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How do you tune a harp?

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Chris Green 20 Sep 05 - 11:31 AM
Sorcha 20 Sep 05 - 11:53 AM
Chris Green 20 Sep 05 - 12:03 PM
Sorcha 20 Sep 05 - 12:24 PM
jeffp 20 Sep 05 - 12:30 PM
Chris Green 20 Sep 05 - 12:34 PM
Chris Green 20 Sep 05 - 12:36 PM
Sorcha 20 Sep 05 - 12:45 PM
Susan of DT 20 Sep 05 - 12:45 PM
Sorcha 20 Sep 05 - 12:48 PM
Sorcha 20 Sep 05 - 01:13 PM
Helen 20 Sep 05 - 05:45 PM
black walnut 20 Sep 05 - 06:44 PM
Sorcha 20 Sep 05 - 06:49 PM
Chris Green 20 Sep 05 - 08:16 PM
sian, west wales 21 Sep 05 - 04:17 AM
Helen 21 Sep 05 - 05:43 AM
Sorcha 21 Sep 05 - 09:44 AM
Lowden Jameswright 21 Sep 05 - 10:59 AM
Andy Jackson 21 Sep 05 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,saulgoldie 21 Sep 05 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 21 Sep 05 - 12:00 PM
black walnut 21 Sep 05 - 01:59 PM
sian, west wales 21 Sep 05 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 21 Sep 05 - 05:34 PM
GUEST,punkfokrocker 21 Sep 05 - 06:01 PM
GUEST 22 Sep 05 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,leeneia 22 Sep 05 - 10:46 AM
The Fooles Troupe 23 Sep 05 - 10:25 AM
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Subject: How do you tune a harp?
From: Chris Green
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 11:31 AM

My girlfriend's just bought me a 27-string 40" harp for my birthday. I play guitar, bouzouki, mandolin and just about anything else with frets, but I've never played a nude piano before! I've just about worked out that the red strings are the root note of a scale and the blue strings are presumably the fourth interval above it, but I have no idea which scale I'm supposed to be tuning them to. Also the two highest courses (is that the right word) seem to have only six notes in as opposed to seven, so I'm now even more confused as there aren't enough notes to make a major or minor scale.

Is there anybody out there who can shed some light on this for me? I seem to remember that that red strings are C's, but beyond that I know bugger all about harps! Any help would be greatly appreciated and will result in the buying of a virtual pint for services rendered!

Thanks in advance

Chris

PS - There's a piccy of it here (it's the one without levers) Ta!


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 11:53 AM

The reds are C, the blues F. Figure out from the tensions which red one is middle C, go from there. Tune to the natural C scale. Because it has no levers, you will have to re tune for every key.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Chris Green
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:03 PM

Thanks, Sorcha! How tense are the strings supposed to be? I don't want it to fold in half! :-)


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:24 PM

Just tense enough to produce the proper pitch. On my harp, 29 string, the lowest string (bass) is middle C.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: jeffp
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:30 PM

How do you tune a harp?

Over and over and over and over...

(just teasing - enjoy your new friend)


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Chris Green
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:34 PM

Really? In which case mine is about an octave out! Don't suppose you know what the top two ones with only six notes are tuned to? They go red white white white blue white white then a red one again. Presumably if yours is a 29 string one it has a range of four octaves, but mine seems to be missing a note or two!

Thanks so much for your help, Sorcha. It really is much appreciated!

Yours in dwindling ignorance

Chris


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Chris Green
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:36 PM

Thanks Jeff! Apparently there's a book out on how to play the harp. It's called "Tuned In A Day!" No more will I laugh at harpists in sessions!





Banjo players, however, are a different matter......    :-)


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:45 PM

R-C
W-D
W-E
B-F
W-G
W-A
W-B
R-C
Not sure why you have r then 3 w....unless it's strung wrong? Hold on,brb...


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:45 PM

My harp is about that size.

There are a number of beginning harp technique books:
Alison Kinnaird, The Small Harp, a step By Step Tutor
Sylvia Woods, Teach Yourself to Play The Folk Harp
Janna McCall Geller, Exploring Folk Harp (Mel Bay)


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 12:48 PM

Here.
Here.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 01:13 PM

r, 3 wh, b could be a chromatic tuning? PM Helen (in Oz) She is a real harper.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Helen
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 05:45 PM

Hi duellingbouzoukis,

It looks to me like the top octave is just put in incorrectly.

