total restringing angst

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Member
    samantha-t on #156276

    Hi there,
    As I explained in an earlier post, I’m coming back to the folk harp after a long time away. I’m embarrassed to say how old my strings are (my harp is a Salvi Heather – that might give you some idea). I’ve replaced probably 10 gut strings with nylons over the years as they’ve broken, but I came to the harp blissfully ignorant and had no idea that you were supposed to change the whole lot every 2 years or so (how on earth do amateurs afford that – especially when you’re supposed to keep an extra set lying around too?)

    I have a few questions.

    1) What is the cheapest source for strings? The closest music store will charge me $300 for a full set (34 strings). will charge $250, but I have to add shipping and customs/duty to that. This all seems pretty steep.

    2) I’m considering selling the Salvi just because I feel like a change (and can’t afford to buy another harp without selling the one I have). Am I likely to get the money back if I replace all the strings in order to sell it? To me, they still sound okay (lots of ring, and anyway I can’t remember what they sounded like when I first got the harp) but perhaps to the more educated ear they sounded horrible, I don’t know.

    3) Is it safe to do a total restringing myself, or should I get a professional to do it (thereby increasing the cost even more…if I can even find someone around here). I do know how to change strings, but wonder if the harp needs a lot of adjustment after changing all of them.

    Thank you for your help! My sturdy Salvi (plus my own isolation as a harper) fooled me into thinking the harp was a low maintenance instrument…

    tony-morosco on #156277

    I forget, a Salvi Heather has what? 34 strings about? Folk lever strings?

    Yeah, a few hundred is what I would say. A quick look at where I get my strings, based on the typical mix of gut, nylon and folk bass wires, I estimate that before tax or shipping, a little over $260.

    You might get the money back if you sell it to someone who is experienced and knows the value of good strings.

    The thing is, it may sound good to you because you aren’t used to hearing fresh strings at the moment. If you were to play your harp next to one with new strings you would almost certainly think, wow, that other harp sounds better.

    Yes, you can do it yourself. In fact I don’t know anyone who pays to have it done. My harp tech doesn’t even offer it. When she does a regulation of my harp she just reminds me to restring it with enough time to let the new strings settle. Trust me, restring your harp once and you will never forget how, your fingers will have it down by the end.

    Changing the strings itself doesn’t require any adjustments. You just change them one string at a time, just like replacing a broken string. However, your harp may need adjustment because of age. Things shift, the sound board lifts a bit, and it throws the intonation off. It may need to have the levers regulated. But if it does it still needs to have them regardless if you change he strings or not. In fact changing them may make the harp play more in tune because the strings stretch and pit over time and that alone throws off the intonation. You can check if you have an electronic tuner. Tune the strings with the levers down, and then put them up and see if the tuner shows them playing perfectly a half step up. If they don’t then you need a regulation. Lever harps aren’t too hard to adjust the levers yourself if you have a good tuner, the right wrench, and time.

    There is a short, inexpensive book by David Kolacny called something like Troubleshooting Your Lever Harp, which includes information on how to adjust many of the most common brands of levers.

    Tacye on #156278

    If you are going to sell I am not sure I would bother changing the strings, or maybe only the wires and nylons that should be gut.

    samantha-t on #156279

    Thanks Tony for your thorough reply – very helpful as always. Where do you buy your strings – over the internet or from a shop? Yeah, the Heather has 34 strings.

    samantha-t on #156280

    Thanks, Tacye, you make some good points. All to be taken into consideration.

    If it were just me, I’d stick with all nylon I think, as I live in an area that can get very humid at times.

    samantha-t on #156281

    Thanks Tony for your thorough reply – very helpful as always. Where do
    you buy your strings – over the internet or from a shop? Yeah, the
    Heather has 34 strings.

    tony-morosco on #156282

    There is a shop not too far from me, so if I can I get them there: Harps Etc in Walnut Creek CA. They do online orders too:

    I also use Sylvia Woods Harp Center in La Crescenta, CA. They are pretty much online only except for actual harps, where if you like you can make an appointment to see what they have in stock:

    For the carbon strings I use for my electric Camac harp I get them from Harps Unlimited International in LA by mail:

    I have, in the past, also used the Virginia Harp Center by mail and have never had a bad experience with them:

    samantha-t on #156283

    Thank you!

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