Help needed…contagious buzz/ringing noise

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    mae-mcallister on #77571


    So my harp is buzzing…well, it’s not quite a buzz, it’s more of a “zing”, like a bizarre ringing noise. It only happens when a few certain strings are played – primarily the 5th octave A and D, but now I think the sixth octave G and then the F# are catching it too! It sounds a bit like the string has this extra high jarring resonance when it sounds, a lot like a “zing”, actually. I’ve read through and tried (almost) all of the things people have suggested on this forum in threads about buzzing, but I’ll run through everything that I’ve tried:

    – Lever on/off changes nothing (so it’s not the lever)

    – Other strings tuned to the same note as the zingy ones do not exhibit this ringing noise (so it’s not another part of the harp body)

    – Taking the string off the peg and cleaning that metal thingy they run over (you know, after the tuning peg, before the lever) with cleaning alcohol, then tuning the string up again does nothing

    -Poking tail ends, pressing on knots does nothing. Touching the soundboard does nothing.

    -Pressing down on the string where it enters the soundboard makes it go away, but it muffles the string sound too, so this says very little, only that the zing is high frequency.

    – My harp is slightly weird that the strings run through a hole in the soundboard (a grommet?) and then are each attached to a nail on a piece of wood inside the soundbox running the length of the harp. I am not sure why it was built like that, possibly it puts less strain on the soundboard. Anyway, I took one of the strings off and pulled it through the hole into the soundbox, then cleaned the hole by poking a paperclip through it. Then I re-threaded the string through the hole (which was a massive pain, let me tell you) and tuned it up again. THIS MADE THE ZING GO AWAY AND THE STRING SOUNDED PROPERLY AGAIN…HURRAH! ….until I came back the next day to do the same thing to the other string(s) and the zing was back in that first string in full zingy force. What the hell?

    Everyday I come back to the harp, it sounds like another string has caught the zingy disease (or maybe I am being more discerning?) I know that I should try to replace the strings, but the harp is new (for me) so I don’t have any spares yet (hopefully on order soon), PLUS I am worried that the same thing will happen i.e. I will replaced the string and then after a day or so the zing will just come back and that will be a waste of string. Also, it seems suspicious to me that all the zingy notes are within an octave of each other.

    I was wondering if any one had any experience with this or has any suggestions of things for me to try while I wait for some new strings?


    barbara-brundage on #77572

    In your list of things you’ve tried, I don’t see the very first thing to do–have you taken the harp into another room to be sure it’s not a sympathetic vibration from something in the room where it normally is?

    mae-mcallister on #77573

    I picked the harp up from someone else and it was making the zings in their living room too so I just assumed it wasn’t that. I’ll move it around tonight so that I can definitely rule it out though.

    barbara-brundage on #77574

    Try that, then the next thing is to check the screws in the feet and be sure they’re adequately tight.

    kreig-kitts on #77575

    Is the piece of wood with the nails attached to the back of the soundboard running up its center, or is it inside the body somewhere else?

    alexandra-baldwin on #77576

    Yes, look at the feet! I have a foot that comes loose regularly and it *rattles*. I don’t mind it, but it drives my husband crazy… I’l be practicing and he’ll come in and wordlessly kneel down, tilt the harp back, tighten the foot, and go back to the other room 🙂

    Tacye on #77577

    Both wire and gut strings are doing this? If you muffle all the wires with one hand and play the problem guts does it still zing?

    paul-knoke on #77578

    Look inside at the back of the bottom of the soundboard. Some lever harps have one or two bolts there, with nuts and washers. Sometimes the washers can pick up sympathetic vibrations. Try holding them while playing the notes in question, and see if they’re the culprits.

    mae-mcallister on #77579

    Right, it’s not the room and it’s not the feet. Yesterday the A zing was quieter and the D zing was louder and the G/F zings had gone…weird.
    Tayce – it’s only the gut strings that are zinging, but I will try that as soon as I get home.
    Paul – I’m pretty sure there are some bolts there, so I will also try that asap.
    Kreig – Yes, it is. The wooden bit runs all the way down the middle dead centre, and the holes they expect you to restring the harp through are slightly on the side, though you need pretty small hands…! I’ve attached a photo of this mechanism.

    paul-knoke on #77580

    I’m wondering who made the harp? The inner string beam looks like it’s similar in principle to the one that Wurlitzer tried in their harps. Interesting.

    Janis Cortese on #77581

    From the way that picture looks, I’m wondering if the loose length of the strings isn’t buzzing against the strings themselves or the soundboard. Of course the part of the string between the hole and the nail shouldn’t be moving at all, but in general there are a lot of vibrating things down there, and the loose tails could be zinging against any of them.

    Maybe you could get a narrow strip of felt and sort of weave it in among the afterlengths and string tails and see if that banishes the zing.

    barbara-brundage on #77582

    I’d give those long loose ends a trim, for one thing.

    Tacye on #77583

    The zinging strings – do they bend or go through the soundboard nearly straight? I wonder if the hole is acting in part like a bray.

    mae-mcallister on #77584

    OK – Janis: That was a very clever idea, pity it wasn’t that. I trimmed them right down, and the zing persists. If I can get hold of some felt, I might do what you suggested, but the tails are now far too short to reach anything, so I don’t think it’s that. Damping the strings with fingers inside the soundbox also does nothing.

    Tacye: They do go in nearly straight (obvs. not entirely straight), but that is also a good idea. Not sure what to do about it if it is that…At first I thought it was that, but as time goes on I am suspecting the string(s) itself. If it was any other harp I’d try and restring it with an adjacent string but the whole nail-at-the-bottom thing makes it so fiddly that it’s probably worth just waiting for new strings…

    mae-mcallister on #77585

    Update: It’s not the strings. I replaced one that was up til now behaving with a string of slightly lower tension because it snapped (i.e. a lever gut string – my harp has slightly higher tension strings, somewhere between lever and pedal light) and it starting zinging in no mean way. Does that give any well-informed person a clue about what it might be? I am clueless in these matters beyond general common sense. Clearly the lower tension is causing the zing somehow, but the other zinging strings are of the correct (i.e. average normal) tension…?

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