tarnish-free strings

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    Hi, Friends–

    I’d love to hear opinions about the sound quality of tarnish-resistant strings vs.

    Miriam Shilling

    I’ve been using Vanderbilt’s tarnish-resistant strings for years, and I’ve never noticed any appreciable difference in tone.


    I have always found a definite difference. They lack the brilliance and overtones of silver and copper strings. Less so, the copper, but very much so, the silver. I also found that they got even more dull with time, and by a year’s passing, even though not tarnished, they needed replacing. I don’t think they really save any money. I also don’t think we need rely on their being colored to find our way around, except in bad lighting situations. I really don’t recommend tarnish-resistant strings. Our tone quality should be our first priority, I think, not convenience.


    I don’t feel there is a noticeable difference, but I stack the odds in my favor with the best strings, harps, and technique I can afford. The accurancy in tuning makes a surprisng difference too. I prefer the tarnish resistant colored wires because I play in all kinds of lighting and I appreciated being able to see.

    Ida Slapta

    Tarnish resistant strings are good strings.


    I’m sorry for the question…but do we speak here about real silver wrapping


    Well, isn’t that a good question. I don’t think anyone can afford sterling-silver strings. If I play mine long enough, they wear down and change color, so I guess they must be silver-dipped copper.


    To be specific, the difference I hear is in the brilliance of the overtones, most pronounced when the string is new. That makes the rest of the harp sing more actively, too. One possibility for playing in different lighting situations is to carry a footlight with you, or a clip-on light to illuminate the strings. I’ve only had a problem seeing strings when there was a color match to the background, like a copper-colored rug or wall, but there are lots of situations I haven’t played in. I found the tarnish-resistant strings to get quite dull after a year of use, so I don’t think you really save money with them.


    I could swear that silver strings have a better tone. But my good friend Eleanor Fell, owner of Vanderbilt Music Company, told me that they have had countless ‘blind’ tests of wire strings, with harpists listening and trying to guess which strings were silver and which were tarnish resistant, and no one was ever able to tell the difference. And even if you still feel that there is a difference, the C’s and F’s are not silver wound and should therefore sound different!


    Once, when I was restringing a harp, I was able to do a side-by-side test of a new standard bass wire and a new tarnish-resistant one on the same harp. The standard had a slightly stronger fundamental tone relative to the upper partials than the tarnish resistant. However, the characteristics of the individual harp and harpist are going to make a bigger difference in the overall sound than the difference between standard and tarnish-resistant. I would say that people should use whatever strings make them happy, because if they’re happy with their harp, they’ll play better!

    Miriam Shilling

    Sometimes, too, it’s not the strings.


    I asked Mike this question and was told that the silver strings sound brighter up close, but then the question is, “Does the brightness project to the listeners?” From Eleanor’s blind test, it doesn’t appear to.

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