cb or Eb and octaves are assumed to start and end with Eb, counted down from top to bottom. That makes perfect sense for the instrument’s intended market but is not any sort of standard for any other type of instrument.
If the harp is tuned open to C as with most lever harps there is a standard which is used for many other instruments where C4=middle C. Once I got my head around that – no big deal. But….
An additional irritant is that they do not usually tell you anything else except the composition – how does one know what the tension will be across the range except in general terms and by what the maker says (high, medium, light or other) and are there any “bumps”? You will not know unless you actually sit down with it or they publish a graph or graphs. Which no one I know does (except Chris Caswell but he has passed).
People generalize that gut strungs are high tension and nylon strung medium to low but that is just a result of common practice among harp makers. You can have a high tension nylon strung harp if you wish, e.g.
It’s not that makers are duplicitous but more that they design for a specific market and signature sound; they do not want to get down in the weeds about string theory. Additionally unscrupulous people have been known to copy the design and sell the result as the original. Typically such copies are junk, so many makers consider their string designs proprietary.
Ain’t life great?
I’m with you! I’m interested in eventually getting a Boulevard as a lightweight pedal-tension harp, but I believe they use the exact same bass wires as in the Ravenna, which makes me wonder if there’s more of a bump in tension in one or the other where the wires start.
I can’t remember ever analyzing a stringing for _any_ harp: pedal, lever, light, heavy, or whatever, that did not have a major tension change going into wires. The material densities and tensile strengths and “best sounding” % of breaking strength are simply too different, when adjacent notes are almost required to be nearly the same length for any practical neck design.
There is always a sound change at that point because of the material used, as well.
Hi Gregg and all,
Good posts, these! Gregg, in answer to some of your questions, 1st octave E at the top of the pedal harp used to be the first string, period. Then when makers wanted to go higher, they created the “zero octave” which includes just the f and g on a standard concert grand pedal harp. The range was gradually expanded (by Erard in France and England) to the 47 strings, going down to Low C. (I do like to call that one sixteen-foot C, as an organist, ha, ha!)
On the Camac website, I do not see a difference noted between nylon and nylgut. You may look for yourself and research this further if you like. I did look at Aquila nylgut, which explains the differences, and their string gauges correspond to the metric diameters, just without the decimal.
Good to see all of your posts, my friends!j
Dunno about a “major” tension change but for most harps tension will increase from treble to bass. The thing to look for however is a smooth feeling across the entire range and that is usually seen in the ratio of tension to length. Some harps are deliberately designed to have a big jump in the bass, such as those intended for rapid Celtic style playing, where the bass is not meant for arpeggios or complex chords.
My own preference is for a smooth upwardly sloping tension curve since my harps tend to the medium-high folk tension end and a sudden jump can cause hand injury. My Niohogrr for instance has a very smooth tension curve; the lowest octave strings are metal core nylon wound (bronze or steel core).
As to tone – I just hate metal wound bass strings and will go to some lengths to avoid them – bronze core nylon wound as in the Dusty FHs or fiber core silver wound in some older restored Erards. The latter are expensive and I don’t feel that it buys much unless the higher registers are gut.
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