Haven’t had my harp regulated in the last 4 years.
I was told they should be regulated every 2 years, but is it necessary if everything sounds and works fine?
What would you guys do?
Posted In: Harps and Accessories
At the least, I would get the harp regulated. If for no other reason, do it for re-sale. I would never buy a harp that had not been properly maintained.
I don’t know your budget, but I would also change all of the strings. If money is an issue, i would ask the tech if you should change the wires or the gut strings or if it is ok to leave the strings as they are. Most harpists don’t realize how the sound is affected by the bass wires. It something the harp tech l use says every time my harp is regulated. I change my wires every two years and change the gut strings in the Fall. I know others will have a different viewpoint, but I like playing a harp that sounds its best.
I wouldn’t bother having it regulated if it sounds OK. I also wouldn’t bother changing any gut strings if they sound OK. If they get frizzy or sound false, then change that string. Otherwise, leave them alone. I would change wire strings maybe every 4 or 5 years, because they do get dull sounding after a while. Even the tarnish resistant ones. I would also change any nylon strings every 4 or 5 years, mainly because they develop gouges in the string where the prongs of the discs close on them, and that can mess up the regulation and maybe make them sound false. On the larger gut strings in the 4th and 5th octaves, if one of those strings breaks at the very top or very bottom, I patch the string. Sometimes the patched string will last another 2 or 3 years or more, and that saves money! I don’t pay particular attention to the strings, mostly because my sound comes from the way I play the instrument, not from the quality or newness of the strings.
I just wasn’t sure if I should treat harp regulation as periodic maintenance or as troubleshooting service. Seems it can be both…
Many of the strings are not that old, as they do break every now and then, apart from the wire and larger gut strings. Good tip to think about changing them every several years though.
Glad to know there are other harpists who patch their strings. I just had one done, and waiting for it to give way, but if what carl says is true, it’s probably going to last longer than I would have thought.
What is appropriate for one harpist is not for another.
How advanced is the music being played on the instrument?
How many hours? How many harps do you spread your playing across?
Every year – The smallest group, 10% or less of all harps. Which harps? Harps for pro orchestras and operas. Harps for college majors (maybe most of all). Harps for full pro freelancers if they have one harp, if they have two rotate with one regulated each year.
Every 2 years – Largest group, 50-60%. All other pro harpists and students.
Every 3 years – About 20%. Adult beginners fit in here or the next.
Every 4 years – The remainder.
There are lots of things that will impact these general recommendations which are quite understandable. One of the harpists I work with has 5 harps and actually plays all five. Another has one harp and plays with a full time professional orchestra. Another plays liturgical music only at home.
As for wire strings, I am with Carl. Change them every 2 to 4 years. Change the entire set to keep an even timbre. Pro’s every year or two since the new wires project best.
Nylon strings need changing every year for any harp that advanced music is being played on. At the USA International Harp Competition I observed the nylon strings could be worn out in 10 hours of practice and the pitch was terrible because of that wear alone. Nylon gouges where the discs grip/twist/press on them. I am sorry but almost any gouge that is visible is enough to cause the string to become unstable in pitch over the dynamic range. So at pp the 1F# is fine but at ff the pitch is flat. This incorrect pitch, this instability has NOTHING to do with regulation settings. This fact is one of the most overlooked by harpists who on the greater whole believe that any pitch problem is a regulation setting problem. The majority of complaints about pitch with nylon strings is because the string is worn and unstable but the harpist thinks it HAS to be something with the discs. Maybe it does but the technician can’t accurately find that out until the string is changed.
Experiment when you change strings – put a new one on and see if it sounds different in tone to the older ones next to it. If you can’t hear any difference why change more strings? I change wires all at once when I want more edge to the sound and then spend a few months regretting it as they sound too new, gut strings individually when they sound poor, wear or break and nylons only once (to gut).