Low C String

Posted In: Repertoire

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    MusikFind1 on #217036

    A composer asks on a list serve:
    “what models of harps have disks on the Low C string? On some of the largest harps the low C can not be changed in pitch once it is set to Cb, C-nat. or C#. Notice on this picture of the Prince William Harp ( $93,000.00 ) that there are no disks on the lowest red string. That note is C1 in the standard ISO system, formerly known as the ASA (Acoustical Society of America) or ANSI system. Harpist count from top to bottom so they call the note C7.”


    emily-mitchell on #217040

    None. Not on the lowest C and D. All concert grand harps are designed this way. It was explained to me that there is not enough room to provide linkage for these lower extremities. The lowest notes have to be tuned specifically to flat, natural or sharp which means you will not be able to change the pitch of these notes while playing except in-between movements or pieces. I tune my low C and D to natural instead of flat. I find I use them more often in natural. You can, however, use enharmonics. You may already know this, but say you need a low C natural and you also need a low C#, tune the low D to Db and play the Db in place of the C#. Do realize that the lowest octave of the harp does not have the clarity, or flexibility of the piano, not to mention a harpist’s right hand can’t reach these notes. Use that octave for pedal tones, or the end of a gliss.

    emma-graham on #217047

    Yup, I believe Emily is right. Even Salvi’s new monster, the Reus 49, doesn’t have discs on the D or C…..or B or A!

    carl-swanson on #217056

    7th octave C and D, which are the strings you are talking about, sit right on top of the main action, which is the three gears behind the front action plate, and which take the movement from the pedal rods and divide it between the natural and sharp chains. There is just no room to put linkage and discs for those two strings. But there really is another reason as well. Those last 5 strings on the instrument(6th octave G and F, and 7th octave E,D, and C) have quite a wide swing to them when they are played. They are capable of banging into the prongs of the sharp disc when in flat position, and capable of banging into each other if they are pulled too hard. I think that discs on those last two strings would have horrible problems with the strings banging the sharp disc prongs.

    balfour-knight on #217117

    I love all these posts, my friends! I wanted to add that the top G on a concert grand harp usually does not have discs, either. A few models do have mechanism way up there, but not many. I have never found that the lack of mechanism on these three notes bothered me, but I have wondered WHY they don’t have discs, so Carl and Emily answered that perfectly! Thanks!

    Emma, I will just have to look up that new “monster” harp!

    You all have a wonderful day!

    emma-graham on #217126

    Here it is Balfour! (Click the image to go to the web page!)

    Reus 49

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by emma-graham.
    kathy-chanik on #217141

    Yikes! I wonder how much it weighs? And how much it costs…Brook, I think this might be your harp! I hope all this extra size is giving it extra volume too. And the extra height will increase the vibrating string length, so what about any changes in tension or string gauges and string spacing? I guess we’ll see…

    balfour-knight on #217148

    Thanks, Emma. At 75.5 inches, this harp would just NOT fit in my car. At 96.5 pounds, my sweet wife said I’d have to get another assistant for moving it.😃

    Harp hugs,

    MusikFind1 on #217178

    At the top end of the harp, Ravel in Daphnis et Chloé notates a scale glissando before Reh. 206, which ends (in Harp notation on A0) in ANSI Notation A7. This A string is not on harps.

    carl-swanson on #217185

    The only reason I can think of for extending the length of the soundboard would be to have some resonating area available for the last notes at either end of the board, i.e., C7 and G00. Why not add one string at the bottom(B7) and one string at the top(A00). Neither string would actually be played, but their presence would add more resonating soundboard above and below the two strings that would occasionally be played(C7 and G00).

    balfour-knight on #217195

    Carl, that is exactly why Bosendorfer added the extra notes to the bass end of the piano! I am one who actually does use all the notes at my disposal on any piano or harp, since I play by ear and improvise freely. It does not matter that printed music doesn’t make use of these extreme notes, I make use of all the resources available.

    MusikFind, that is very interesting about the Ravel–I never noticed that before. I just end the glissando on an appropriate note, judging by ear and sound what that ending note should be. This also works well on a harp that does not have all 47 strings.

    Thanks, my friends. Hope you all have a great day!

    balfour-knight on #218117

    I found something related to this topic that sounds very interesting! Some of you may own, or know of, the book Harps and Harpists, by Roslyn Rensch. On page 216 under Venus harps, she makes reference to a large harp called the Paragon, “with an extended soundboard and a handsomely carved column designed in French Gothic style, 47 strings with FULL MECHANISM action on ALL strings!” Do any of you wonderful harp fans know if this was true?

    Have a great harping day,

    catherine-rogers on #218135

    Just saw a photo of one on the Venus website and it has no action on 7th octave D or C, like all other concert grands.

    brook-boddie on #218146

    Don’t I wish, Kathy. I’m about to have another procedure on my back that is going to limit my ability to lift another over 10#. My first thought when my doctor told me that was “the harps???!!!!!” I may end up having to sell my pedal harp (Style 30), but I’ll have to work out something for the lever harps. I’d love to hear this one just to see how big it sounds, but I will forever miss my 30 if I have to sell it. 🙁 How are you doing? What’s the newest toy in your harp arsenal?

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by brook-boddie.
    emma-graham on #218155

    Balfour, I’ve certainly never seen one with the mechanism on the lowest strings. Nearly all modern LH concert harps have the full mechanism going right up to the top now though. There is much more space for your hand too. I seem to remember being told that LH re-designed the top of the mechanism in order to do this.

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