Strings: Variations on a Theme

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    renaissancemanohio on #195335

    What a great idea, Carl. Thank you. Where can I learn how to do this?  John

    carl-swanson on #195337

    First off, the broken string has to be long enough so the knot is above the adjustable nut, i.e., between the adjustable nut and the tuning pin. Sometimes you have to untie the knot at the bottom end(if you can) and retie it to get a little more length to make this happen.

    You need to know how to tie a figure 8 knot. If you don’t, go online and find an explanation. You can use the figure 8 knot to tie the knot at the bottom end of the string(under the soundboard) as well as the knot you will use to patch the string.

    To make the patch, tie a figure 8 knot in the broken string, and leave it loose.   It may not be above the adjustable nut now if you stretch it out, but if it’s close, then tightening the string will pull the knot above the adjustable.  Now use another piece of gut string(it can be thicker or somewhat thinner than the string you are patching) and push one end of it through an opening in the figure 8 knot. Now tie a figure 8 knot in that string as well, making sure that the knot wraps around the string you are patching. What you should have now is two figure 8 knots, each one with the other string going through it. Now pull them tight.  Put the end of the patch string through the tuning pin and pull it up to pitch.  If the knot ends up right on the tuning pin, you can wind the string down and retie the knot at the bottom end of the string, tying that knot a little further up the string so that the patch knots are a little farther from the tuning pin.  You’ll get the hang of it by doing it once or twice. It gives you a lot more milage on the expensive strings. As I mentioned before, I’ve got patched strings that are at least 5 or 6 years old.

    balfour-knight on #195339

    So sorry to hear of all the problems with the broken strings!  If I had ever had that problem with a harp, I think I would have just given up.  But I’m glad you did not just give up, John!   Of course I have had my share of broken strings all these years, but always one at a time, and few and far between.  The funny thing is that they always seem to break in the middle of the night, about 3:00 A.M., and we roll over and ask each other, “which princess is unhappy tonight?” Ha, ha!

    I have always used Bow Brand on my pedal harps.  I love the tone, and some strings have been good for eight years or more, in the 4th and 5th octaves.  I also have never had but one or two break in the 3rd octave, and only the highest ones in the 2nd octave.  I use Artist Nylon in the First Octave, and would never consider using gut way up there!  I restring this first octave every two to three years, and have never had a broken one between string changes.  My replacement strings, both gut and nylon, are now about eight years old, and have held up well over that time, in a humidity-controlled house, between 40 and 60 percent humidity all year, heated to about 68 degrees F in the winter, and cooled to about 72 degrees F in the summer.  I take the harps out to lots of gigs where they are exposed to various changes in temperature and humidity, but I have never had that problem with breaking strings like you folks talk about, thank goodness.

    Maybe my strings all date to BEFORE the time of having the problem with the weak strings from Bow Brand, like you have said, Gretchen.  I do not know which brand of strings my harp tech used last time to restring my Second Octave, but only the top E has broken in a year since the regulation, and that is normal.  If it breaks again, I plan to go to nylon on at least that note, and maybe the entire second octave.  I have heard harps strung in nylon through the Third Octave, like Saul mentioned, that sound very nice.  This might solve a lot of the breaking of the higher strings, I think.

    Does anyone use the Venus affiliated Valkyres strings?  I wonder about their longevity.

    Well, continue on with this thread, friends.  Best wishes for NO BREAKING strings for a while!


    renaissancemanohio on #195413


    Here’s a photo of my middle C string spliced like you suggested.

    So far, so good! Thank you for your guidance.


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    balfour-knight on #195418

    John, that looks real good!  I have done that with piano strings, but forgot that one can do the same with harp strings, only easier!  Thanks for reminding us, Carl.

    Best wishes,


    carl-swanson on #195419

    John- Congratulations! You got it.

