Taking Care of Your Harp

Broken Strings

           It is important that broken strings be replaced as soon as possible, and you must use the proper type of string. If you have a set of replacement strings, use those. If you need a replacement strings please contact Handverks Music & Harp Studio.  If you do not know how to put on a new string, take your harp with you to your next lesson and have your teacher help you, or take it to Handverks Music so they can show you how to replace the new string properly.  


Clean Hands, Short Finger Nails, and No Jewelry! 

          Before practice, lesson or performance time, be sure your nails are trimmed short and smooth.  Be sure to always wash your hands before playing the harp.  Anything sticky is obviously undesirable. Even the natural oils from your skin can react with the finish of your harp.  Be sure to remove your rings, watches, necklaces and bracelets before sitting down at the harp. Jewelry can scratch or gouge the surface of the harp. Necklaces can buzz against the back of the harp and can also scratch wood.  

   

Cleaning your Harp

         The harp should be cleaned only with a very soft, 100% cotton cloth. Do not use wood cleaners or conditioners on the harp that contain lemon or orange oil as these can soften the glue joints on your instrument over time and can change the color of ornamental images on the harp.   


The Harp in Your Home 

           One "rule of thumb" that some people use in caring for their harps is the idea that, if you are comfortable, your harp will be too.  This is perhaps too simple an idea, but it is basically true. If you are too warm or too cold in your living room, or if there is hot sunlight or a cold draft coming from a nearby window, your harp will not be comfortable. So, here are a few basic ideas to keep in mind when choosing the location in your home:  


1.   Your harp should be situated where you have adequate space for the harp, chair, music stand, music, tuner, etc.   

2.  The harp should be placed where it is very unlikely to be knocked over or bumped into and also where it is unlikely to have anything dropped or spilled on it.  It is ideal to be able to back the harp up into a corner when it is not being played. 

 3.  The harp should be protected at all times from all pets and from young children. If you have cats in the house, be careful about putting a cover on your harp, as cats like to think they can climb a covered harp and can pull it over on top of themselves in the process!  If at all possible, keep the harp in a room that can be made inaccessible to kids and pets.  

4.   The harp likes to be kept at a fairly constant temperature and humidity - 50% humidity is ideal. A simple inexpensive humidity gauge should be kept in the room with the harp. In homes with central heat and A/C, it is often necessary to add humidity to the air with a room or instrument humidifier so that the wood of the harp does not get too dry. 

5.   Do not place the harp where it will be in direct sunlight at any time of the day.   

6.  Do not place the harp where it will be subjected to drafts from open doors, windows, A/C vents, heaters, etc.  

7.   If you plan to be away for a weekend, put the cover on your harp and leave your thermostat set at a comfortable temperature. Remember that variations in temperature and humidity will have an affect how well your harp stays in tune, the life of your strings, and the life of the harp itself.    


Transporting Your Harp  

1.   DO NOT LEAVE A HARP IN A HOT VEHICLE UNDER ANY CIRCUM-STANCES!  Even a few minutes in an overheated car can cause the glue joints to soften!  

2.   Put all sharping levers down and cover the harp completely by putting it in its own padded travel case.    

3.   When transporting the harp, always have a hand on the instrument!  Do not leave it to stand up in a padded case or on a dolly or on wheels built into its case. 

4.   Always lay the harp on the side with the levers facing up. This is important so that levers don't get bent or broken.  A small harp can also be laid down on its backs (on the sound box) and can be transported this way, so long as it is protected from tipping over!   Place the harp flat on a padded surface.   


Tuning the Harp  

1.  The harp should be tuned often.  This will help keep the harp under even tension and will also help develop your own ear for tuning as time goes on.  Harp strings are designed to resonate best at concert pitch, so keeping the whole harp consistently tuned to concert pitch will make the whole instrument sound better. 

2.  When moving from string to string, as you tune the instrument be sure you have the tuning wrench on the pin for the correct string you want to tune.   If you continue to turn the wrench, but the string you're plucking isn't changing pitch, you are probably turning the pin for the wrong string and are likely to break that string!  Therefore, use the "Up and Over" method of locating the correct pin:  Follow the string up to its bridge pin and over to the tuning pin, and then look across the top of the harmonic curve (or neck) to locate the correct pin to put the tuning wrench on and proceed to tune the harp. 

3.  On most harps it is a good idea to push in gently on the tuning pin (toward the neck of the harp) as you tune a string UP (to a higher pitch).  This helps keep the tuning pin firmly set in the neck of the harp.  Do not apply pressure when tuning a string DOWN (to a lower pitch)!  Once a string is "settled"  (after a number of tunings on new strings), remember that most tunings require only very slight adjustments. Use caution when applying pressure to zither pins. 

4.   Do not leave the tuning wrench on a tuning pin at any time! This is to avoid damage to the soundboard as the tuning wrench could slip off and drop on the soundboard.


Repairing Scratches on Your Harp

There is a relatively easy solution.  Scratches can be repaired to the point you cannot see scratches were ever there:  You need a small spay can of  "DEFT Clear Wood Finish, Semi Gloss".   You can buy this product from a hardware store for about $6.00 to $7.00.   


Preparing the Surface: Sand scratched or dented area with fine sand paper, about 220 grade.  Use fine steel wool to make the surface even smoother. Remove dust with soft rag. If you have paint thinner wipe the surface clean with it.  Paint thinner is good to use but not essential - as long as surface is clean of dust. 


Application:  Before doing the steps below you may want to do "practice run" on a piece of scrap wood! Spray outdoors on a nice day because of the odor.   If you have to do the work in your home make sure the work area is well ventilated.  Place the surface to be sprayed horizontally to avoid running spray. As you spray hold the can about 8-10" from area to be spayed.  Before pushing the spay button, keep moving can back as forth as you spray since you don't want the spray to come out by holding the can still, otherwise you might get some blotches. Remember you don't need much spray.