String spacing on pedal harps

  • Member
    Giorgi Rusnak on #183154

    Hi everyone. I believe it is an important topic, equally for harpists and harpmakers:). Might be Carl Swanson will address it.

    So, according to my understanding and discussions with numerous harpists, there is no standartized string spacing. L&H has it in one way, Camac has it narrower, Salvi has slightly different spacing in the trebles as well. All other makers have their spacing variation as well.
    Many harpists have difficulties transiting from one harp brand to another due to spacing issue.
    So, my questions are:
    Can we take any known spacing as a starting point?

    How contemporary harpists expect the spacing to be? Should it be more ample, or narrower, in which areas?
    For example, I know people complain on Salvi narrow middle register. Narrow Camac spacing, etc.
    One the other hand, most find Wurlitzer concert grand spacing to be the best one, althought it was created a century ago.

    Thank you. Hopefully you can contribute to the discussion with some vivid examples:)

    Participant
    Tacye on #183162

    My view is that more standardised harps aren’t needed – at least not until we have more standardised harpists! If most harpists could agree on a best spacing I doubt there would be so much variety.

    For your spacing collection – Pilgrim design their harps to have the same spacing top to bottom.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #183163

    OK. Here’s the skinny on string spacing. First, unfortunately, it was never standardized. Even over the history of Lyon & Healy, there were different spacings at different times. Lyon & Healy made “wide spacing” at one time, which made the spacing in the 4th and 5th octaves wider, but no where else on the instrument. But there were other spacings as well. In addition, most companies have used a “graduated” spacing, meaning that the higher you go on the instrument, the narrower the spacing. But the graduation can be more on some instruments and less on others.

    Us older harpists, and the generation before us, who are mostly gone now, had to play whatever was available. We had to just deal with it. My advice to everyone who plays pedal harp is to make a point of playing as many different instruments, and different makes of instruments as you can. I promise, you will learn without too much effort to adjust instantly, so that nothing will throw you.

    When I started practicing again after a hiatus of more than 20 years, I practiced on one instrument exclusively for probably 2 years. When one of my concert grand rentals came back(it had wide spacing) I couldn’t play a thing on it. Every octave I reached for was a 7th. My first thought was that I have to play more instruments. So anytime one of my rentals was here, I’d practice on that one for a while. I learned quickly to adjust to whatever I was playing. If you can’t play any instrument but your own, the answer is to play many different instrument, and DIFFERENT SIZE INSTRUMENTS.

    Participant
    brook-boddie on #183180

    This is a very good topic. I am a male harpist with large hands. I discovered the hard way that there can be great variation in string spacing in pedal harps. I purchased a Salvi semi grand (a Daphne 44) without playing it first. When the harp arrived, I was unable to play it because the spacing was significantly narrower than a concert grand. I had a L&H Troubadour at the time, and the spacing on the Daphne was so much less that I consistently reached for an octave plus one when trying to play octaves. Buzzing increased dramatically also, especially in my right hand. Thankfully, I was able to sell the harp, but it was a good lesson in yet another reason to always try my best to play a harp in person before purchasing. I tried a Salvi Arion 47 once and had the same problem. Salvi told me that they basically are fitting 47 strings into a semi grand frame, so the spacing has to be reduced to make all the strings fit. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it is important to know before purchasing a harp.

    I have a beautiful L&H concert grand now (Style 100), and I have no difficulty going back and forth between it and my L&H lever harp. So, I think the key is to to try the harp in person if spacing may be an issue. Of course, this is best anyway to be sure you are getting a harp that produces the sound you want.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #183207

    Lyon & Healy, from what I recently heard, has two spacings in use, the normal one dating back fifty years or so, and a narrower one recently adopted, so you have to check carefully. If they no longer have the templates they need to make wide-spaced harps, that is terrible, because harpists who can easily reach a tenth need wide spacing in the sixth and seventh octave so the strings don’t hit each other.

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