Tuning new pedal harp

  • Participant
    Barbara Henniger on #221099

    I received a new harp in a warehouse in Vancouver today, after being shipped from the Lyon & Healy Harptacular Show in Portland Oregon 2 weeks ago. The strings have all been slackened off and I need to know the best way to tune up mynharp again. It sounded gorgeous when it was played in concert by Sasha Boldechev after I bought it. It will never sound so good again, as I am 65 and this is my first pedal harp!
    I hope someone can tell me the best way to get the harp strings up to the right tension again and how should I proceed. Do I start with the lowest bass wire and work my way up? I don’t live anywhere close to where I can buy new strings and am hoping to reduce breakage as much as possible since it will be days before new strings would arrive by mail or courier.

    I tried to enclose a photo of my new Apollo but file was too big and during edit I erased my whole question lol. Any help with how to reduce file size on my cell phone photo would also be welcome.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #221102

    You can contact Peter at Salvi Harps in California or the person you bought it from for questions regarding your harp for definitive questions about your harp. I own an Apollo, too. When my harp came, I tuned it going up starting around the third octave. I tuned up and then tuned down. I have a Peterson iStroboSoft app on my cell phone. The bottom two wires are most difficult. Tune the harp right away to keep the tension correct. Remember your top G and bottom D and C are tuned to the actual note. There is no disc so those strings do not change. Be sure your pedals are in “natural” which means they are up in flat when you tune. Never bang or slam the pedals. If the harp is new, it will need a regulation during the first year or the warranty could be voided. Ask about that from the person you bought the harp.

    Also ask what brand of strings are on the harp. I would buy an extra set of at least the first three octaves of strings. I have a full set of gut strings. I then use those to restring the harp and buy another set of spares. You will get three or four strings out of the top two octaves and two out of most of the third octave strings. You do not need to keep extra wire strings. There are discussions elsewhere on this forum about string brands. Personally, either Vanderbilt gut or Premier strings sound so much better on the Apollo than Bow Brand which is normally on a new harp.

    If your harp is new, you will need to break it in. I was told by Salvi to play the top octaves for about 10 minutes here and there for a couple days. Then after a couple days do the second and third octave and go down the harp. Just play the notes any way just to play them. Of course, you can still do your regular playing. I was told really working the upper strings helps open the soundboard. This was six years ago so you may want to check with Peter at Salvi Harps. I’m sure your Apollo has a pretty big sound already.

    Enjoy your harp!

    Participant
    Alison on #221123

    You should allow about 3 weeks to gradually bring the harp up to pitch. So do for example the C’s sound at the pitch of A’s or G’s ?

    Participant
    jsmoir on #221127

    Wow! I just got my used Salvi (too) – a Walnut Diana,(first pedal, been doing Troubadour lever) and just assumed I’d tune it ‘normally’ – i.e., with the pedals in ‘middle’ position, so pitch was “as it is written.” I was blown away by this response- I never knew harpists tuned in any other way. I looked it up on the web, and sure enough, got this second definition/confirmation:

    “First let’s look at tuning a pedal harp. Begin by deciding where to start, if tuning in C major, begin with C4 or middle C which is usually around the middle area on a full sized harp and is often color coded in red. Next, disengage all pedals. The reason for this is to allow the string to be tuned in its full length, without the friction of the discs in the action and to avoid tension being retained between the nut and the discs and between the discs themselves.
    Disengaging the pedals means that the strings are in their “Flat” position, this means that the open strings will be tuned in C Flat major, tuning an octave starting with B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#. If this is too complicated for you, you can make this easier and pretty foolproof by adjusting the “Transpose” feature on your tuner to a value of -1 (minus one) and tuning to C, D, E, F, G, A, B, just remember to reverse the transposition to a zero value after tuning in order to use the tuner normally.” – https://www.petersontuners.com/myinstrument/harp

    Luckily, I didn’t have to torque it too much on Friday when the harp came; so, today, I put pedals in ‘neutral’ (flat) and revised my tuner to have it a half-step flat, and almost all of the strings were right on. Whew. Live and learn. Thanks. (P.S. Don’t tell my teacher I did such a stupid thing….)

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #221129

    Alison, I was told by Salvi to bring the harp to pitch when I tuned. I bought two Salvi harps new. Barbara, perhaps you should ask Salvi to be certain. Good point brought up in the above post that you will be tuning in flat, or a half step down. Therefore, the C string will be tuned to B, D will be C#, and so forth.