It should be as Sorcha said:

R-C
W-D
W-E
B-F
W-G
W-A
W-B
R-C

So if you change your red white white white blue white white red

to: red white white blue white white white red
then you will have C D E F G A B C

I saw a harp in a reputable Museum in Oz a couple of decades ago and they had it strung with just the same sort of mistake.

As Sorcha said if you play outside of the key of C Major/A minor then you will need to retune other strings as you go, e.g. F# for G Maj/E minor.

There is a harp joke which basically goes: Q: how does a harp player play? A: 10% of the time in tune, and 90% out of tune.

Do you know who the maker of the harp is?

I have had 3 harps and all of them have improved radically with the quality of the strings I have put on them. I am really happy with the strings from Markwood , which are available via mail order at Mountain Glenn harps in the U.S. they can do a string analysis based on the shape of your harp and some other info. The first strings I had on my last harp were strung so tightly that it was trying to play a tennis racquet. Scary! Now it has lovely Markwood strings which have a beautiful sound and are much easier to play.

The other thing which helped me enormously was buying an electronic tuner. Before that I used to spend an hour or so trying to tune my 36 string harp and then getting too frustrated to actually play anything. You might be better at tuning by ear than I was, though. Put your ear against the soundbox and listen to the beats while tuning. That helps but it is also fun to hear the harp sounds vibrating so clearly.

There is an email harplist through Yahoo groups. how to subscribe to the harplist

They are a nice bunch of knowledgeable people, jsut like Mudcat.

Have fun!

Helen


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: black walnut
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 06:44 PM

If you feel like they're about an octave out, they probably aren't. The wouldn't hold onto the harp if they were an octave too low.
Amen about the electric tuner. Don't know how they got on without them in the old days.

~b.w.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 06:49 PM

WOW!!! Helen! Those are wonderful harps!!!!


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Chris Green
Date: 20 Sep 05 - 08:16 PM

The harp was bought off ebay, so unfortunately I don't know the maker and therefore have no way of knowing whether it's any good or not! There's a link in my first post to the guy my GF bought it off - if you can shed any light on its origins I'd be most grateful!

What you were saying about the strings being on backwards (ish) makes perfect sense. However, phone enquiries have directed me to a certain Harriet Earis, who I didn't realise I knew, who's apparently a rather good harper. She's promised to have a look at it when she gets back from the States in a couple of weeks. Don't really want to start messing around with it in the interim in case I do something unpleasant to it, so I suppose I'll just sit and look at it longingly til then!

Thanks so much for all your help - this forum is really something else! If only everyone were like this!

Cheers

Chris


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: sian, west wales
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 04:17 AM

Oh, Harriet lives about 50 miles north of here. Very nice girl. I'm sure she'll help. Maybe give you a few lessons.

sin


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Helen
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 05:43 AM

You can still tune it up and have a plunk at it. The red & blue strings are just to navigate but the sound is the same whether they are in the right place or not.

Go on, have a go!!

With **new** harps it is better if you tune them up gradually by tuning all the strings down a couple of tones down compared to the notes they will end up being. So, if a note will be a C natural, and the whole thing tuned to C major then tune it the first time around so that the string 2 below the red is C with all the others related to that. When it more or less keeps its tuning over a day or so, you can start tuning it up one note, i.e. moving the C up to the next string and everything else in relation to that. This helps to stretch the strings to their desired pitch and it stays in tune longer. It also eases the sudden pressure on the soundbox which you would have if you tuned it to C without easing it in gently.

While you are easing it up to the correct pitch you won't be able to navigate easily because the red & blue strings won't be C's & F's but at least you can have a play with it.

If it isn't a new harp this is not important. As long as you don't tune it at too high a breaking strain on the strings. You'll get to know what is the right pitch for the strings, i.e. where middle C should be, by the tension or slackness of the string. If the string is tuned to C and being a good tension - not too tight not too loose, and with a good sound - it's unlikely that it will allow you to tune it up a whole octave from there. You'll start to feel it straining too much and getting close to breaking point.

