I have a question for all of you harp gurus 🙂
I have a Lyon & Healy Prelude harp that I purchased in Aug. of 2006 (used–3 years old, from a reputable harp store).
Posted In: Amateur Harpists
If the strings are breaking at the sound board, then there probably is something wrong. I had trouble with one particular string in the 1st octave awhile back, and the guy who regulates harps around here ran some sand through the hole (I think…it was a year ago, but I think thats what he said) and it hasn’t given me problems since.
I would check the humidity level in the room you keep the harp in. I’m not sure what level the humidity needs to be (I think around 40%) but it needs to be kept at that level at all times.
There should be plastic grommets lining the holes in the soundboard. First I would check to make sure that the edges of those grommets are smooth.
Since the strings are breaking at the soundboard it most likely isn’t an issue with the levers. Are you sure you are not tuning too high?
Otherwise the most likely issue is environmental changes. Try regulating the environment as much as possible. Keep the heat at a steady level and use humidifiers or dehumidifiers to keep the humidity constant. And if you don’t use an electronic tuner get one just to check the tuning now and then to be sure it isn’t going up too high.
If the harp had the original gut strings on it when you bought it, what you are experiencing is totally normal. You should replace guts at least every two years, preferably every one year. You sound like a serious practicer and it’s totally possible the strings are just worn out.
Do not use abrasive cord, except on a hole in a tuning pin which seems to break the string. For the soundboard grommets, for the bridge pins, and for the tuning pin holes, too, dental floss is a better first line of attack. But that is for when a particular string keeps breaking repeeatedly in the same spot.
But if you just are having a lot of different older strings break, that’s totally normal. In the extreme humidity of S Fl, I regularly break about a full set of guts in the course of a year on my outdoor harp.
BTW, if your harp has the loveland levers on it, those are stringbreakers, too.
Once the lacquer on a gut string is worn away where your fingers toch, the string is compromised to some extent because it starts collecting the oils and moisture from your hands and the air. The old uncoate guts took care of themselves by making you feel like you were playing the hairbrush instead of the harp, but the new ones don’t give you that feedback nearly as fast.
>If your levers are chewing up the strings, to me it sounds like you need to have your harp regulated. They shouldn’t be doing that.
The loveland levers do chew gut strings, Cecelia, unfortunately, if you really use them much. Any pinchy lever will eat up gut strings eventually, which is one reason why they don’t use those on preludes anymore. They work fine on lower tension nylon harps like a dusty.
Not only that, but if you use your levers a lot (I do), the strings will eat the lever cams eventually, too, from the constant pressure on the plastic. I have had to replace a number of cams because of this over the years.
BTW, just to point out that the first gen troubadours were all nylon, so you’ll need to reregulate if you put gut on one of those. If you have the square box levers I wouldn’t, since those are real shavers sometimes.
Speaking of old Troubadours with new strings……I have a Troubadour I which I got for $300 from a friend. The levers were lunched, and it had really REALLY old strings on it — maybe original. I changed the strings over but I could only play it in different keys if I tuned it in different keys. So……in April I had Camac levers put on it with all new strings, wires/guts/nylons. OH MY!!!! What a fabulous little harp this is now!!