Help! One string keeps breaking! :(

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    Hi people,

    I’m a beginner harpist and I’ve been learning by myself so I don’t have any teacher to ask to, and the shop where I’m usually buying the strings is not answering my question, so I’m kinda desperate!
    I’m based in UK and I can take a bunch of strings snapping during the year, especially during the crazy season changes….BUT…in the last months there is one string that has been breaking many times ( 4 times in 2 months I think), it’s the C of the 3rd Octave.
    I don’t know what’s wrong with it, I keep ordering new one and replacing like I’ve been doing with all the other ones, but it doesn’t last long! I don’t know what to look at, but everything looks allright.
    They usually break at the top near the pin, but today was the first time it broke on the bottom near the soundboard hole.
    I really don’t know what to do anymore…I don’t think I’m just mounting only those Cs in the wrong way…there must be some other reason, any Idea?!?

    Thank you very much!



    Hi Daniele! i’m afraid I probably won’t be much help with this but I just wanted to say hello to another UK-er as we’re in the minority here.

    First of all let me say I have never yet had a string break and it seems odd to me when other players talk about this as a regular occurrence (I’ve been playing 2 lever harps regularly (around 2 hours a day) for about 2 years).

    I’m sure you’ve already worked out that the problem is unlikely to be with the strings themselves but with the harp or the way you are stringing it. Are you following proper instructions as to the stringing? Most of the books I have that teach beginner harpers give instructions on the correct way to tie the knot etc and I assume you are using one of these – if that isn’t the case and you are just muddling through without instructions contact me through my profile and let me have your postal address so that I can photocopy and send you some of the instructions i have.

    Have you checked your harp closely? Are there any rough edges anywhere on the tuning pins, levers or bridge pins that might be rubbing or causing friction (you might need to check this with a magnifying glass)?

    Are you using quality strings? if you have used to same brand of string every time there’s just a chance they may be inferior so it might be worth experimenting with different makes but I would certainly check everything else first before spending more money on strings.

    I’m sure lots of other people on this site will have actual experience of the problem and therefore be able to give you more practical advice but, if that isn’t so, my own inclination would be to go back to the place you bought the harp if they are specialists, or contact a good luthier who will check the instrument over for you.

    Most of all, though, please don’t let this put you off playing. The problem must be fixable somehow and I hope someone here will come up with the answer. Meanwhile, good luck with your playing. Harps over here seem to be much less popular than in America and it always thrills me to hear of another player somewhere in the country.

    PS – I just reread your message and I notice you say that the shop where you buy your strings is being less than helpful. I do hope there is somewhere else you can buy from as I really wouldn’t want to keep giving my business and cash to any place with that attitude. Once you get the problem sorted out I’m sure you’ll find plenty of places online that can supply you, probably cheaper, and who actually believe in giving an after-sales service!


    Hi Lyn, thank you very much for your answer (I’m from Cambridge anyway!).
    My harp has gut string, do you have nylon ones? Gut are supposed to break easily as far as I know…but well, in my case is just TOO MUCH 🙁

    For mounting the string I have the instructions from the shop and aside from that I use the Sylvia Woods video on youtube :

    I have always bought strings from the same shop and they always have been fine…and In any case I don’t know where else I could buy strings for my dusty string fh36, so I’m happy to continue with that shop.

    I can’t see any rough edges…to me it all looks fine…
    I also wrote to a teacher that work near here, hopefully she will reply


    Hi Daniele–I also am fairly new to the harp and to my Dusty Strings FH36S. Two things have been very helpful to me: Go on the Dusty Strings website and print off their instructions for changing strings–then double-check yourself by referring to them each time you change a string. Also, just call Dusty Strings and confer with them about the problem. They are incredibly receptive and helpful over the phone. My problem was that I kept breaking my bass wires because I did not realize how brittle the phosphor-bronze strings were, and that they needed only tiny little tweaks with the tuning key–also, I was not backing out the tuning keys four turns before putting on a new string. Getting a teacher also helped immeasurably–I play other instruments, so could get some music out of my harp–but in a lot of ways I was just practicing mistakes. In terms of strings, my teacher says never-ever have any kind of lotion on your fingers when you play. She says to wash your fingers with dishwashing detergent, then apply vinegar, and make sure your fingers are totally dry before you touch your strings. She plays in public all the time, and that is what she always does–but she says her strings break sometimes with the changing seasons no matter what.


    My Harpsicle has nylon strings and my Ossian has carbon fibre composites so I haven’t had experience of guts strings although my tutor plays with gut and can go years without a break; in fact, she usually ends up changing aged strings more often than broken ones

    How interesting it is to hear from Elizabeth about those helpful people at Dusty Strings. It always puts a smile on my face to hear of great service like that and it’s usually a sign of someone who loves what they do – I guess it has to be worth contacting them because it really sounds as if you’ve tried everything. I hope someone comes up with the answer soon because it must be incredibly frustrating for you.


    Luckily I found a teacher willing to come here and check in the next days…this morning I found another string snapped…but that might be cause of the change of season, it happens often…but… 🙁


    I’m so glad you’ve found someone who can help – there are some wonderful folks out there 🙂


    Hi Daniele,
    If you do a search of past harp column forums you will find this issue has been raised before. I hope that by now your problem is solved, but in case it hasn’t been, there might be some roughness or sharpness inside one of the holes through which the string is threaded. It would be very tiny and probably not immediately obvious. If it is just the one string that’s breaking repeatedly, I would suspect the issue is not with the strings themselves but with the harp. Let us know what happens! Best, Eliza Morrison


    I had a teacher coming over, she checked the holes and she said there was nothing strange with it, no extremely/dangerous rough edges.
    What she said is that also other people complained about the same thing, and that there has been a bad batch of string through from Bow Brand (the ones I buy).
    She then replaced my 3 missing strings, I hope this time they will last.
    I will call the shop anyway and explain them the situation…hopefully I can have some free strings, cause I’ve been changing them often in the past months !


    How are things going now with those new strings, Daniele?


    Thank you for the interest Lyn 🙂 The new strings are fine…but now I just broke a new one! but it’s not one of the “usual” ones, so I really believe this one is just caused by the crazy weather…let’s wait for the new one and carry on! 🙁

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