Sorcha, my second harp was built by a local amateur instrument maker from Markwood plans, the 34 string Celtic (I think it's called that) and it is a beauty. Lovely sound for a fairly simple construction.

Helen


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Sorcha
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 09:44 AM

Cause I've been told that there is 1,000 lbs of tensile strength on every string on a harp...so DON'T tune it too high.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 10:59 AM

How do you tune a banjo?

(Nobody knows)


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 11:04 AM

Hi Chris, I hope you get it tuned and teach it a few melodies in time for next Miskin??

Cheers,
Andy


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: GUEST,saulgoldie
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 11:41 AM

You don't tune a harp. You tuna fish. Sheesh! Don't you people know ANYTHING?!!


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 12:00 PM

.. just a mention for those who dont yet know..
that for tuning harps [for me - autoharps / pianoharps / dulcimer].. and any other awkward string instruments..

you can buy accesory leads that plug into elecronic tuner,
these leads have contact piezo pickups built into rubber suction caps to attach temporarily to body of instrument while tuning..
also similar leads with pickups that attach to instrument with mini plastic sprung clips..

[similar principle to those popular stage tuners that clip to head of guitar..]

if i can find mine i'll let you know the brandname..


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: black walnut
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 01:59 PM

Yes punkiefolkie! I use a clip on for my harps. Don't know the name of it either, but a good music store would know. It's practically a necessity, unless you always want to be tuning in a soundproof room all by yourself all the time.
~d


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: sian, west wales
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 03:58 PM

To wax anecdotal for a minute, Robin Huw Bowen (Telynor Moriah to give him his bardic name) tells a story about a harper in the 19th century who won a major Eisteddfod competition but, for long and complicated reasons, the Committee refused to give him the prize as advertised so he took a knife to his harp strings right there on stage in front of the hundreds (thousands?) gathered there. Apparently if you do this to a harp, due to the very high tension, if you slash a critical mass of the existing strings, the whole instrument explodes with a mighty roar. Apparently scared the bejabers out of the audience and dignitaries on stage and caused a major stampede.

siân


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 05:34 PM

matrix mpu-1 guitar tuner pick up [suction cup]

matrix mpu-2 tuner pickup for brass,woodwind, and bowed instruments[plastic mini clip]

..got them cheap off ebay shop..

heres a link i just found to US shop selling mpu-1 for $10.95

http://www.hickeys.com/pages/gttune.htm


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: GUEST,punkfokrocker
Date: 21 Sep 05 - 06:01 PM

this is most probably where i purchased them..


http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Extra-Musical-Instrument-Store_Tuners_W0QQcolZ4QQdirZ1QQftidZ2QQtZkm


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Sep 05 - 07:07 AM

As far away from your friends and family as possible


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 22 Sep 05 - 10:46 AM

I don't play harp, but I have some thoughts. (I have a friend who has five harps.)

First, you should talk to the previous owner and find out if the harp has been played much. No point in "breaking it in" if it doesn't need it.

Also, where has it been stored? If it was kept (worst case) in a garage in Death Valley, then you need to think about gently re-hydrating it. I leave the other permutations on this theme up to you.

Have you turned it upside-down and looked for a maker's name on the bottom or inside the sound box?

Tuners are sure nice, but I have found that when an instrument is way out of tune, a simple electronic tuner can't deal with it. If a D string, let us say, is playing something near B-flat, the needle just swings wildly back and forth. (This happens to me when I put new strings on my guitar.) In this case, I go to the piano, find about where the string is, and gradually move it up to pitch, matching the notes of the string to the notes of the piano as I go. If you don't have a piano, I hope you can find a friend who has one. If you are worried that the tension will be too much, you can stop short, of course.

The seller may have loosened the strings for shipping, and they may all be quite flat.

Actually, when I come to think of it, it's not just the tuner that can't deal with notes that are way, way off. My ears don't handle it well, either.

Hope this helps. I would like to hear about what you are doing with your new harp.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a harp?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 23 Sep 05 - 10:25 AM

Get help from an Angel...


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