Teaching How To Tune

Posted In: Young Harpists

  • Participant
    unknown-user on #166967

    I’ve tuned my daughter’s harp for the last three years. I’d like her to take over the task now that she’s nearly big enough (9). I painted red polish on the red string pegs. Any other suggestions or tricks? It’s a pedal harp.

    Cheryl Z. on #166968

    Hi Diane,

    Sylvia Woods sells little rubber colors rings that can be used on a lever harp or pedal harp.

    Cheryl Z. on #166969

    Hi Diane,

    If you go to the “best sellers” page on Sylvia’s website, you can find the rings easier than typing in rings in the search box.

    Hope this helps.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #166970

    We just had a workshop on this very subject! Our presenter pressed a foot-long piece of felt into the spaces between the wire strings, to dampen them while she tuned the upper registers. This had the effect of taking away all those overtones that confuse the tuner. She also suggested moving the pickup close to the register that you are tuning. Other points: Tune the harp every day so that the strings hold their pitch better. Keep the harp out of drafts or bright sunlight. Play octaves simultaneously while listening for “beats”. Make sure the tuner is calibrated to A 440 and a tempered scale before you start tuning. A lot of tuners have buttons that change these settings, and the buttons can be accidentally pushed. Make sure your daughter doesn’t hurt her wrists while tuning the tough pegs. She should have an ergonomic tuning key, and it is quite okay to use both hands to turn a peg if it’s tight. If the wrist has to extend to an uncomfortable position, then take it off the peg, re-position it to a more comfortable angle, and commence tuning again. I hope this is all useful!

    unknown-user on #166971

    I’m wondering on this peg thing…. cause its quite a new idea to me…

    When you’ve got pedal harps, you mean you attach them to the back side of the pin, on the right hand side of the harp that is?

    unknown-user on #166972

    Regarding my post… I was talking of the coloured stuff you attach to the pegs.

    Cheryl Z. on #166973

    Hi Esmeralda,

    If you are talking about the colored rings, it says on Sylvia’s website that the rings go on the tuning pins of a pedal harp.

    Anonymous on #166974

    If your daughter is physically small at this point, remember that she doesn’t have to stretch over the neck of the harp in order to tune the lowest strings.

    unknown-user on #166975

    By the way… I still have to use the stool to tune the 6th octave and lower : )… and don’t try to imagine all the comments I get from my friends at orchestras, or home. : )

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #166976

    If you put your left thumb on the tuning pin on the side you can see, and reach over with your fingers, they will usually go to the other side of the same pin. Also, don’t take the key off the pin until you are ready to do the next string, so you already know where you are.

    I suggest that she start with a tuning fork on E (f-flat)

    unknown-user on #166977

    I think the tuning forks and tuning by ear is a great idea, and she will likely have no trouble doing that. But, you lost me at the second harmonic thing. I don’t know what that means. Also,

    Tacye on #166978

    Tuning is a drag for a young harpist, and to me the most important thing is that she practices on an in tune harp.

    unknown-user on #166979

    To answer Diane’s question on the second harmonics…

    The first harmonic is played on the harp by placing the hand half-way up the string, essentially dividing the vibrating length of the string in half, producing a tone one octave higher. The second harmonic is obtained by placing the hand one third of the way up the string, producing a tone an octave and a fifth higher. This can be used to tune the whole harp, circling in fifths (C-G-D-A-E-B-F#).

    However, these fifths are called “pure” or “pythagorian” fifths and are slightly wider than the equal-temperament fifths we use today. (Equal-temperament is the tuning system we use wherby the difference in pitch between each semitone is identical). So to accomodate for this you must tune “slightly under” the second harmonic to ensure all fifths are equally-tempered. This method of tuning is very common among harpsichord tuners. I hope I haven’t confused you any further with that?!

    I was also told by someone that cheap electronic tuners don’t tune to equal-temperament? I don’t think this is true, I think they’re just not as accurate as the expensive ones. Anyone know for sure?


    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #166980

    I checked my twenty-dollar Korg tuner against a Peterson strobe tuner, and it was a perfect match, so either they are both off or they are both right. The second harmonic can also be found below the first node, as well as above. But I think it is not one-third, the string divides in half, and then half again, and again, doesn’t it? Anyway, I suggest reading the articles on acoustics and strings etc., in the Harvard Dictionary of Music.

    I think everyone should read the whole Harvard Dictionary of Music.

    unknown-user on #166981

    No, dividing the string successively in halves will give octaves at higher and higher pitches.

    Harmonics occur according to the harmonic series – 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5 etc. This will give first an octave above, the fifth above that, another octave, major third above that, another fifth, minor 7th, octave again, and so on.

    I think the physics of music is fascinating…. but that’s just me! In my opinion

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