Changing strings


  • Participant
    Veronika on #229444

    I’ve just changed two of the steel-core wound strings on my FH34 because the wire on both had broken where the lever touches the string, so the tuning was off when the lever was engaged. What I didn’t expect, though, is that now the whole harp sounds much better.

    Which made me think it might be time to change all strings. I don’t know, though – the harp is only a year and a half old, so I would assume the strings are also only a year and a half old. I play on average for half an hour six times a week.

    What do you experts think? And also, I’m planning to get it regulated, because some of the semitones aren’t semitones, does it matter if I change the strings before or after the regulation?


    Participant
    harpist123 on #229446

    First of all, it is best to restring your harp before regulation. And ideally have the strings holding pitch well. That is, if you intend to restring your entire set. It’s a very personal thing with regard to your question, and how often you should change out your strings. I play most every day. Usually at least an hour. Oftentimes you can tell just by looking at the strings if they are getting “strung out” and tuned to their useful and lovely sounding capacity. Other times a string or more will just not respond to your dynamics the way you hope it/them will (duddy sounding, or they don’t sustain well). For me, I can hear when the harp just isn’t sounding its best. I choose a time of year where I can handle the couple weeks of incessant tuning until they finally hold pitch. I have never been disappointed in the end result. Can you remember how your harp sounded in the beginning, compared to now? Do you remember enjoying the sound more back then, then you do now? And if 1 string change gave the harp new life, imagine what changing all of them will do. Or maybe it was just that troublesome string making the entire harp “seem” like it didn’t sound good, when suddenly it actually did, but the only culprit was 1 string 🙂 There are so many opinions about this. I choose my own opinion with regard to what I am hearing. I ask myself if I love the sound of my harp…or has it become sort of ho-hum??? Go with your gut. I like to change out all of them, except the bass wires, and leave the bass wires longer. Though it sounds like some of those for you need replacement, too, so maybe an entire set is in order. Finally, when harps are new (and by the way, I am breaking in a new Triplett Eclipse as of 1/31/19) the harp goes through alot of changes. It moves and flexes, creates some annoying buzzes, maybe there’s a loose nut someplace…And regulation is best held off for awhile until your harp breaks in (different for all harps, but you will know). Then perhaps you could do a restringing, followed by a regulation later. Best to you…


    Participant
    Biagio on #229447

    I do not think it is a good idea to change all the strings at once for two reasons:
    1) it is pretty expensive and 2) that stresses the sound board unnecessarily.

    Regulation usually involves changing any strings that need to be changed at the same time you or the technician are adjusting the levers. So I’d do it then, as needed, not all at once.


    Participant
    charles-nix on #229451

    Assuming your harp is nylon and not Fluoro or gut—

    I never change any nylon strings on the same visit as a regulation. They must be changed 2-4 weeks ahead of time. I like them really stable and stretched in, so regulation can be the best possible. Regulation should involve playing both strongly and softly, to ensure that there are no hidden buzzes. Playing strongly on new strings means you are constantly chasing the tuning, while also trying to adjust the regulation. Not too bad with some levers, but I think it is an unnecessary pain with Lovelands.

    And, if you are noticing the sound change in the entire harp after only the two wires, then you need to be changing every year or so. If you weren’t noticing the change, I would have a different answer. Strings are expensive–but so are harp lessons, and practice time. Why fool with all the effort and expense if you are not enjoying the instrument.

    @biagio, we may disagree here: I would generally always change all the strings on that size lever harp all at once–if they are nylon strings. Most are inexpensive monofilament. Of course, I would never take them off all at once, but one to three at a time, and only one wire at a time, to preserve the tension on the soundboard.

    I don’t like fooling with one bad string, then finding another one a week later. There are always one or more strings stretching out when replacing one or two at a time, and a stable tuning is hard to maintain. I like to get the stretching in part done and over with.

    One other point, old wires will mute the sound of the entire harp, as you have discovered.


