Stretch strings for the weekend

  • Participant
    poetic harpist on #215398

    I’ve replaced the 5 lowest strings on my harp.

    Normally these would be tuned to:
    A B C D E

    However I want to stretch them a tiny tiny bit over the weekend so I’ve taken them up a semitone to:
    A# C C# D# F

    Then I’ll take them all back down a semitone on Monday.

    The idea is that this will give them a tiny little stretch so that they hold their key better from now on.

    Anyone else do this?

    Participant
    wil-weten on #215400

    According to your other very recent messages on this forum, you rented a harp. You put metal wound guitar strings on the lowest strings as you did not like the original ones and used permanent marker for the C and F strings and now you tuned the 5 lowest strings each a semi tone higher than they were meant to be.

    Did you ever wonder whether all this extra tension could harm the harp you rented?

    Guess what the owner of the harp you rented will tell you when she finds out what you have been doing?

    Participant
    poetic harpist on #215403

    [quote]You put metal wound guitar strings on the lowest strings as you did not like the original ones[/quote]

    A nylon core with a bright nickel winding. (Designed for lower tension for higher tone).

    The originals were all dark coloured and sounded dull. They were so dark I couldn’t tell the C’s and F’s.

    [quote]and used permanent marker for the C and F strings[/quote]

    Right. The C’s are nice and bright, and it doesn’t come off on my fingers.

    [quote]and now you tuned the 5 lowest strings each a semi tone higher than they were meant to be.[/quote]

    One semitone is one twelfth more tension. So that’s about 8% tighter.

    [Quote]Did you ever wonder whether all this extra tension could harm the harp you rented?[/quote]

    You mean putting on nylon-with-nickel-winding strings and making them 8% tighter?

    I don’t know how much tighter you have to go before the frame warps or snaps.

    [quote]Guess what the owner of the harp you rented will tell you when she finds out what you have been doing?[/quote]

    She knows already. She doesn’t care. It wasn’t in great nick when she gave it to me. With that said though, one less person can learn the harp if it breaks — that would be bad.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #215406

    So, the harp owner doesn’t care what happens to the harp she has rented to you?
    Interesting.

    Am I correct that she still expects to get the harp back in the condition she gave it to you?

    Participant
    Biagio on #215407

    I’ll often stretch in new strings a bit provided they are not metal core. I’m curious what model harp this is and why you are paying rent for it, if it is in such crummy shape that the owner doesn’t care what happens to it?

    Participant
    poetic harpist on #215412

    When I said she doesn’t care, I mean it isn’t of concern to her that I put the new strings on. They’re nylon core.

    I’ve attached a photograph of my harp I took about 5mins ago.

    Participant
    poetic harpist on #215413

    Trying to upload the photograph again

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    Participant
    tanyanoel on #215418

    Just to answer the string stretch question….. I just changed 2 strings on my 38 string harp, and I tuned them up a teeny bit not a full half step just a touch wondering if that would help stretch the strings faster. I gotta say, that didn’t really help, nor do I think a full half step up would really help. I needed to retune my 2 new strings a lot of the first few days, they would never have held their pitch for a weekend when new. So, My advice would simply be, accept that you will just need to keep tuning up the strings over the next 2-6 days until they eventually and gradually settle in a stretch. This is one of those things you cannot speed along.

    Participant
    Biagio on #215420

    Tanya, I rather think it depends on the type of string, the placement within the regime, and the intended tension overall. Nylon, and especially fluorocarbon often have to stretch in a great deal – I’ve been known to take FC in the lower mid up a full step on a high tension harp.

    That definitely shortened the time for it to hold tune. On the other hand, you’re taking a chance on tightening too much with gut. And I’ll never do that in the treble, whatever the material.

    In the lower range, you have several factors going on: not just stretching, but the knot, the belly, the effect on adjacent strings, and sometimes the neck flexing as well.

    Caution seems the most reasonable approach if it’s a fairly new harp or if one is not very experienced, though, so I’m not disagreeing with you.

    With a complete stringing on a brand new harp I can count on a couple of weeks, no matter what I might try to hasten it!

