Wire-strung harp

Brett Williams brettwi at ix.netcom.com
Tue Oct 10 16:47:47 PDT 1995

You wrote: 
>I am wondering if anyone on this list can recommend a source of 
>information for learning how to "dampen" strings while playing 
>wire-strung harps.  I just purchased a wire-strung harp, and am used 
>to the nylon strings, and have no one to show me in person.  Is there 
>perhaps a good book, instructional tape, or whatever, out there that 
>I'm not aware of?
>Please advise!  Thank you!
>Also, were harps played on the left or right shoulder in the Middle 
>Ages and Renaissance?  Is there documentation somewhere out there for 
 (Jennifer Bogut)

Documentation? Naah-- but I have a good story! :)

A number of years ago (I don't want to admit just *how* many!) I had 
the honor of attending a house concert where the performers were Chris 
Caswell and Danny Carnahan.  Chris was playing an incredible five 
octave wire-strung harp.  It was built of koa wood, so not only was it 
gloriously functional, it was drop-dead gorgeous, too.  His wife, 
Teresa, had made it for him.

During one of the breaks a number of us in the audience cornered him 
and asked *lots* of questions about his instrument. From what I 
remember of the conversation, he said that he had a hard time learning 
to switch his technique from nylon-strung harp to wire, as he had had 
to teach himself to damp with the fingerpads while he used the nail to 
'ring' the string.  He also said glumly that aside from growing his 
own, he hadn't found *any* acceptable substitute or aid other than the 
home-grown variety of fingernail. He said that he'd tried Lee press-ons 
and all of the various false fingernail preparations and/or glue-ons on 
the market at the time and that all of 'em would break.

At that concert he had a full set of nails. He added as a last comment 
that he'd had to stop helping his wife in the shop as making harps and 
playing the wire-strung harp were, for him, two mutually incompatible 
pursuits. :)

So, guard your nails.


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