    PS: JS, I think your teacher would be amused by your story. What you did is not stupid. You just have not been taught about proper harp care. Incorporate harp maintenance into your lessons. That is how I learned to take care of a harp.

    Participant
    jsmoir on #221145

    Gretchen- I won’t see my teacher until mid-week, so this was a one-time, ‘do it on your own’ sort of thing. Believe me, my teacher is amused by my wanting to learn the harp ‘at my age’ (my words, not hers) on many levels. We have great lessons, and it’s been a lot of fun- for both of us, as we explore my ‘harptitude.’ TYVM. – John

    Participant
    Alison on #221146

    I was making the assumption that the harp had been flown in, and that would mean it had been through more extremes of temperature and air pressure etc. Sure if it was by road then less to worry about. I once shipped a harp from UK to Salt Lake city and the harpist was very careful, meaning slow, when it was delivered and we did the same on its return. By road less of a problem, I agree, now that I see that Oregon is just two states south of Vancouver.

    Participant
    Barbara Henniger on #221223

    Thank you all for your feedback! I have since tuned my harp with the pedals in their flat position and made sure I knew what pitch to tune to for each and found a tuning chart which helped before I started. I also read your posts and left a message for my harp teacher who got back to me. It was a weekend when I got my harp into my house after a long drive through several mountain passes. Luckily the weather was warm and dry. This week there is snow in all the mountain passes! Nancy from Lyon and Healy who sold me the harp,also replied early on Monday so I am all set!

    My harp is already holding its tune very well. I have been tuning at least once, sometimes several times a day and it is really settled down now that the humidity is constant after being at the coast, on the road and now in the dry interior. I keep the room humidified and monitor it ever few days. The harp is sounding beautiful as it was in Portland at the Harptacular Event in September. I was so excited to see it being played on stage by the young and talented Sasha Boldachev. I was in tears listening to how beautiful my Apollo sounded during his 2 hour long concert. He also played a Salvi Rainbow and Delta harp, but mine was the one I was in love with! I was so privileged to hear my harp played on stage by a harpist of his calibre.

    Participant
    Debora LaMarchina on #222829

    Question Gretchen: “Be sure your pedals are in “natural” which means they are up in flat when you tune.” Im confused by this. Ive been performing for 30 years, own one pedal harp. When changing a string, I’ve always put it in flat position to remove the broken string, then, put on the new string, then put the pedal in the middle natural neutral position to bring it up to proper pitch for that octave. Can you clarify the sentence above about the pedals? Am I misunderstanding something here? Is the CORRECT KNOWN THING TO DO WHEN CHANGING A STRING TO keep the pedals in the flat position, all of them, then replace the string and then turn it in relation to the others in the FLAT position, rather than putting all the pedals in the natural position? Thanks to any who reply with the definitive answer. I appreciate it!

    Participant
    Tacye on #222837

    If you change the pitch of a string by much when it is in natural or sharp you are pulling the string through the forks. Firstly this will lead to a bit more wear on both string and harp, which can add up over time. This will be of most issue with big changes in tuning, like a new string and with bass wires. Secondly, because of the grip of the fork on the string the tension may be different on either side. If you tune a string in natural then take the pedal to flat and back to natural the pitch of the string may change slightly as the tension evens out. As you have been happy with the results from tuning your harp in naturals all these years this is obviously not a big issue for you, but my teachers and harp technicians I have discussed harp care with all say to tune in flats. If the regulation of the harp isn’t spot on, then confirm the tuning in the key you will be playing in (but I do this with a foot on the pedal so when actually changing the pitch of a string it is in flat).

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #222838

    Harps should ALWAYS be tuned in flat position. When the pedals are in flat position(meaning all the way up) the action is NOT engaged. So tune the whole harp in flat, never in natural or sharp.

    The one exception to this that I can think of is if you are playing in an orchestra and want to be sure that the notes you need for the part you have to play are perfectly in tune. In that case, I would still start by tuning the whole harp in flat. Then put the pedals into the key you will be playing in and check the tuning in that key. If there are a few critical notes in the part, tune those exactly as they will be used in the part, i.e., if you need a low G# for example, then check and tune that string in #.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #222839

    Debora, Carl and Tacye covered your question about tuning. This is what I was taught, as well. BTW, you may not be aware that Carl builds and repairs harps http://www.swansonharp.com.

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