Changing bass wires

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    Andelin on #186258

    I have a L&H prelude that I bought in 2001 (it was not new when I bought it). I am ashamed to admit that I have never changed the wire strings. I am not professional; I don’t take it out often and it has gone months at a time without being played. So it hasn’t had heavy use. But still…I’m embarrassed to admit this.

    Now that we have that out of the way…

    A few weeks ago I went to a music store and played their prelude harp. It was the first time in a very long time that I played a harp other than my own. I didn’t like it nearly as much as I like mine. The bass wires were brassy or twangy. The troubadour they had was also brassy in the wires. Now I’m afraid that mine will sound like that if I change the wound strings. I will regret changing them if I won’t have the warm, rich sound I now have.

    What I’m wondering is if it has more to do with the age of the instrument, or if I am likely to have a more brassy sound from newer strings? (Also acoustics most likely plays a part. ) I don’t know how long these harps have been on the floor…but seems they aren’t played much, as there was a broken string, another broke as I was tuning, and they were both very much out of tune.

    A secondary question, is it ok to change all the wires at one time (I mean one after another) or is it best to wait a few days between each string change? I worry about all that tension.

    Thank you.

    Tacye on #186264

    New wires do have a different sound – I usually call it metallic. I am not very fond of the sound of the wires when I have just changed them, but the guts do sound lovely with new wires to resonate.

    Yes, it is fine to change them all on the same day.

    balfour-knight on #186267

    I just changed the bass wires on my Musicmakers Large Gothic 36. They were made by Vermont Strings and sound absolutely beautiful, not metallic at all. So I would say “go for it” Andelin, if you feel up to changing them.

    Gretchen Cover on #186268

    Andelin, change the wires. Keeping them on so long is not good for the harp according to the harp tech. The continuous tightening causes too much tension on the harp. I replaced my wires in November. My harps sounded so much better and more open. Do it. Make sure you use the correct strings. There are some good tutorials on youtube.

    PS/ I admire your courage admitting you had kept the wires on so long:) And, how old are your other strings? Perhaps, they are due to be changed, as well….

    Tacye on #186300

    The continuous tightening causes too much tension on the harp. That sounds to me like a myth to encourage non-scientific harpists to change their strings! The tension on the string is fixed by the mass of the string, its length and its pitch. I suppose if the string has stretched, to require continuous tightening, there will be less material between the soundboard and bridgepin so the tension on the harp will have gone minutely down. If continuous tightening is because the harp has changed shape and the soundboard come up then the age of the string is not a factor. Continuous tightening will change the angle of the force slightly – more windings on the tuning pin will mean a tighter angle at the bridge pin.

    The number of winds on my tuning pegs is much the same when strings are old as when they are new, so any effect from winding on will be tiny.

    Or do you think he was talking about about pushing the tuning pin in to the neck too hard?

    Andelin on #186301

    Thank you for your replies. I have ordered new strings and will be changing them ASAP. Hopefully it doesn’t adversely affect the sound.

    Sylvia on #186312

    No one has mentioned this. I’m wondering if you know how to change the wires because they don’t stretch like other strings. I was taught to hold it at the top of the harp above the pin and then lower it to start the wind. That gives enough slack to make the wind.
    Also, removing the old ones, I learned to loosen and then cut, rather than unwind because unwinding the whole thing grinds out the hole.
    Anyway, I got to worrying about you, so I thought I’d throw my two cents in.
    If you’ve never changed wires, research first.

    Gretchen Cover on #186316


    I am not going to get in a protracted discussion about the physics of wire strings. I am just parroting what the tech told me. He works on harps everyday and sees what happens over time. I figure he is the expert, and I (the non-scientific harpist) will follow his advice. I keep my harps in perfect condition so to change the wires every two years is just a not big deal – time or money-wise – and certainly, not in comparison to the cost of a concert grand harp or repair. Besides, the harp simply just sounds so much better with new bass wire strings.

    Andelin on #186318


    Thank you for the advice, the link, and your concern. I appreciate it.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #186322

    Unfortunately, your ears have gotten used to dull, thuddy wire strings. The brilliance of new strings is something you have to adjust to, but the sound is certainly desirable. You may have to play them with more care, though, as they will be much more responsive. They will also increase the brilliance of the rest of your strings. They are the foundation of the “angelic choir” we love so much.

    balfour-knight on #186332


    Dusty Strings also has very good instructions for changing strings on their website. Hope it all goes smoothly for you! If I can help, please let me know.

    Best to you,

    balfour-knight on #186664

    Hello, Andelin!

    Glad to hear that your bass wires sound nice! You have inspired me to change the wires on my L & H 85GP. I have done four of them already, and the difference in tone is amazing! They are full and rich, with a longer sustain. I am thrilled!

    Best to everyone,

    Biagio on #186681

    I’m with Tacye, sounds like an old wife’s tale to make you spend more money. I suppose that the “proof is in your ears” but I have a hard time understanding any physical reason that new wire strings will sound any better than 2 year old ones and I definitely do not see why keeping old ones on longer would hurt the harp.

    If they have oxidized that might cause less brilliance; cleaning them with light mineral oil will improve the tone. As for hurting the harp: first, the board has become stretched already; changing the string if it has not broken will relax the board somewhat which will in theory hurt it a little when it comes back up to tension. Second, the tension is quite high on a pedal tension harp in the bass and the board is correspondingly thicker. You are not going to damage it!


    balfour-knight on #186702

    Hello all,

    If anyone is considering changing their bass wires, I heartily recommend it. I finished installing the other seven wires on my pedal harp this morning for a total of eleven, and they are just wonderful! This harp sounded so good, even with the previous strings, but she is even better, now. So, don’t be afraid to change strings–it is well worth it!


    Sonya Wiley on #186706

    Balfour, do you have any tips? I need to change mine but i’ve never done the bass; scared but I need to do it before a regulation I know!

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