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.
Ever break a string and not know what to do? Ever have someone show
you how to tie a knot in the end of your string and then not remember
how to do it? Or not understand it in the first place? I can't guarantee
that you'll get it this time, but let's try. I have been giving this
workshop at the Somerset Harp Conferences for the past few years and
many people have come up to me to say they finally understood how to
put on a string. I even taught some under 12 year olds how to tie a
string. Let's see if I can teach you.
As a disclaimer, I would like to say that there are many ways to tie
harp strings. I'm not saying that this is the only way, nor am I saying
that it is the best way. It's just the way that I have found to be the
least troublesome and most successful for me. From that standpoint,
we shall proceed.
You might want to check out the HELPFUL HINTS further down
the page before starting.
Just for practice, cut yourself a piece of clear nylon string, let's
say .032, about a foot long. If you are really changing a string, then
don't cut off a piece, use the whole length of string.Then cut a tiny
piece of let's say red .055 about an inch long. This will be your end
stick. You can reverse these colors if you like, but it will be easier
to talk about it with 2 different colors. You'll also need some small needle nose pliers that
you can find at the hardware store or you can purchase from us. Go
to our pricelist page to see a photo of them.
|Now, looking at the drawing on the right, loop your string so
it looks just like the picture. You'll need to make the second loop
opposite from the first loop so that it makes a mirror image. Make
sure the "smile" is in the front. Also think of the longer
side of the string on the left and the shorter end on the right.
The left end will be the side that actually goes
into the harp and up to the tuning pin. Get it? Hope so.
|From the back of the first loop, put the second loop through the
|Pull the LEFT end of the string tight. I have drawn it a little
loose, but you pull yours tight.
|Get the little 1 inch red stick and slip it through the front
of the remaining large loop (originally our second loop).
|Holding the stick in place, pull the string to tighten the loop
onto the stick.
|Now, holding the stick in place, grab a pair of needle nose pliers
and pull the string, that's holding the stick, very tight. It should
actually turn the stick clockwise thus securing the knot and making
it so the stick won't fall out. Cut the end leaving about a 1/2
inch to avoid possible buzzing.
You can then thread your string into the hole in the back
of the harp and up to the tuning pin (see the first helpful hint for
an easier way). If the red end stick didn't turn then it is apt to fall
out while you thread the string through the hole.
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 .050, .055 etc, on up. Follow
directions to figure 3, pull the left string tight and string it
on up. If the knot comes through the grommet, you'll have to use
a string end. Make sure it is stiff enough so as not to bend as you
tighten the loop.
- 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 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 through the hole in the tuning pin) and pull it back towards
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.
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
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
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 completely unwind the string until it is going straight
up out of the hole of the tuning pin. 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.
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.
The above tips and helpful hints are specifically taylored
for Thormahlen Harps.
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.