String tension – pros and cons?

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    Hi, first post here.

    I’m currently trying to save up towards a harp (34+ string lever harp, I have no interest in the pedal harp) – will be a longterm project, given how expensive such are, but no harm in starting research early.

    I see harps with different tensions, sometimes the same model is offered with different tensions even. What are the pros and cons of of concert tension vs. lighter tension? Are there harps midway between as well?


    0la, If you aim for a lever harp of 34 strings or a couple more, you ought to try out some of those makes. at a store, or a friend’s house, or a harp gathering. Most of those will have a string tension less than that of a pedal harp, since the smaller frames and ranges cannot support thicker gauges of strings, Since people are so unique in their size and also their tastes, you must try out several models, keeping a list and perhaps even a recorded sound of you playing several measures of the same piece, or even a scale. You will be forming your own opinion of the sound and size: it represents YOU, so do not be so hasty in a decision. A lot of us like to hang our fingers on a rather taut string, instead of a more limp one; it gives us more ability to “place” well, and also to produce more resonance with a bit less effort. Go to any harp concert and make notes on the size and make of the harp, and how you liked the sound. It is such a good idea to start early, and also to start early saving regularly for a harp in your future. Try to rent one for a while if possible, and seek out a good teacher soon, who very likely went through such a choosing process at least once and could help. If you find a harp model you seem to prefer, perhaps there is used one for sale or rent and those may have a richer tone than one brand new; the wood has improved, we often find, because so many sound vibrations have already passed through it. Please post again if you would like to share your journey!

    Eric Allison

    String tension is an enigmatic topic when applied to harps. There’s not an actual “concert” standard and, yes, there are highs, lows, and everything in between. Some sites even describe such phenomenon as “low-to-slightly-medium string tension” whatever that means.

    Ideally, you have access to a conference or showroom to actually try a number of instruments. If not, you share my fortune of having to determine these factors through reading and online discussions.

    The best method I’ve found for understanding thoughts about string tension online is asking people to relate their comments to harps I’ve played. Reading “lower tension than a Blevins” or “much higher tension than a Stoney End” is far more informative than trying to interpret someone’s idea of “high” or “medium” tension.

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