Is it possible to upgrade strings on a Mid-East harp?

  • Participant
    Jessica on #75963

    My student bought the ‘Meghan’ harp from ( ) and I was wondering if anyone here knows if it is possible to restring those harps with better strings…like gut and wire, or even if the Dusty Strings brand would work better? One of my harp teachers had a Dusty Strings harp and I remember the tension being lower. I know that the Mid-East harps aren’t high-end haprs, and I don’t want to cause damage to it by putting strings on it that are too high in tension.

    thanks for your help!

    Angela Biggs on #75964

    That is a very good question. My student also started with one of those, and she refused to use the top octave because it was so plingy due to excess tension. I almost tried to restring it, but ended up finding a used Harpsicle that I loaned her instead. Of course, the tension on the Harpsicle is so low that now the lowest notes are loose, but it’s a good little instrument for what it is. 🙂

    I’ve owned a number of Pakistanis in the past, and the bigger they are, the faster they pull themselves apart — even with their own strings. Increase the tension on the lower end of the harp,, the end most susceptible to torsion, and you’ll accelerate the process. I would say: do not change to higher-tension strings, but if you have a nasty octave at the top and you want to substitute with lower-tension strings there (which I think means using a thinner string?), you shouldn’t hurt the harp. If you can get a string chart from the company, that would make it easy for you to experiment. If you can’t, you might have to call or visit a string supplier and ask for help.

    There are a few harp builders and re-builders here. Their comments are always enlightening and usually fascinating; I hope they chime in!

    stephen-vardy on #75965

    robinsons will have an optimised string chart

    a never ending money pit until it dies though

    william-weber on #75966

    I’ve restrung a couple of Mid-Easts with varying results. The Caitlin cross-strung is already under-designed in terns of soundboard strength, so a rescale by Markwood has shortened the soundboard’s life somewhat. The EMS roundbacks, on the other hand, I’ve rescaled twice because it’s built like a battleship. Most of your improvement would come from replacing lumpy strings with uniform ones.

    Jessica on #75967

    Thank you Stephen! When you say it is a ‘never ending money pit until it dies’, are you referring to the harp? I don’t doubt it, but I wanted to clarify 🙂

    Jessica on #75968

    Thank you Angela! That helps me a lot 🙂 I definitely don’t want to speed up the process of it pulling apart 😛 They got it brand new, and so I’m hoping that perhaps they can send it back and buy the Dusty Strings Ravenna 34…it’s only 2 strings less, a few hundred dollars more, and way better quality 🙂

    stephen-vardy on #75969

    Hi Jessica
    As a harp seller we constantly get asked about these harps and I have tried to use a little humour to explain the situation.

    You can spend many hours and $ trying to upgrade your mid-eastern harp but in the end it is simply not a performer in the sense of your original desires and expectations. Call it a sub entry-level experience. The ones we see are just too fragile to have much longevity. There appears to be so much variability and fragility in assembly that at the end of the day it is very much like a lottery with very few winners and the payouts are very small and relatively short lived.

    It is important to understand that the majority of Pakistani/mid-east harp owners are first timers.
    This gets tricky as people really strongly bond with their first harps and the result is a very emotional attachment that is not particularly “logical”.
    Logic says cut your losses now.
    The emotions desperately want this new relationship to work as the pain is very real to stop and part with it.
    One should say “start over” but that seems emotionally impossible.

    So it becomes a money pit.
    The harp is “saved” over and over.
    It is a “first born” and is loved hugely.
    But unlike a real first born it does not reciprocate – it is permanently requiring money and energy to function somewhat poorly.

    Buying a first harp is a huge leap.
    First timers are vulnerable emotionally.
    It is a relatively complex process to buy a harp.
    Especially in Canada.
    So many factors leading to what in the end is a compromise.
    All harps are a compromise.

    First-timers look for shortcuts to mitigate the risk they feel when extending into what is a long held, intimate dream.
    Spend a little less etc.

    My advice is start fresh.
    Build on the experience.
    There are many options available to North Americans from within NA.
    Save your moneys, do your homework., be patient, very very patient.

    All harps are a compromise which means that one harp can never match all desires.
    Understand that one harp is not enough.
    That is important and must be realised.
    You will have several at some point. to fit your range of desired uses etc.
    So your first harp need not be perfect – just playable and enjoyable.
    If your harp does not bring joy move on…

    Read about orphans – harps with somewhat variable joy

    The people in the harping community are great people.
    They bring an inner integrity with them that seems to be a prerequisite to become a harpist.
    This reflects in their endeavours.
    When you buy on eBay you are usually buying from someone that can have quite different motivations.
    There is no good or bad in this – it is just how the world works.
    Accept and move on.

    Jessica on #75970

    Thank you, Stephen! Loved reading the articles over on your website 😀 I also have violin students who sometimes pick up a ‘Violin Shaped Object’ so I understood the Harp Shaped Object completely 🙂 Now I’m hoping my student hasn’t gotten too attached to her harp…we shall see! Thank you again for taking the time to help me out 🙂

    j-b on #75971

    When I was 15 I bought a Heather Harp from MidEast… this was before I had internet or any connections to be able to research and I was swayed by how pretty it was. (Hey, I was a teenager.) The soundboard started to crack within the first… year, even? I think. Anyway. And of course the levers have always been lousy. I have to retune to play in other keys if I want it to sound remotely good.

    15 years later the soundboard cracking is getting worse and worse and I do not think it’s going to hold out much longer, so I’m seeking something better quality. I do have emotional attachment to this harp, and I plan to keep it around, but I cannot WAIT to get my hands on something quality as soon as possible and definitely won’t be recommending anyone else to get them unless they’re just wanting to test the waters and find out if it’s something they want to pursue more seriously.

    (For the record, I mostly ignored the harp for many years for a variety of reasons. I think that it would have died long time past if I’d been playing it as much all these years as I have been the last few months.) Going to go read your articles now, Stephen!

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.