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What happens when a string breaks?

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  • #75476
    I Love Harps
    Participant

    Sorry, I feel so stupid for asking this…but what happens when a string breaks?

    #75477

    I’ve never been whacked in the face, but I guess it could. It will make a noise. When a bass string breaks (which has never happened to me….knock on wood…I hear it can sound like a gunshot). Don’t feel stupid. The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. It’s good to replace it right away too so the tension on the soundboard stays even.

    Briggsie

    #75478
    sherry-lenox
    Participant

    Only speaking for lever harps, but yes, they sound like gun shots. I normally wear safety lenses anyway, but I’d want some distance between my face and a breaking harp string.

    #75479

    I have had many strings break during gigs, including the huge bass strings which create this violently sickening noise exactly like a gun shot that will so shock you out of your tranquil “in the zone” playing state that you will become momentarily paralyzed, your heart rate will quadruple, and if the wire doesn’t completely sever at the pin the dangling dead digit will whack against the other strings creating this weird other-worldly sizzling sound.

    #75480
    Sid Humphreys
    Spectator

    I’ve actually had a 2nd octave C break during a choir rehearsal, it did hit my cheek but just scared me as I wasn’t expecting that loud noise when it did. You can tell when a string is about to go as it starts loosing tune, going flat, very rapidly. At that point I find it better to go ahead and loosen the tension, cut then replace the string. Except for the case when I had a visitor playing with my harp a bit too zealously…

    #75481
    I Love Harps
    Participant

    OK, thank you everybody very much for replying. 🙂 I’ll know what to expect now!

    #75482
    john-strand
    Participant

    Yes, I have had my share of strings break – and they do make quite a thunk – the one that unnerved me was a 5th octave that broke in the middle of the night and woke me out of a sound sleep – I did have an extra light guage E electric guitar string go on me once, and it did slice me along my arm enough to draw blood – however, the one that was really the most shocking and badly timed was some years ago when I was playing for an elegant “candlelight dinner” at a retirement home – no amp, but they had put a wireless mike under the harp to just add a bit through the ceiling speakers and that is the night I had a pedal spring come loose from its mooring on the pedal bar – it whacked the inside of the pedal box with a sound like a shotgun blast and then reverberated around through the overhead speakers – I am really glad springs are contained in a box, because i imagine one of those things loose and flying could do some really serious damage – needless to say, I regularly check to be sure all the spring ends are properly seated just about every time I put the harp in the car –

    #75483
    Misty Harrison
    Participant

    From my experience the gun shot sound is worse as the harp is larger. On a small harp it still sounds surprising but on my larger pedal harps if any 3rd octave or lower goes everyone in the house wakes up and the dogs bark.

    #75484
    dawn-penland
    Participant

    My question is, what if you see a string has popped near the sound board, do you change it before it breaks?

    #75485
    catherine-rogers
    Participant

    If you can see that a string is starting to fray, especially at the top or bottom, go ahead and change it if you can. Otherwise it will continue to drop in pitch while you’re playing as more strands break, and it will probably break while you are playing; then the music will be interrupted and you don’t want that to happen.

    If you must change a string “on the job,” tune it a bit sharp and keep checking it between each piece to retune (especially true for guts and nylons). That’s why you always have a complete set of strings with you: in case of emergency.

    #75486
    rosalind-beck
    Participant

    It will often happen that strings will break with the change of season, i.e., drastic shifts in temperature and humidity.

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