About Strings

 

Strings For Your Custom Harp  


Each harp I build is perfectly designed and crafted to fit the needs and desires of its owner and player. One of the most important parts of this Custom Design process is the design of the string set for your Custom harp. With the proper string tension and spacing your custom harp will be a perfect fit to your playing style. This will ensure that you will enjoy it`s music for many years to come!

Since I custom design each harp I build, as a one-of-a-kind harp, the string materials, string spacing, and string tension for each harp can be totally unique, to match your playing style and needs. I always design the string set first, and then the rest of harp around that string set.

Markwood Heavenly Strings make all my custom harp strings, with the exception of my gut strings.

                          Below you will find some general descriptions of the types of strings I use for different harps.

Types of strings for my Custom Harps

NYLON

Often the best choice for beginners and those who like the nylon tone and feel. They are easier to keep in tune, cost less, and are more forgiving of technique than gut. They have a beautiful tone and are used on my custom harps with from low to high tension string sets.

I use bass wires, normally made from steel/fiber/ bronze for the lowest octave on my larger model harps, and then a series of wound nylon/nylon and sometimes steel/fiber/ nylon as transition strings to the bass wires. The transition from bass wires to the nylon is very gradual by using the nylon/nylon and steel/fiber/nylon transition strings, and easy on the ears.

For my Custom Harps designed to be strung with Gut strings I offer two general types of gut gauges and string tensions. Your custom gut strung harp can be designed to have a custom/personal variation of tension that suits your needs and playing style perfectly.

LEVER GUT

This is a lighter gauge of gut that has a softer tension than Concert Gut. It is also called Folk Harp Gut. The tone is brighter than Concert Gut but not as bright as Nylon. They seem to be warmer in the lower end and brighter in the higher end. Many pedal harpists see these strings as a welcome change from concert gut and a nice rest for their fingers without compromising the wonderfully warm and rich tone that gut offers. Each string is actually thinner than the corresponding nylon string. For the lower octave bass strings I use the same type of strings as I do with a nylon set.

CONCERT GUT

This is the same stringing used on pedal harps. It has the warmest tone and the firmest tension. If you are a pedal harp player and like the feel of your pedal harp, you might choose these strings. It takes strong fingers to get a lot of sound out of these strings, so beginners should shy away from them unless you know that you will play pedal harp someday.  I use the same type of Bass wire combinations for the lower octaves on all of my larger harps, but with higher tension for a model with Concert harp tuning. Concert Gut strings are only to be used on my custom harps, designed and built to support their higher tension.

BASS WIRES

The bass wires on my larger model harps are normally made from steel/fiber/ bronze for the lowest octave, and then a series of wound nylon/nylon and sometimes steel/fiber/ nylon as transition strings from the bass wires to the mono nylon or gut strings. The transition from bass wires to the nylon is very gradual by using the nylon/nylon and steel/fiber/nylon transition strings, and easy on the ears. These steel-core strings are sometimes made with a silver plated copper wrap, instead of bronze, (this is the case with all the Blue ‘F’ and Red ‘C’ bass wires, as the over-wrap is enameled copper).

In some cases, especially on harps with over 38 strings, I will design your bottom bass strings to have bronze cores, with fiber and then a final wrap of bronze or silver plated copper. These bass wires give a powerful bass range that can really be pulled without deflecting the pitch. These wires also provide very nice sympathetic vibrations, which give the entire range of the harp a deep, rich resonance and more sustain.

Bronze or Steel Strings, for Wire Strung Harps

When I custom design a bronze or steel wire strung harp, I use gauges of wire that will give a good solid ringing tone, without excessive breakage. Bronze wire strings are Very fragile, since the Bronze is not tempered the way Steel is. Instead it`s structure is more crystalline, and more easily broken. Bronze strings are also quote susceptible to going out of tune with temperature changes.

Steel strings are sometimes preferred by some wire harp players, and so I have built a number steel strung wire harps over the years. Steel has a much more  pronounced metal sound, and rings quite well, for a longer time. They are also stronger than Bronze, with much less breakage, since Steel is a tempered metal.

Markwood Heavenly Strings make all my custom harp strings, with the exception of my gut strings.

                                                                                      General Notes

NOTE: Expect it to take 50 tunings before the harp will stay in tune well. That means if you only tune the harp once a week, it will take a year for it to settle in! So we recommend tuning it two or three times a day. Persevere, and be patient! It should get better each day. If you find that it does not get better each day, then something else may be wrong. Just email me with any problems or questions! info@mountainglenharps.com

 A harp strung in nylon or lever folk gut should never be re-strung with concert gut (pedal harp) strings. The soundboard may not be able to withstand that kind of tension and the warranty would be void.
Nylon strings and lever gut strings are usually interchangeable, if the gauges are the same. There may be a few lever handles (for harps with Loveland Levers) that may need to be changed to accommodate the different string gauges. For Camac levers, they will need to be regulated to the new string gauges. If you need more information about this, please email or call me. It is always a good idea to first check with your harp maker, before doing an changes to your harp string set, to avoid voiding your warranty, or damaging your harp.

Harps need to be designed and made to suit a string gauge. This is not only from a constructional strength point of view but because of the mathematical relationship between frequency (the note), string diameter, string density and string length. This formula gives the optimum tension in the string to make it ring correctly. When I custom design any of my harps, no matter the size or style, cross, double or single string band, I am first designing the string set, and only then the rest of the harp around that string set.

If you string a harp that has been designed for concert with folk gauge the string lengths are too short, the strings are comparatively floppy and the construction is too heavy. The result is a dull or dead sounding harp. If on the other hand you string a harp designed for folk gauge with concert the strings will be too tight, sound strident and break all the time. This is assuming the harp doesn’t just explode with the extra tension, which it might!

Please see my String Installation Guide for more information on installing harp strings on your harp.

Markwood Heavenly Strings make all my custom harp strings, with the exception of my gut strings.

Thank you for coming to visit my Harp Pages, please let me know how I can bring your Dream Harp to Life !

Follow your Bliss, and live your Life in Joy!

Glenn J. Hill