Charging someone for replacing their harp strings

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    Hey guys, I was recently contacted to replace 9 strings on this lady’s harp and I just have no clue what to charge! In AUD I charge $35 to $40 an hour for a lesson but replacing strings isn’t the same as teaching … or should I just charge about the same? She said the harp will also need retuning as it hasn’t been touched for a good ten years …

    Any help will be greatly appreciated 🙂 cheers and happy harp playing!


    It’s your time and only you know what it’s worth to you (plus the gas to get there). Be sure she understands that the harp won’t stay in tune after just one or two tunings if it hasn’t been maintained in ten years.

    Sid Humphreys

    What Catherine said, AND be prepared for more strings to break.

    Gretchen Cover

    I know of another harpist who was in the same situation. When she went to check out the harp, she discovered the pedals were frozen. The work needed was way beyond what she could do. I would suggest that you contact the harp maker and get some guidance. Before you call the harp company, you might want to get an idea of what strings are missing. Or you might want to look at the harp first before you make ANY commitment period, if it is close by. If the harp hasn’t been touched in 10 years, and it is missing strings, you could have a liability on your hands. Certainly, at a minimum ALL the strings should be replaced. I just bought a complete set of Bow Brand strings and it cost $520.00 US.


    Eliza, over the years I have changed harp strings for players within driving distance of my home. During the course of the operation, I casually let the owner know my hourly charge for lessons. Then when I give the bill, it is only for the cost of the strings, and the postage I paid to receive them. Always, without exception, the customer remarks that the bill is too low for my time and expertise, and pays me more than I had asked. This puts the decision in the hands of the customer, not myself. More importantly, in helping another harpist, I have gained goodwill that is priceless.

    Gretchen Cover

    Patricia, don’t presume every one you help is a harpist who is truly in need (especially when it comes to changing those lower wires).There are many people who buy harps to use as a decoration. Those who own parlor princesses or let a harp stand around for years should pay for professional services. It is like having furniture fixed for them.


    Two hundred million gazillion dollars. No, make that Euros. No, make that pounds.

    Actually, Eliza — I often recommend that musicians use either their performance or lesson fee as a basis for charging for non-standard work. For example, when I ask a percussionist to give me a composer’s consultation (to help me compose for her instrument), she’ll rarely have a ‘composer consultation’ fee – so we generally default to her lesson fee.

    I also suggest you have some sort of minimum or travel fee, especially if you’re traveling.


    I also like how Gretchen is thinking: in other words, really approaching the situation professionally, having a checklist of questions, thinking through what you’ll really be doing. It may seem silly the first time you do the job, to have created a checklist, but the time you spend on it will save you time and headaches even if you only do it once.

    It also sounds like you may have to educate this person on what it means to get a harp back up to pitch if it hasn’t been touched in 10 years (if that’s even possible). And if the harp is really old and really hasn’t been touched in 10 years, more than strings could break if you try to pull it up to pitch in one session (or even in 3)!

    In a situation like that, I’d want to talk to a harp tech. Not to scare you, but if it really hasn’t been touched in 10 years, there’s a chance it could literally explode depending on how (and how quickly) you start pulling it up to pitch.


    Changing striungs is surely a vital part of playing the harp. If your customer intends to play rather than just use the harp as a piece of ornamental furniture she will eventually need to be able to do this herself so why not charge her for an hour’s lesson and use the time to demonstrate on one or two strings, then supervise while she does the rest herself. I went to my lesson yesterday to find my tutor had a broken string (well, her harp did) and I was very pleased to be able to use some of the lesson in learning how to do the change when it happens to me.


    Hi everyone, thank you all for your responses. I ended up charging what I usually charge for lessons and it took me about 3 hours as there were over 10 strings that needed replacement! Phew! She just left me in the harp room to replace all the strings as she had guests over so I couldn’t supervise her or teach her how to replace strings. Thanks for your guidance everyone!

    Gretchen Cover

    Thanks for letting us know what happened. Hopefully, this person will get her harp regulated. Glad you charged for your services in this particular situation.


    Perhaps one dollar per string? Or .75 for nylon strings, 1.00 for gut and 2.00 for wires?

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