pedal versus lever gauge (?) = lever problem?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    samantha-t on #156229

    I posted earlier about restringing my Salvi Heather (34 string lever harp). The music shop I bought it from has always insisted that it’s okay for me to string it with pedal harp strings, which is what I’ve always done.

    But now I see that the Sylvia Woods Harp Centre says the Heather should use lever harp gauge strings. Could I have damaged the harp by using pedal strings? I always understood that the Heather had pedal harp tension, and didn’t think the thickness of the string mattered, except perhaps to the sound quality. I’m getting somewhat confused.

    Also, I’m finding that on some strings (especially non-wires), engaging the levers does not make a perfect half step anymore. Could this be because I’m using the wrong gauge, or does the instrument just need regulation? In this case, I’m not sure how to move the lever, as each lever has three screws, only one of which (the larger main screw) moves in a slot. I don’t want to have to drill two new holes for the other smaller screws…

    I’m going to order the Kolacny book, but it’ll take a while to get here.
    thanks v. much for any help. Sam
    p.s. I’m going to contact Salvi, but I count on a more user-friendly response from this forum!

    barbara-brundage on #156230

    I don’t think there were any Salvis that used lever gauge strings back when the heather was made, so I doubt you would have damaged it. For sure the teachers I know who have them are using pedal strings on them. Lever gauge stringing wasn’t a very common concept at that period. Folk harp makers who used lighter strings had unique strings made specially for their harps; there really wasn’t a generic lever gauge available back then.

    It’s a normal part of life for levers to get out of adjustment over time, so that’s usual, too. Those nasty set screws were the bane of the old Salvi levers. You can leave them off, but then the lever is prone to spin when you flip it. I forget what Kolacny advises, but I’d go by what his book says to do.

    barbara-brundage on #156231

    However, you might like lever gauge on that harp, too. It might be easier to play and might prolong its life a bit, since there will be less tension on the soundboard.

    samantha-t on #156232

    Thanks for taking the time to reply, Barbara. You’ve been a great help. Sam

    samantha-t on #156233

    A postscript: now I’m confused again. This is what Salvi says:

    The harp should be strung with lever gut.
    The structure was not reinforced to take pedal gut strings. It is probably okay
    if it is just a few strings, but eventually the tension could hurt the
    structure of the harp.”

    barbara-brundage on #156234

    Well, then I would go ahead do it, although for sure back in the early 90s when those were made there wasn’t any such thing. Maybe they’ve been seeing failures from the higher tension strings.

    samantha-t on #156235

    More follow-up from Salvi when I asked them whether pedal and lever nylon (as opposed to gut) strings were interchangeable, and sent a more detailed description of the levers:

    Nylon is about the same tension either
    way, and it is much less tension than gut so it is fine. Although it may not
    have been called lever gut, the early lever harps had lighter tension strings
    on them originating with the wrap strings and then nylon. When lever gut came
    out it was to replace the nylon on the harps to get a fuller sound. You may use
    pedal gut on the harp, but over time, the lever gut will keep the harp’s
    structure intact.

    Tacye on #156236

    I assume the levers are making the strings too sharp when engaged?

    samantha-t on #156237

    Yes, some of the levers result in sharp notes when engaged. I do suspect it’s an age related thing.

    How long do harps live, anyway – even with the best of care? I guess it’s not like other stringed instruments where they can improve with age. Too much tension. How old is too old?

    barbara-brundage on #156238

    There’s no simple answer to that, because it depends on so many things. Tacye has had a lot of experience with harps that are much older than those of us in the US normally see.

    How much the harp was used, how much it was moved, how well it was cared for, how sound the wood and workmanship were, all these things play a factor.

    Tacye on #156239

    Old harps are very often capable of being rebuilt, but with the changing technology and design of lever harps in particular players often prefer to put the money towards a newer one.

    samantha-t on #156240

    Very interesting.

    Mine is twenty years old and has a slight hairline crack in the soundboard aligned with the string holes. Also I can see a crack of daylight on one side at the top of the pillar where it joins the neck: so I’m really not sure how much to put into it.

    Tacye on #156241

    Is the crack going across the soundboard (probably not a problem) or up and down (may just be the veneer, if not may eventually cause a nuisance)?

    Tacye on #156242

    Ooh, there was that occasion in the middle of the 20th C when a few slack wires were put on the Brian Boru and twanged gingerly.

    samantha-t on #156243

    The crack is up and down, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just the veneer
    (which is the shiny kind and now crackled all over). It’s currently just
    a hairline. The harp does have a good sound though, even with ancient
    strings. But no regulator around here, or at least one that’s easy to
    get a hold of. So after I replace all the strings, I need to move the
    levers myself to solve the tuning problem…scary.

    I do feel like a change, though, sometimes, and am considering a new
    harp –

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