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Help: Dying Harp

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jeffp 03 Feb 00 - 08:03 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Feb 00 - 09:05 PM
DonMeixner 03 Feb 00 - 09:08 PM
catspaw49 03 Feb 00 - 09:24 PM
jeffp 03 Feb 00 - 09:34 PM
MMario 03 Feb 00 - 09:36 PM
Sorcha 03 Feb 00 - 09:41 PM
catspaw49 03 Feb 00 - 09:43 PM
Tchaikovsky 04 Feb 00 - 12:08 PM
Sorcha 04 Feb 00 - 12:17 PM
Helen 04 Feb 00 - 06:21 PM
jeffp 04 Feb 00 - 07:03 PM
Banjer 04 Feb 00 - 07:14 PM
GUEST,Michael 05 Feb 00 - 12:38 AM
Helen 05 Feb 00 - 12:38 AM
Banjer 05 Feb 00 - 08:23 AM
jeffp 05 Feb 00 - 09:24 AM
Sorcha 05 Feb 00 - 11:15 AM
paddymac 05 Feb 00 - 12:43 PM
Helen 05 Feb 00 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,CE Morgan 06 Feb 00 - 06:11 PM
Helen 07 Feb 00 - 02:51 AM
jeffp 07 Feb 00 - 08:27 AM
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Subject: Dying Harp
From: jeffp
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 08:03 PM

My sister has a cheap (as if they're ever cheap) folk harp that is slowly twisting itself into unplayability. She is picking up a new harp in a couple of days (weather willing) and is giving the old one to me to play with until it dies. The problem is that I am unlikely to get to her place until this summer.

My question is: would it be better to loosen the string tension until I am able to get there, or would the release and reapplication of tension do more damage than leaving constant tension on it? Neither one of us knows and I would appreciate the opinions of any experience harpers or luthiers here. Thanks in advance.

jeffp, at the hospice for dying instruments


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:05 PM

Remove the tension. Now!

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: DonMeixner
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:08 PM

Jeff,

I am not a Harpist but I do play other furniture type instruments and a I'd tell her to let the strings down a bit. I wouldn't disassemble the harp. Some harps have removeable pillars and arms..

Where is it twisting, in the chamber of the harp or in the pillar/arm. Is it too dry and is it coming apart because of glue failure? maybe we can troubleshoot this for you and get it on the road to recovery. Is it wire strung or is it gut strung. (I built a small bardic type harp once and used weed eater chord on it. Sounded good.)

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:24 PM

De-Tune and as Don suggested, give us some more info. I build Hammered Dulcimers, but have also built a few harps and other instruments. We're a real nutty group when it comes to this stuff and we'll be real happy to help.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: jeffp
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:34 PM

Thanks guys! I'll let her know to reduce the tension and get more details on exactly what's going on. It will probably be a couple of days before I call her again, but she's going to be playing it until she gets the new one, so reducing tension before Saturday is out of the question anyway. If we can save it, I'll be very happy. A free harp is nothing to sneeze at. Or on, for that matter. I've had the chance to play it a little bit, enough to whet my appetite. I play traditional Irish music, among other things, and am particularly fond of O'Carolan music.

Should I just keep this thread alive or should we take it to private messages for the "harp healing circle"?

Thanks again!

jeffp


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: MMario
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:36 PM

keep it live, please! the discussion should prove to be interesting,


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Sorcha
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:41 PM

I have a Hughes "Brian" harp kit that I built and adapted, but apparently I did'nt adapt it enough. The bottom of the pillar pulled up through the sound board, and splintered both the soundboard and the back,; spontaneous self destruction. I got VERY drunk the night I discovered it, and cried buckets. I was ready to chop it into kindling and give it a good wake in my fireplace, but I was talked out of it by my friends. About a year later (try looking at a self-destructed harp for a year!) I found a beginning luthier who was willing to try to fix it. I figured he couldn't hurt it, so let him try. He fixed it by adding stress pins, and covering them with wooden pegs. It took it about 6 mos to stay in tune, but now it is fine. DE-TENSION IT as soon as possible, and don't give up hope.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:43 PM

Hey Jeff....Put a tracer on it by clicking on the trace column out to the right. Then when you need it, you canget it back easily (it shows up on your personal page).

