Hello fellow harpists! I have a 20 year old 27 string Clarenbridge Amergin which I absolutely adore. It has 3 nylon wrapped strings which I would prefer to switch out for gut strings. Is this possible? Or would it maybe damage the harp or dampen the sound quality? I tend to get more buzzing on those strings than I do on the others. I realize this is likely more a problem with my technique rather than with the strings themselves, but I also tend to prefer the sound of gut strings anyway. The manufacturer unfortunately doesn’t make harps any more and hasn’t for several years, so I am unable to contact them for help. Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!
You may like to try: http://www.folkcraft.com/contact.html for contact about Clarenbridge harps. I found them through: https://harpcolumn.com/forums/topic/clarenbridge-harps-not-making-them-any-more/
By the way, I doubt whether gut will be a good replacement for the lowest 3 strings on your 27 string harp. Usually, the lowest strings are too short in relationship to their diameter to give a nice and rich gut sound. You will probably end up with a ‘dead’ sound. Maybe, just maybe, Savarez Carbon strings will be a solution, but then you need to know whether your harp can stand the tension… or it will explode. And… whether the lowest levers are suitable for the diameter you need for the carbon strings.
When the Folkcraft people can’t help, you may think of asking the advice of a harpbuilder.
Contact a professional string maker to ask if they have the specs on file. In the US you might try Markwood Strings or Robinsons Harp Shop. Either will want to know the vibrating length (sound board to bridge pin) of those strings – and preferably all the rest as well. They may have done this already, or they may have to run an analysis (that only costs about $15 and it is well worth it).
Sure, you can take a guess at the right size and buy some gut or fluorocarbon but that’s all it is (a guess) and will cost you perhaps $50 or more for those few strings.
We can’t help any further without knowing the vibrating lengths. However, I notice that the last two are steel core and six higher up nylon over nylon. It is doubtful that those bottom two could be replaced with gut or FC; some of the other six possibly.
The simplest like for like replacement will be to replace the nylon strings with gut strings that weigh the same (for the same length: knots and things don’t count). This won’t pull the harp to pieces as it will have the same tension and if you don’t like the sound it is easy enough to change back.
Andelin, I agree that nylon over nylon is not a good idea. Eventually the thinner nylon that is wound over the thicker core, will fail, and “birdcage” (slide around on top of the inner string) and then one must replace the whole string anyway. You don’t want this to happen in a public performance. The invention of that type of string should never have happened. Take a look at some of the helpful ideas above, instead.
A bit off topic but since it has been mentioned: if those wound N/N strings have been correctly measured the winding should not pass over the bridge pin, which is where they usually get smooshed and unravel. Unfortunately that often happens unless the harp maker has made the strings himself (professionally string makers do their best but they cannot know how much the SB will belly up – which may be 1/2 inch or more).
As a precaution I always coat the last inch or so of the winding with super glue at both ends and have never had one “birdcage” since I started doing that. I dislike N/N for other reasons: it can be slippery, sometimes too thick for good articulation where an alternative would be thinner and better.
Gut or FC may be a good solution, or bronze or steel core with fiber bedding depending on the desired tension and tone. Fiber core with silver or bronze wrap is the best transition from gut IMO but it has it’s own quirks and is not cheap.
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