So for many years now I’ve wanted to hire a professional harp technician work on my harp for regular maintenance. The problem is, I live in a place where I can’t get one to visit me! I’ve contacted several with no success. I would have to drive 3 hours away to bring my harp to the nearest technician. This seems ridiculous. And while I’d rather have a professional do this work, it is not practical for me over the long haul. Is there some way an amateur like me can learn to maintain my own harp? I have seen info. available online for changing pedal felts. So that doesn’t seem too complicated. But what about regulation? Are there any instructional books / manuals on the topic? Where would I even know what tools to use or where to get these tools? I can’t seem to find any info. on that at all. I realize maybe this is a complex training that may or may not be available to me. But how hard is it to learn the basics for a do-it-yourself approach at home? Please help! I imagine I’m not the only harp student in this kind of situation. There must be many of you out there. Any resources on this topic would be greatly appreciated. I own a Venus Pedal Harp. Thank you.
I would suggest Mike Lewis’ blog as a starting place:
Some maintenance is fairly simply; some gets more complicated as you must thoroughly understand string theory and the pedal harp mechanism. I don’t know of any books on the subject. Perusing Mike’s blog may give you an idea of what might be feasible for you and what might not. Factory trained technicians tour and you can make an appointment with them for the more complex stuff.
L&H published a booklet Happiness is a Contented Harp in 1982 for just this situation, I assume there were not so many harp technicians, or they didn’t travel as much. I also like the Pratt Affairs of the Harp which covers the basics but is also interesting reading on how to replace a harp neck if there is no expert accessible. I also have The Harp Maintenance booklet by Budin but don’t think it has anything the others don’t. Carl Swanson’s guide to harp care has the advantage that I believe it is in print – but I don’t have a copy and am not sure if it has all you need.
I do most of my own maintenance and regulation and one of the things I did was change my pedal felts to leather and am very glad I did – that was maybe 13 years back and I haven’t needed to replace them since. Because they have done all the compacting they are going to the harp needs far less regulation than I think it would with compacting/new felts. They are a bit noisier and I need to pedal neatly, but it is worth it to me.
Carl Swanson’s book is called A Guide for Harpists and is one of the best books on harp maintenance, care and repair that I have ever seen. The edition I have is from 1984 and harps have changed since then, but a harp technician could fill you in on the differences. I also have to drive three hours to Atlanta, GA for a harp regulation, and it has to be when a harp tech is “in town” since there is not one on staff at The Atlanta Harp Center. I do my own adjusting in between professional regulations on my pedal harp, and all the regulations on my two lever harps, since I am also a piano technician and understand the mechanical process of regulating a harp. I’m just not quite a harp tech, yet, ha, ha! I hope this helps!
You mention being a student. Can’t your teacher instruct you on basics?
My teacher had worked at LH and knew maintenance, but he never showed me anything. I didn’t own a harp at the time, but I think students should watch while the teacher changes strings, pedal felts, adjusts discs, etc. It should be a part of your harp education. In my case, it was just a matter of time before I had a harp, so lesson time would have been well spent that way. Instead, I had to struggle and learn by myself. Even if a tech is in the area, or can come to your house, they DO cost money, so sometimes that is not an option.
Thank you for the recommendation of my book A GUIDE FOR HARPISTS. It is currently printed and sold by Vanderbilt Music Company. There is a chapter in there explaining regulation, as well as other chapters that deal with small adjustments and repairs, like changing felts, adjusting or changing pedal rods, etc.
When I wrote that book, I felt, and still feel, that it is important for a harpist to understand how the instrument works and how to do emergency repairs on it. I do strongly recommend though that you have a qualified technician look at the instrument and regulate it at least every 3 or 4 years. I have about 35 different types and sizes of discs that I can use to improve the regulation, particularly in the upper registers. A harpist is not going to have that on hand. In addition I have many spare parts in case something needs to be replaced or breaks(replacement screws as one example). But having me or any qualified technician look at your instrument gives you a chance to accurately assess the overall condition of your instrument and talk about any possible repairs that will be needed. You don’t have to break your neck every year to get the harp to a technician. But every couple of years should not be too difficult to arrange.
I want to thank you all for your great advice. I ordered and received your book Carl Swanson. It looks like a really good starting point for me. I’m currently trying to diagnose 2 loud buzzes. I realize from your book that it can be many things causing it, so I’ve got a lot of investigation to do. However, I have it narrowed down to certain pedal positions, at least. Can you tell me if this narrows down the problem at all? –
1) First LOUD Buzz occurs on 3rd octave G & F. And it only occurs when the pedals are as follows: D flat, B flat, E flat, G flat, (all at the same time). The buzz appears and disappears as I move the D out of flat into natural or sharp, or when I move it back to flat. I can make the buzz go away by intentionally moving the D pedal back and forth between flat / natural / sharp a few times, in which case the buzz will disappear for a little while, only to return later while moving the D pedal again. Once the buzz appears, I can move ALL the other pedals (except D) to any position and the buzz remains. But the buzz won’t initially appear without all those pedals being flat first.
2) Second Buzz occurs on 6th octave wire G. It only occurs when G pedal is in the Flat position. All the other pedals can be in any position and it has no influence on the buzz. The only thing that makes that Buzz go away is to move G out of flat into natural or sharp.
Any thoughts? Thank you in advance!
The best resource book is one written by Samuel Pratt. You might be able to find it via a library. I don’t remember its title. Otherwise, if you can travel to a master technician and apprentice, and undertake the training program by Lyon & Healy, then you will be fully trained.
Wow! Lyon & Healy has a training program? Not that I’m in any position to pursue that, but fascinating to know. This weekend I will attempt to change my pedal felts for the first time. I have Carl’s book now and some you tube videos to rely on. Wish me luck.
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