Sorry, I didn't know if you've used that feature before.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Tchaikovsky
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 12:08 PM

I'm glad to hear this. I play a celtic harp that is nowhere near destruction but it is twisting itself around. I just thought that was normal? Matthew Adams


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Sorcha
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 12:17 PM

I don't think twisting is normal, but some arching of the soundboard is.I have been told that structurally harps are little bit like ships, they must be able to move at least 7 different directions at once, and that there is 100 pounds of torque/stress on the harp per string. A friend who does a little luthier work says that there is no logical reason ANY harp should hold together, that they are not really a musical instrument, but something just designed to make luthiers and harpers more crazy!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Helen
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 06:21 PM

Hi

Sorcha, I agree about harp construction & craziness in harpers/luthiers.

I have a Celtic lever harp - had some close calls - heat, humidity stretches the strings, requiring tuning up, and a cool change can snap strings or pop the soundboard if you don't tune down again.

Reconstruction is probably possible - but try not to sacrifice sound quality by putting too much badly designed reinforcements in the sound box. Try to use bracing rathing than gluing great big bits of wood inside and taking up all that precious empty air in there (sound vibrations need the empty space inside).

I love O'Carolan's music too. Check out Lesley Nelson's Contemplator site for lots of lovely O'Carolan midis.

http://www.contemplator.com/

Helen


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: jeffp
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 07:03 PM

Thanks for everybody's concern. Here's a little more information about the harp. It's a lever harp, nylon strung. 29 strings, I think. It's about 6 or 7 years old, I think. I should have some more details about the problem by Sunday. Helen, thanks for the reference for the Contemplator site. I'll have to check it out.

jeffp


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Banjer
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 07:14 PM

'(sound vibrations need the empty space inside)' sez Helen. This leaves me a bit baffled. It explains why I often have a song going thru my mind when nothing else can get through there, but at the same time I thought it was impossible for sound to travel in a vacuum? Huh......!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: GUEST,Michael
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 12:38 AM

What's wrong with it? I know a guy who fixes harps but we're in Minnesota where are you? mpbonner@prairie.lakes.com


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Helen
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 12:38 AM

Well, Banjer, I didn't actually say "vacuum" because then the poor fragile harp-thing would implode from the air pressure outside (LOL). I hope you were impressed by my technical jargon.

The only reason I said it like that was: I had an Aoyama 36 string harp, which is a Japanese model shaped a lot like a pedal harp and which seems to be designed and marketed towards learners who aim to work towards getting a pedal harp.

The sound was very muffled and plunky, not at all comparable to any of the reasonably made Celtic harps I heard then or since (i.e. over 20 years). One of the reasons it had such a dull sound is probably because it had these huge bracings inside made of metal tubing or it may even have been solid metal. I haven't seen any other harp with such heavy plumbing inside, and I have only heard one other harp which had that plunky sound, and it was also marketed for future pedal harpists, either because they couldn't afford to plunge straight into the commitment of a >$10,000 harp, or, sensibly, they wanted to see how they went learning the harp before making that commitment. These harps seem to sacrifice sound quality, i.e. short term pleasure, for practicality and durability.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Banjer
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 08:23 AM

I've never reallly given much thought as to the construction of a harp. Those that I've seen seemed to be very bulky. I always assumed that the frames were solid wood beams. It is most interesting to learn they are not. Kind of dispells the notion that harp players are either extremely strong people or have a very good sense of balance! If I read correctly what Helen, and others, have said here, the outer 'frame' of the harp acts as a resonator. Is that true?

