Can you tune a harp in a diff. key?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    unknown-user on #163806

    Are you able to play a harp in a different key?For instance if a classical song is in E and your harp is in C?Or do you need a harp that is in that key already?Also I am a new harper,are there finger exersizes that you can do to make your fingers stronger when plucking the strings,without straining or spraining your fingers?I was trying to play my first song on the harp and my fingers are really weak?

    tony-morosco on #163807

    It depends on the harp.

    A pedal harp can play in any key by setting the pedals to different positions.

    A lever harp can be played in several different keys, but which ones and how many depends on how the harp is tuned to begin with, and if there are levers on every string or only on certain ones.

    A non-pedal harp without levers needs to be re-tuned to the key you want to play in, with the exception of rarer harps with varying degrees of chromatic ability (cross strung harp, triple strung harp, in line chromatic harp etc…).

    To help your hands I suggest Salzedo’s Conditioning Exercises, and Deborah Friou’s Harp Exercises for Agility and Speed, both available through Sylvia Woods Harp Center as well as many other harp supply companies.

    jennifer-buehler on #163808

    What kind of harp do you have?

    Audrey Nickel on #163809

    Actually, you may be able to play the accidental, depending on what it is and where.

    unknown-user on #163810

    I have a 38 inch tall Mintstrel harp by Mid-East.It is a lever harp.It is a 29 string harp and has levers on 26 of the strings except the last 4 highest strings.The reason for my asking if you can tune a harp to a diff. key is because someone told me most classical music is played in the key of E.

    barbara-brundage on #163811

    >most classical music is played in the key of E

    Not exactly. What they probably meant was that on a fully-levered harp, tuning the harp in the key of E-flat in the open string gives you the most useful range of available keys for playing classical music, within the limitations of a lever harp. If you tune in E-flat you can play in the keys from three flats to four sharps, which covers the most commonly used keys better than tuning in C, which gives you from no sharps to seven sharps, but no flat keys at all.

    However, I personally would not look to get much good from the levers on a Mid-East harp. (If yours actually work, great, but you’re very lucky if so.) If the levers work, tuning in E-flat would probably prolong the life of the harp a tad since it’s a bit less tension on it, but if they don’t I’d stick to tuning in C and recognize that you just have limitations on what you can do.

    jennifer-buehler on #163812

    I would also suggest learning some theory.

    tony-morosco on #163813

    Sylvia Wood’s book Music Theory and Arranging techniques for the Folk Harp is an excellent place to start.

    Also The Complete Idiots Guide to Music Theory (despite the unfortunate title) is excellent.

    And for those who already know how to

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