Lever Positions For Tuning

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    martin-solomon on #82368

    How do you all explain the tuning process to students in terms of lever positions?

    My personal method when I perform is to set the levers to C major and then tune the strings, as this is a key ‘near’ to most keys I play in.

    However, i have read that the text-book method is to dis-engage all the levers and tune in E flat. This method sounds like it would work in an ideal world – ie if the harp had perfect intonation, but in the real world of mechanical imperfections I find that my C major method seems more practical.

    Any comments?

    Bristol, UK

    Angela Biggs on #82369

    If you’re tuning in the key of C in order to minimize intonation issues with the levers, wouldn’t that just be a case of six-of-one/half-dozen-of-the-other? If you tune in Eb and engage your A and E levers to get to the key of F, A and E might be out of tune. If you tune in C and disengage your B and E levers to get to Bb, B and E might be out of tune. If disengaging levers isn’t an issue because you’re playing in C and sharp keys almost exclusively, you may want to consider tuning your open strings to C (or maybe F, so that you can access one flat easily), and re-tuning the flat strings when you need them.

    How long has it been since you and your students had your levers regulated? I’m finding that I need to do it every 11 months or so (I don’t, but I should!). If you’re playing regularly and it’s been a couple of years or more, you may find that this basic – though time-consuming and often tricky – maintenance will solve your problem with mechanical imperfections.

    Of course, I’m assuming that since you’re tuning with levers engaged, you’re using a type of lever that doesn’t pinch the string (not a Loveland, for example). If you have a pinch-type lever, then you shouldn’t tune in this fashion because of the extra wear on the string.

    I’m interested to read what more experienced players have to say about this.

    diane-michaels on #82370

    When we tune with a lever or pedal engaged, we’re really just shortening/lengthening the string between the tuning peg and the lever or disc, so when either is released, so too will be any additional slack or lack therein through the “open” string. Or worse – you keep trying to bring up the pitch of the string but it doesn’t rise so you keep turning the peg, and then SNAP!!! Tune with levers down/pedals up. If your harp is not in perfect regulation and you really need oh, say, your 3rd octave F# to be in tune, play the string as an F# and disengage the lever/pedal for any adjustments, toggling between open and sharped position.

    With a beginning student who isn’t ready to comprehend keys, whose harp is tuned in E flat, I’ll write out the enharmonic equivalents that their particular tuner displays, and teach them to welcome their Aunt BEA when playing in C, which helps them remember which levers to put up.

    tony-morosco on #82371

    Tune with the levers disengaged, and if your intonation is off when you engage them so much that you can notice it get the harp regulated (or do it yourself, it’s not that hard with lever harps). Tuning around bad intonation doesn’t make any sense because you will still have to retune when you change keys. Sooner or later you end up out of tune, so best to just maintain the harp so that it is regulated properly.

    rosey-brumm on #82372

    Oh I welcome your common sense . We have levers to simplify playing different keys. Regulation is not a dirty word!
    Tune in Eb then engage each lever one by one and check the tuning of each note and semitone. If you only use sharps tune to C and check each lever as above. Those out of tune need to be regulated. Not all makes of levers are easy to regulate.
    The need for consistency is more noticeable when playing with a group, circle, ensemble. Unless you have a good ear or your teacher does. If you are going to record ensure your harp is regulated before hand and save money.
    When buying a new harp go thru this procedure and ensure your new up is regulated from the beginning. Most commonly one will notice chords get muddy unclear. An accident can leave a harp needing regulation. Putting harps in cases and cars can also place wear and tear on levers. I have perfect pitch and it is a constant requirement for me to keep the levers regulated. I prefer Camac levers and L & H performance levers. Some harps unfortunately are not made well enough for great tone, clarity and pitch.

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