    Andelin on #195463

    Is there a brave soul willing to make a youtube video on how to do this?  I am not sure I fully understand based on the description and picture…I would love to know how to do this!


    does untying the bottom end knot and retying the figure 8 lower down mean the string is weaker at the bottom?  I always thought that once the string was bent (especially the larger gut strings) it wouldn’t hold up like before.  Am I mistaken?


    carl, thanks for sharing this!  I did a search online and didn’t find any info on this anywhere else.

    carl-swanson on #195474

    I’m not sure, but I think this is explained in the Salzedo Method for the harp.  Untying and then retying a knot in a gut string(if you can. It’s not always possible) does not weaken the string. So you don’t have to worry about that.  You have to start by knowing how to tie a figure 8 knot. There are explanations on line about that. Here’s my explanation of tying a figure 8.  Hold the string in a vertical position in your left hand, with the end of the string pointing up. With your right hand, take that end and bend it down and cross it over the string held in your left hand. Hold the two pieces of the string in place(the long part of the string and the short end crossed over it) with the index finger and thumb of your left hand.  You now have a loop of string pointing up and the short end pointing down and crossing the long part of the string.   Take the loop in your right hand and twist it a half turn so that the short end is now wrapped fully around the long part. Now push the short end through the loop and pull it tight. The knot will look like the number 8.

    renaissancemanohio on #195475

    Andelin, I found the diagram in Carlos Salzedo’s method book.  John

    emma-graham on #195687

    Well this is all very fascinating stuff. I love hearing about the different experiences everyone has.

    I have no idea if it’s because I’m in the UK with a different climate but I have to say that when I bought my 23 new I didn’t have one broken string while it was settling in. Could be because it was imported to a shop here so not fresh off the factory floor. To be honest I almost never have broken strings on any of my harps. My duet partner despairs because she has been plagued by the Bow Brand issues of recent years. She bought a new harp about the same time as me (a Pilgrim Aldeburgh) and strings have been pinging left right and centre. Meanwhile, mine just keep going. I do re-string the whole harp every few years or so but don’t do anything with regard to humidity etc. I’m beginning to think I’m just very, very lucky!!

    There isn’t really any other option than Bow here in the UK so that’s what I’ve always stuck with but I do love the sound of my Camac Hermine which has Aliance carbon fibre strings. I’m tempted to string my Camac Big Blue with them just to see what the sound is like. I would have to buy them from France though as they aren’t available on the UK website for pedal harps.

    balfour-knight on #195689

    Emma, that has been exactly my experience with all my different harps through the years.  I know that we ARE very lucky, indeed, as I read of all the problems folks have had with breaking strings.

    My L&H pedal harp has only broken one or two gut strings in between string changes (every three years for me). I have never had a broken nylon or wire on my pedal harps.  My lever harps have been the same, Ravenna only had two broken nylon strings during the four years I had her, and my Large Gothic from Musicmakers never broke any strings in between changing all the strings every three years.  I have owned my Dusty FH36S now for almost eight months, and no broken strings.

    Venus harps use Sterling brand strings.  Does anyone have experience with these?

    Happy Fathers’ Day, all you guys!

    Harp Hugs,


    renaissancemanohio on #195714

    I daresay, a fortnight has passed with nary a ping, knock on wood as it were.

    balfour-knight on #195722

    John, I am so glad to hear this!  I hope mine don’t start breaking, now, ha, ha!

    Victoria on #196066

    I just patched my 5th octave C following your explanation, Carl. I looked up on how to tie a figure 8 knot from the web. Thanks so much for the suggestion, definitely save me from buying a new string for the time being. Although I must admit doing a patch for a 5th octave string is quite painful as they are so hard to bend and make knots from.

    renaissancemanohio on #197038

    Hello, everyone!

    My first patched string broke yesterday; and it was the first string I ever patched. But it did not break below the knot. It broke above the knot. I’m going to try to re-patch it and see how long it lasts.  This is the first string that has broken since the wild and whacky spring string fling.  Hope you are all well and enjoying the waning days of summer into the colorful days of autumn, at least in the northern hemisphere… You southern hemisphere dwellers, I hope you have a nice spring.

    John (Columbus, Ohio)

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