Relative Strengths and Weaknesses of Cross-strung Harps

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    aaron-walden on #75983

    I have thought about the cross-strung harp, recently, as it was mentioned a while back in response to one of my blog posts.

    I’ve never tried a cross-strung harp, but it seems to me that, for accidentals in a particular piece it would be simpler than using levers. However, I think that for playing diatonically in various keys the lever harp would be simpler. This is because, in the former scenario you don’t have to be constantly flipping levers, just play the odd string on the other side of where they cross, but in the latter scenario it could mean playing several sharps or flats in certain places, that would just be played as if diatonic, in a set lever harp.

    Another thing that seems a great advantage, to me, of the lever harp over the cross-strung harp, is the stringing and tuning. As if harps in general don’t have enough of that to deal with it, a cross-strung harp can make it about twice the stringing and tuning!

    What are your thoughts?

    Is Stoney End the most economical American-made cross-strung harp?

    Is the Harps of Praise Shepherd the most economical fully-levered American-made harp?

    william-weber on #75984

    Aaron, as soon as I could get my first cross-strung harp to stay in tune, I went to work on Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime is Here”, the most chromatic tune I could think of. You’re right about the advantage to each kind of harp, and it really is necessary to have both levered and cross-strung if you want the optimal harp for each kind of music.

    Sherri Matthew on #75985

    Hi Aaron and William,

    My question for both of you is, I have seen cross-strung harps offered with sharping levers (or blades) on them. What is the advantage of this, if the instrument is already chromatic?

    Also, can you explain for me the 6×6 arrangement? I understand 5×7 is supposed to emulate the black and white keys on the piano, but what is the half-tone, whole-tone relationship with this scale? And why would some harps be strung this way? Easier to play, different repertoire?

    I’ve always been interested in these type of harps but never had access to one.

    william-weber on #75986

    Hi Sherri,

    Sharping levers on a X-harp? I never saw that; who is offering that option? Are you sure it was not a double harp you saw?

    Some popular 5×7 harps are availble in 6×6 arrangement. To me, 6×6 is a niche with its own proponents. The advantage is the six keys will all feel the same to the hands, and so will the other six keys, so transposing is easy with minimal practice, while the disadvantage is that it is a whole new system not like the keyboard. or any diatonic scale system.

    Sherri Matthew on #75987

    Hi William,
    Can’t remember where I saw that. But pretty sure it was a cross-strung.

    Have you ever played a 6×6? Are the strings colored coded like regular harps – red c’s, blue f’s?

    Also,, how close do you play to the crossing intersection?

    aaron-walden on #75988

    It seems to me that a cross-strung harp with levers would be usable as either a cross strung harp or as a regular lever harp, and it would thus give a player a single harp that could be played in the more practical manner for a given piece.

    So, if I wanted to play Amazing Grace in D, I could just set the levers to play in D, and play it as on a non-cross harp, but if I wanted to play The Entertainer, I could play it in any key, without having to be flipping levers mid-song, just by playing cross-strung style.

    So, yes, a cross-strung harp is chromatic (so is a fully-levered single-strung harp) but a levered cross-strung harp is even more chromatic, or at least easier to use more chromatically.

    As far as who makes them, I don’t know.

    matthias-weber on #75989

    Hey William Weber, My name is Matthias Weber and I´m a harpteacher in Trier ( Germany ).
    A lucky event is, that my father´s name was Wilhelm ( WIlliam ) Weber.
    Please wright me about you. I´m very intrested .

    caroline-scism on #75990

    You cannot play characteristic “chordal” glissandos on a cross-strung harp. You would always be glissing in the key of C, so no wonderful, magical glisses produced by enharmonically using the double-action harps’ pedals.

    Sherri Matthew on #75991

    Hi Caroline,
    I think you have answered my question for me – thanks! So if you had sharping blades or levers on a cross-strung, then you would be able to gliss in a different key. As to who the builder was that offered that option, I remembered that it was Mountain Glen harps… found it on his web page. It was puzzling to me at the time. Now I have that cleared up. Still not sure what the 6×6 layout looks like though.

    william-weber on #75992

    The levers on my Melody 26 make possible a glissando in whatever key I have set up. It’s nothing more than diatonic levered harp. As for the levered X harp, were all strings levered or only the diatonic course?

    Sherri Matthew on #75993

    Hi William,
    I gathered from the description on his website that he has built x-harps in the past with levers on every string. They’re custom instruments apparently, so I guess it’s whatever configuration the customer needs.

    My Triplett Luna (wire harp) has a full set of sharping blades, so I can gliss in a lot of different keys as well. But your idea is interesting: if you had levers on the chromatic side of the x-harp, that would expand the range of scales you could use.

    Charles on #75994

    Aaron, I just finished building myself a Pleyel style 62 string 5/7 cross strung chromatic harp. It’s been quite the experience. It’s been strung for two weeks now and seems to be accepting its role as a tonal instrument. Now for the fun part! Learning to play it. I’m comfortable playing pedal and lever harps one technique issue I’m dealing with is placing my fingers out of their natural sequence in order to reach up or down to play the pentatonic strings. As well as the cross eyed factor and getting lost. This will get better with more practice. Tuning takes a long time but I’m sure that will speed up as time goes on as well. I do miss being able to play glisses in different keys but there is more to playing the harp than glisses. Here is a picture of my latest harp. Once he stabilizes and I learn to play him I’ll post a clip or two.

    Sherri Matthew on #75995

    Hi Charles,
    I’m very interested in these… what type of string are you using?

    Charles on #75996

    Hi Sherri,
    Being that this was my first cross strung I wanted to play it safe. I had Vermont Strings create an all nylon and nylon wrap set for me.

    Sherri Matthew on #75997

    It looks great! 🙂 I only play wire. If you ever get into building wire cross-strung, I’d be very interested in following your progress on that project. I realize there’s going to be quite a learning curve in harp building (and playing!), but this one looks like it turned out quite well. Maybe you could post a sound clip of it further down the road?

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