Please check out the HELPFUL HINTS further down the page
are many ways to tie harp strings and if you have one that you like,
you certainly can stick with it. This one I like because after you
cinch it up, the end stick doesn’t fall out as you’re stringing
your harp. Also, if you’re using Flourocarbon strings, this knot
WILL hold. The old method is on this site.
If you have broken one of the larger gauge monofilament
strings (in the lower register) you will want to follow the directions
for string tying for lower gauges.
So, to get
started, you will need the full length of string from your string package.
Then cut an inch long piece of a large gauge string, like .055. This
will be your end stick.
This video will show you step by step how to tie the string
with the instructions below for strings #1-22:
This video will show you step by step how to tie strings
#23-29 (see visual instructions here)
|Make a regular overhand knot and put your end stick (or string
tie) through the knot.
|Pull it tight.
|Then make a loop as shown in
|Put it around the end stick that also includes the string
end. This is basically a half hitch.
|Pull it tight and cut the end off if it’s longer than the
You can then thread your string into the hole in the back
of the harp, through the lever and up to the tuning pin (see
the first helpful hint for an easier way).
Check out this new
video series by Steve Moss. He recently gave a class on harp
care at Lyon & Healy West where Michele Rasmussen took a few
videos of him demonstrating techniques for tying harp string knots
and securing a new string on the tuning pin.
Other helpful hints
- When you're replacing the highest strings, you may have noticed
that it is difficult to find the string hole from inside the sound
box. One thing you can do is, before you tie your end knot, thread
the string through the soundboard hole from the front of your soundboard.
Pull the string through the back sound holes and then make your knot.
This will only work if your string is long enough to allow you to
make the knot without pulling it through the string hole. You may
not understand what I'm talking about, but if it happens to you, I
think you'll understand.
- You may not need to use string ends for the higher gauge strings
(lower sounding strings) like from .045, .050, .055 etc.
Follow directions on the string
tying for lower gauges.
- Another thing you can use for a string end is leather shoelaces
cut into1 inch lengths. I have never tried toothpicks but I have
heard they would work. Also the sticks between the cotton of Q-tips.
In a pinch, you might need to get creative. Let me know if you come
up with some great idea.
Tying the string onto the tuning
Now that you’ve got the knot tied at the end of the string, you’ll
need to thread it past the lever and through the tuning pin. Here’s
what I do to cinch the knot on this end. This works for all strings
but the bass wires (see below for these strings).
Line up the hole of the tuning pin so that it is vertical. Standing
behind the harp, thread the string through the hole (it should be
going straight up past the center of the lever and through the hole
in the tuning pin) and pull it back towards you.
Then slip the string below the tuning pin and between the wooden neck
of the harp and the string you just threaded up through the tuning pin.
You will be pushing the string toward the front of the harp now.
Bring it up between the tuning pin you’re stringing and the tuning
pin of the string one note below and pull it out away from the harp.
Begin tuning up the string. The first wind should catch around the
end of the string. Make sure your winds go toward the neck of the
harp as you tune (unless your pins are the type of pin that wants
you to make the winds go away from the neck. I believe Tripplet pins
are like this). Try to get a straight line from the tuning pin to the
bridge pin, especially in the bass wires.
Using the cutters of the needle nose pliers, cut off all of the extra
string to avoid any buzzing and to keep your harp tidy.
The Bass Wires
Pull the bass wire all the way through the tuning pin
straight up. Cut it off 2 -2 1/2" above the tuning pin. Push
it back down so it is ALMOST flush with the tuning pin, just barely
sticking out (less than the width of the string). Begin winding the
slack around the tuning pin until you have it to pitch. This method
helps to cut down on sharp edges cutting you or your case. You can
see me demonstrating this on a video.
Tuning up new strings
New strings will need to stretch before they will hold a pitch for
any length of time. You might want to over tune the string about 20-50
cents (this is a musical tuner measurement) and then stretch it a
little. It will again fall way below pitch. Do this a couple of times
being careful not to stretch or over tune it too much or it may break.
If you are in the middle of a performance, you’ll need to get
it to hold pitch before you play so keep talking to the audience while
you stretch and tune, stretch and tune.
I hope this has helped to get you on your way to tying harp strings.
If you have questions, come to one of my workshops at the next confernce,
visit our booth or call me and I'll help you out. If you already have
a way that works for you, or if you find a better way, wonderful!
Trouble Shooting Some String
Continued String Breakage
If the string breaks continually at the point of contact with the tuning
pin, you might have a sharp edge where the string goes through the hole.
To compensate for this, you can leave about a 1/2-1inch of slack before
tuning up the string. This eases the point where it is sharp and usually
takes care of the problem. And you can turn the tuning pin over so the
sharp edge is on the other side.
The same might be true for strings that break at the soundboard. The
bottom of the grommet may be cutting the string below the soundboard.
To help this situation, put a leather washer between your string knot
and the soundboard. You will need to put the washer on before you
tie the string. You can get leather washers from Robinson's String
Shop in California. (619 473-8556). If the string is breaking right
above the soundboard you may need a new grommet, also available from
Robinson's although you'll need to know if your grommet is small,
medium, or large and if it is regular or heavy duty (they are not interchangeable).
If your string pops off the
bridge pin (see photo to right)
If there are too many winds of the string on the tuning pin, it may
cause it to pop off the bridge pin. As the string stretches and tunes
up to pitch, you may acquire more windings on the tuning pin then
you want. The string is at too steep of an angle to the bridge pin
and when you lever that string, it pops off the bridge pin. The solution
is to unwind the string and push the windings away from the neck until
the string is going straight up from the bridge pin to the tuning
pin. If necessary, unwind the string completely and pull it up through
the tuning pin about 1/2 inch, re-wind the string and tune it back
up. Cut off the extra 1/2 inch of string. This should take at least
1 wind out of the string and it should stay on the bridge pin.
If your tuning pins slip
Sometimes a tuning pin will slip due to changes in humidity. Most tuning
pins are tapered like violin tuning pins. The pin gets larger in diameter
on the side that the tuning key fits into. If you have a tapered tuning
pin that keeps slipping, de-tune the string about a half of a turn
and then as you turn the pin to tune the string back up, push the
pin in. You should provide counter pressure by bracing the neck of
the harp with your left hand, while pushing in with the key in your
right. See a video of this here.
You can also check the angle of the string to the neck. If the string
angles towards the neck from the tuning pin, it could be putting back
pressure on the tuning pin and pushing it out of the hole. This is
more likely to happen in the low bass wires. The remedy here is to
detune the string and stretch out the windings so they run straight
up and down instead of at an angle. If there aren't enough windings,
you probably have to put on a new string. Cut your string about 2" longer
than the string length you need to allow for the extra windings.
Wrong way Right
The above tips and helpful hints are specifically taylored
for Thormahlen Harps.
For further and more extensive string, tuning and harp
care instructions and you can check out Steve Moss's videos
About Harp Strings
to Tune Your Harp, Part 1
to Tune Your Harp, Part 2
to Clean Your Harp
Just wanted to let you know I was sending you thanks as you helped
me re-string a broken string this afternoon. Katie had forgotten
to make a copy of directions for me and she suggested I check your
website. I was thrilled to see not only directions but drawings as
I struggled with that wiley string!!! The directions were clear,
I got the string on without breaking it and played just to make sure
that it stayed on. And yes, the Q tip stick worked great. I love my harp
(still!!) and appreciate it everytime I look at it. Paula Caron Grantham,
Some suggestions on tuning
your harp, back to the strings page
or on to the page About Harps.