    Participant
    Biagio on #229454

    We pretty much agree here Charles and yes, if a string is changed it should be allowed to stretch in before adjusting the lever.

    You have a choice of nylon or gut on the FH34, I’d assume this one has nylon. Whatever…those bass strings have (probably) the greatest effect of any to the overall sound. This is due both to the fact that they have the highest tension placed on the board and it’s vibrating width, and to the (related) sympathetic vibrations. I can’t see replacing all the strings solely because the bass changes improve the sound, but up to the player.

    Some people, especially those with high tension gut harps replace strings about every year, I’m told. others with nylon only when it sounds as if they need it. In this case, if the semitones are off elsewhere, that may indicate that the nylon has stretched too much, or it may simply have to do with the neck and board adjusting – that depends on the age, largely.

    I’d bet that everyone is tired of hearing me repeat this but what the heck: every lever harper should know how to adjust their levers. Sometimes just moving the bridge pins in or out is all that is required. Otherwise, loosening the screw and sliding the lever up or down a bit may be required. None of this is difficult; if in doubt buy David Kolacny’s booklet “Troubleshooting Your Lever Harp” – heck buy it anyway. You would not buy a car without an operating manual would you?


    Participant
    Veronika on #229458

    Thank you all very much for your replies. The harp is nylon-strung except for the bass wires, has Camac levers and is 1.5 years old.

    harpist123, I’ve been thinking about the sound of the harp and it’s possible that a bit of the complexity of sound has been lost. On the other hand the sound of the harp has developed, in a good way, as it has aged (I know this is rather vague, but I’m not able to describe it in any detail, it just sounds… different to me). What makes any comparisons difficult is that I only started to learn to play 2.5 years ago, so the sound I am able to get out of a harp has changed a lot over time.

    charles-nix, I completely agree re the expense being worth it. Interesting that you say to change the wires every year – that’s what surprised me when I changed those two strings, I’d assumed that a 1.5 year old string was still new enough. Clearly not! 🙂

    Biagio, you say that it depends on age, is it that a newish harp will change more than an old one, or the other way round? Some of the semitones were never that precise to begin with, but it’s got worse lately. Is there any way to tell that the nylon has stretched too much?

    I’m now thinking of replacing the rest of the wires for now, as a quick fix.

    I’d like to learn how to adjust the levers at some point, but at the moment there are so many things I have to learn (change of careers, anyone? five exams down, eight to go, ugh) that having someone fix my harp so that I can just play is actually a great treat.


    Participant
    Veronika on #229459

    Very strange – I can see my previous post (just above this one) when I am logged in but not when I’m not logged in. Odd.


    Participant
    Biagio on #229461

    “Biagio, you say that it depends on age, is it that a newish harp will change more than an old one, or the other way round? Some of the semitones were never that precise to begin with, but it’s got worse lately. Is there any way to tell that the nylon has stretched too much?”

    Veronika, the stress on your FH34 is around 800 lbs and wood is elastic; which means that over time the neck will flex down and the board up. This is true for any harp; usually they stabilize somewhat after a year or so but that flexing will continue for it’s life.

    It depends on how much you play but in general: if you find you have to tune the open strings a lot that is one suggestion that the strings are stretching too much. If they sound dull in the mid and/or excessively tinkly in the treble that is another.

    I’ve had the same strings on one harp for almost five years and it still sounds fine. On another I changed them out after two. So I’d say use your judgment. As Charles says, they are not all that expensive. I’d just caution not to take them all off at once: just go string by string, tuning as you go.


    Participant
    Veronika on #229462

    Ha, when I used to do archery the draw weight of my bow was 40 lbs – compare that with the 800 lbs the harp has to take! 🙂

    Thanks for all the information. The harp holds its tuning very well. I play most days and I can get away with tuning every other day or so. I’ll listen carefully to the sound of the nylon strings next time I get to play.

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