Noticed last night while practising one of my strings (can’t remember which one, but it’s one of the shorter strings without looking) sounds dull compared to the others.
How old are your strings? The general rule of thumb is to change strings every one to two years (the complete set). Some change their strings even more often, like every six months. If you feel the tone is sounding thin- and this happens often in the upper range as the strings age- then a re-stringing is in order. The lower wire wound strings can start to sound pretty bad as they age too.
Ok- Carl & Audrey-
So why do so many harp companies recommend you change all your strings every 1-2 years? Is it just a ploy to make more money off of the consumer? If that is the case, then I believe I’ll save myself $300 worth of strings that I was planning on ordering. I really thought that 1-2 years was the maximum life expectancy for strings.
I really depends on how much you play.
Changing strings every year is necessary if you are a professional who practices 6 hours a day and then performs.
For the average hobbyist or someone just playing for their own pleasure who practices an hour or two a day you can get much more life out of your strings.
Personally I like the feel of new strings, but I actually don’t care for the sound. I think it takes a couple of months before strings start to sound good, where as on other instruments after a couple of months they typically need to be replaced.
I change strings when they start to sound bad and not based on any arbitrary time table. I can tell when I string needs to be replaced. Some strings get more play than others and need more frequent replacing. I think I probably only do a complete, all at once string replacement ever 4 years or so, give or take. Otherwise I replace individual strings as they need it.
I believe the type of string also has something to do with it. I find gut strings wear (or at least show wear) faster than nylon, although either can be false. I find my (pedal) harps sound best with new strings, and a new set of base wires always improves the overall resonance. Perhaps the age of the instrument is also a factor. And everyone’s aural perception is different, based on experience and preference. There are so many variables.
No, I don’t think it’s a ploy to get more money out of us. Strings do age and they take a beating from our fingers and from the levers or disks pinching them. They will develop thin spots from our fingers and dents at the mechanism which in turn alters the way they vibrate and sound. Bass wires do seem to get dull pretty quickly, which will affect the overall sound of the harp – overtones and all that kind of stuff. This is my opinion, but with dead strings you could end up overplaying your harp just to get more sound out of it when a new set of strings would have done the job. Of course, YMMV depending on the harp.
The recommendation is based on keeping the harp at its optimum sound. You can decide from there based on what you hear coming from your harp and what you are using your harp for. Professionals have to keep their instruments in top form so their harps will have a more frequent maintenance schedule than another harpist who plays for others or for their own pleasure. But if that pleasure includes a harp sounding at its best, they will include a new set of strings every 2 or so years along with a regulation since the neck and board are changing as the harp ages.
Another consideration is if you play much outdoors. In areas with high humidity, the strings really take a beating over the course of a year and even break more often. I always change my strings after my outdoor season is over so the harp will sound its best for the holiday season.
OK, so here’s my take, from the technician’s as well as the player’s point of view, on changing strings.
Most pedal harpists use 3 different types of strings: wire wound on wire, gut, and nylon. The gut strings are going to break or go terribly fuzzy after a year of use, so you don’t have to give special consideration to changing them. When one breaks or feels like yarn, change it.
Wire strings rarely(but occasionally) break. They do however go dull in sound. So changing them is kind of a personal choice. When you want a clearer or brighter sound in your wire strings, change them.
Nylons are the biggest problem. They almost never break. But they get pitted where the disc engages, they go false and tinny, and they get dirty. But they will last like that for 15 years or more. I would automatically change all nylon strings on the harp once a year. Pick a holiday to do it so you remember. Your birthday, Labor day, whatever. That way, when that holiday rolls around again, you’ll remember that IT’S TIME TO CHANGE THE NYLON STRINGS.
Wow- well, I think for myself I will change at least the upper two octaves of nylon strings on my harp for now, and possibly the wound bass strings as well. All the strings on my harp are approaching the two-year mark. It sounds like the tone is getting a little thin in the upper range and I can see the lower bass strings are discolored with tarnish. I think my middle nylon and baritone gut strings are fine- a little wear, but they still sound good. Plus, the five gut strings I do have are fairly expensive and I would prefer not to have to replace those if it isn’t neccessary.
Which leads me to another question: Is there a brand of gut string that is comparable to Vanderbilt’s 4th & 5th octave but a little less pricey?
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