Hi all! Does anyone have experience with the idea of unstringing a harp entirely for long-term storage, and restringing when it comes time to be used again? TIA
First, I have NOT had experience removing all harp strings for long-term storage. I can only say what I have heard from harpists, builders, and those who repair harps, though they never mentioned anything about removing all the strings…and that is, to “back off” the string tension “evenly”. Perhaps it matters what you consider “long term storage”. And where and how will it be stored. I have had a pedal harp since 2008. I rarely play it anymore, and may consider selling it. However, I keep it tuned. I have heard that it is important to keep tension against the soundboard. Which is why you want to put on a new string asap when one breaks, because others will want to break close to the string that did break because they are taking on more tension to make up for the broken string. Also, when re-stringing a harp, you leave all the strings on, as you replace them one-by-one…another thought with regard to leaving all the strings in place so tension doesn’t change against the soundboard…I think I would be concerned with the soundboard if you removed all the strings. I am only guessing here, but it seems that you could run into problems re-stringing the harp after the soundboard was “at rest” from tension that had already been placed on it (how long have you had the harp? So, how long had there been tension against the soundboard…and for that matter, tension on the entire harp — neck, etc?) I think a builder (OR, someone who repairs, regulates, etc., harps who had the experience of re-stringing a harp after strings had been removed for long-term storage) would have the answer to this question…because you are talking about how the wood would react to this, with many factors in play already…I look forward to hearing other folks “take” on this…
Thank you for your input!
I am interested in learning as well, as I’m afraid I made quite the blunder here. Its a LH23 from 1954, and having moved away from my family home some years back (2015?) where my harp lives, I had decided (possibly in some grave error) that easing the tension on the strings as much as possible would retard any warping of the neck (very little was visible at the time as it was). At present, it has all the strings on it, however they are quite loose, with minimal tension. It has been in my parents house away from direct sunlight, and had been regulated probably around 2013 most recently.
Now I am interested in getting back into playing now that I’m more settled in my career, and am also planning to move the harp from NJ to FL. I had started to think about how to retune, and I am afraid that my brash detuning may have damaged my old girl. Any thoughts would be much appreciated!
I seriously doubt taking the tension off (uniformly throughout the octaves) will damage the harp at all. It will keep the soundboard from pulling up. If and when you decide to bring it back up to tension, probably want to do it gradually and, again, throughout the entire range. No reason to completely remove the strings. Just keep it upright and don’t drop it (as with any harp).
Wow, I just went to edit my comments and the post vanished. At the risk of repeating myself, I would get a professional assessment from a harp tech. You can find a guild tech via http://www.harptechguild.com. Virginia Harp Center has a retail store in New Jersey. Website is http://www.vaharpcenter.com. Also consider taking your harp to harp builder/restorer Carl Swanson in the Boston area. You could certainly talk to him about your harp situation. http://www.swansonharp.com. I would not move the harp or do anything until I had professional advice. A new 23 is around $35k. When you restring – which you need to do after all this time – I would use Vanderbilt or Premier gut strings.
Thank you all for your insight. I agree, I should get a professional opinion on how I should go about retensioning. Right now, all the strings are Vanderbilt, as you suggested Gretchen, and I’d probably go ahead and restring with them as well. As for moving it, Tacye and Catherine, you bring up good points, which confirms that I’d probably send it down in its original case with Lyon and Healy instead of hauling it myself.
As an aside, I have no idea why I thought she was a style 23, she’s a style 17, so I dont know if that would change any of your thoughts. Thank you all again for your help on this, and I look forward to playing again soon!
I would get all the work done on the harp before you move. I would not want to bring the harp to Florida only to find out after all these years, the harp must be sent to LH for a repair. Plus, the techs come to Florida less often than in the northeast.
If you are using a moving van or large truck, why not bring the harp to Florida yourself. For safety, it should be strapped to the side of the truck. Be sure the harp and your possessions are insured during transit. Our homeowners coverage only insured our belongings in the state we lived and the state we moved. Movers only pay per pound for damage unless you buy added insurance. I moved my harp from Maryland to Florida in the moving van. I had it put on toward the end so it would be first off. If you freight ship, it will cost you $400 shipping – maybe more with your heavy case – and another $100 or so for insurance. I recently sold my 17 and it was damaged during shipping – thankfully, nothing major or structural. The top of the box was crush and the crown was banged up.
Great that you are getting back into harp playing!
Gretchen, I was on the fence about then to regulate, as well. I planned to do that once the harp was moved and settled in our new place so the only thing that would move is the harp,but you bring up a great point. I’ve already been moved to Florida for a few years now, and my two ideas were:
1. Rent a car, drive up to NJ,swap the car for a pickup or van, load the harp up, and head back down.
2. Have l&h ship it down, as I can get one of the brothers to bring it to VAHC or L&H and they can work their magic and ship down when done.
I’m thinking you might be right to get our regulator out up there, get her back together and any repairs done necessary, then figure out the best way to get her down safely.
In Florida, are there any techs you’d suggest I reach out to in the future once the harp is down here? And do you have other words of caution for older harps living down here? I’m near west palm, so humidity and general wetness are a huge concern of mine. Any thoughts? Thanks again for all your help!!
If you keep your a/c and humidity constant, your harp will be happy. I have a hygrometer to measure the humidity. I absolutely do not play outdoors. We live near the ocean so I don’t let east wind blow in. Pretty much, my harps are not exposed to outside air. Joe Urban and Jason Azem are the guild techs usually making the rounds. Joe comes around December and Jason comes in Spring. Check the harp tech website and get on their mailing list. You might want to join the South Florida chapter of the American Harp Society.
Brilliant! Thank you. This is just what I was looking for. I will reach out to Joe and Jason in the future, and and I’ll look up the south Florida AHS. Do you find that you have to regulate more often due to the humidity? I’m so thrilled to be getting back!
No. I think regulation depends on the quirkiness of the harp and how much you play and move the harp. I get mine regulated at least annually and change the gut strings once a year, bass wires every two years. But, that is me, not the climate. Hmmm, in thinking about this, you had to deal with dry winter heat and then hot, humid summers. Now the climate for you will be pretty much the same year round.
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