Helen, the reference to vacuum was mine. Many years ago I mentioned to a relative that I had a song going thru my head and was told that 'sound cannot travel in a vacuum' I always thought that was a rather witty reply for the dimbulb (my brother) and as it may have been the only witty reply in his lifetime I have cherished it! LOL


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: jeffp
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 09:24 AM

Michael, I appreciate the offer, but I'm in Maryland and the harp is currently in West Virginia. Banjer, the top and front of the harp are solid, but the part that leans against the harper's shoulder is hollow and acts like the body of a guitar (soundboard, resonating chamber). My sister is picking her new harp up today, so I'll call her tomorrow and try to get details on exactly what is going on with the old one. Keep tuned. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 11:15 AM

Harp Construction, sort of: Old Celtic harps were carved from a solid billet of wood, usually bog oak, and were not usually very large for portability. Nowdays, hardly anybody goes to that much work, but I have seen 1 that was made this way. I does reduce stress on joints. Most modern "folk" (opposed to pedal) harps are made in pieces. The Sound box/hollow body, the Neck at the top with the string pegs in it, and the Pillar, or front post. The sound box is usually made of at least 6 pieces to make a "box". The top/back of this rests against the players shoulder.

What often happens is that one or more or any of these joints is subjected to too much stress and the pillar or neck will start to separate from the box. Using the right kind of glue and adequete bracing on joints will help prevent this. There should be as little internal bracing inside the box as possible, or the harp will not resonate.

There is also a fine line between the necessary thickness of the wood to hold the bracing, and the necessary thinness of the wood to allow it to resonate.

Because of all this (and other!) harps are VERY sensitive to changes of temperature, humidity, etc.

It should not be too difficult to find a harp luthier in the DC/NewYork area, there are lots of Celtic musicians in the area, and you can always try Boston for a last resort. Good Luck!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: paddymac
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 12:43 PM

Ah, Banjer, you were right on both points in your first post above, and i enjoyed the chuckle. Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Helen
Date: 05 Feb 00 - 06:47 PM

jeffp,

I can ask the harp e-mail mailing list for contact info on harpmakers in Maryland.

If anyone wants to join this list the easiest way to subscribe is to go to:


harp mailing list

http://www.onelist.com/subscribe/harplist

It's a really good mailing list, very similar to Mudcat, lots of great people, sharing info and friendships, with the occasional ruffled feathers but lots of people rushing in to smooth things over and get things back to normal.

There is also a harpmaker's list but I'm not quite sure how to find that. If anyone wants to know I'll find out.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: GUEST,CE Morgan
Date: 06 Feb 00 - 06:11 PM

The address for the harpmakers list is harpmakers@onelist.com.

You'll find them to be a very useful resource for this problem - they're very helpful, and you may even find someone near enough to you to help in person.

None of us who plays harp likes to hear of a harp in distress -- hope it goes well!

Cindy Ellen


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: Helen
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 02:51 AM

Hi again,

These are the replies so far from the harplist.

Helen

Kristen said: "I know of one man here that makes harps. I don't have his number handy, but his name is Lee Davenport, he lives in Columbia, MD on I think Longlook Lane. Hope this helps. He does repairs on harps he builds, so that's a plus too."

Greta said:

"My brother, Rick Kemper, is a harpmaker in Silver Spring, Maryland. The harps he has made are lovely, durable and have remarkably nice tone, according to everyone who has heard mine. He can also furnish references from Jo Morrison, a recording artist, and other people who have ordered harps from him. He is of good character and stands behind his work.

Contact him at rkemper@ctia.org. He also knows other harp makers in the area if your needs and his time do not match."


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Subject: RE: Help: Dying Harp
From: jeffp
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 08:27 AM

Thanks everybody for your good wishes and help! I talked to my sister yesterday and she says that the top is bowing toward the soundboard. I'm not sure if this type of problem can be repaired, but it doesn't sound too promising. As I said before, I probably won't be actually picking up the harp before summer, but when I do, I'll check with some of the harpmakers you all have suggested.

BTW, her new harp (a Steen, I think) is wonderful. She played a little for me on the phone. She's very happy with it, but it will take a little getting used to, as it's bigger than her old harp, so middle C has moved. The string tension is different, and it also has some synthetic gut strings and the bass strings are wound nylon, so there is a totally different feel and her fingers are complaining a bit. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

thanks again, jeffp


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