    Biagio

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #215421

    New nylon strings stretch, and stretch, and stretch… If I’m replacing one nylon string, I’ll tune it up a major third to try to stretch it out quicker. But I wouldn’t do that with more than one string at a time. Both nylon and gut strings want to go back to wherever they were when you tune them. So if you tune a nylon or gut string down from where it was, it will drift up. If you’re tuning it up from where it was, it will drift down.

    Are you sure you are using the correct gauge strings on this harp? Some non-pedal harps are built to use pedal harp strings, and they have more or less pedal harp tension. The Lyon & Healy troub and my own Swanson lever harp are built that way. Other non-pedal harps are built much lighter and take a much thinner string. From what you’ve written so far, I’m not sure you have a clear understanding of this, or what gauge strings the harp was built for. Why are you improvising with the strings anyway. Just buy what the instrument requires.

    Participant
    poetic harpist on #215423

    [quote]I’ve been known to take FC in the lower mid up a full step on a high tension harp. That definitely shortened the time for it to hold tune.[/quote]

    Do you mean ‘lengthened’ instead of ‘shortened’ there?

    [quote] If I’m replacing one nylon string, I’ll tune it up a major third to try to stretch it out quicker.[/quote]

    That’s 4 semitones. That’s 33% tighter.

    Participant
    Biagio on #215432

    Yes, I meant “shortened the time” id est it only took two days before it held tune, instead of four or more.

    That’s a nice looking and small harp you have there; from your remarks thus far it does not seem to me that you’re doing anything that would harm it. But I hope that you understand string theory if you ever try a larger instrument. A harp’s physics is different from that of a guitar.

    If you want to read a good discussion, see String Theory on the Sligo Harps website:
    http://www.sligoharps.com/

    I very much agree with Carl in general – use what the harp maker intended unless you are sure that you know what you are doing. For instance, you wrote that you replaced a monofilament A string with a nylon core, nickel wound one, basing that on the diameter measurement. The replacement will be significantly higher tension.

    It looks as though you have a high density laminate sound board which can probably take the added tension. My point however if that just going by diameter can be risky. Please read Rick Kemper’s discussion at Sligo if my comment is unclear.

    Participant
    poetic harpist on #215433

    I’ve delved into the mathematics of music before, for example the use of the twelfth root to calculate the distance between frets on a guitar (and how the frets get narrower as you move up).

    I read the String Theory article on the Sligo Harps website just now. An interesting read. Unless I’m looking to build my own harp though, I don’t need nearly that much knowledge. More so, I just need basic instructions on any particular harp such as:

    This 36-string lever harp is designed for 25 nylon strings (density = 1050 ± 100) and 11 nylon-core-with-nickle-winding strings (density = 1450 ± 135). Any string may be over-tightened by a maximum of 4 semitones (i.e. one third of an octave). If you put heavier or lighter strings on this harp then this figure of 4 semitones can be adjusted according to the string weight.

    Participant
    Biagio on #215434

    If you are comfortable with your understanding, that’s excellent! I wish more players were – and more teachers for that matter. Carl and a few others I’ve known understand this stuff; most really don’t.

    And why should they? If they have harps they like there is really no need to go beyond what those harps have.

    Have fun in any case!
    Biagio

    Participant
    charles-nix on #215456

    Perhaps it should be emphasized again that harps and guitars are very different in one respect: If you put any commercial gauge guitar strings on any modern guitar, you are unlikely to break the guitar, assuming you respect the steel/nylon divide on guitars.

    Increasing tension on harps can, will, and does break them — and it is usually a catastrophic, expensive failure — either the soundboard or neck breaks.

    Harps can be and often are designed very close to the breaking strength limits of the wood. Carl can tell you how many harp soundboards he has seen break within a very few years of being new, and that is using the strings for which they are designed. I have, myself seen several, from reputable manufacturers, that blew soundboards while under five year warranty. Wood is a natural material; its ultimate strength is variable and difficult to calculate.

    It is possible to calculate string tension; how much tension the harp will stand is guesswork and experience. That is no reason to not experiment –and it can be a lot of fun — but don’t be surprised if you break a harp — be ready for the consequences. If you think custom strings are expensive, try a soundboard replacement or neck repair.

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