minstrel: Wire string problems/ Real double strung harps

Tracie Brown peerlady at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 5 11:54:36 PST 2001

    This string arrangement is neither typical nor desirable.  Nor is it 
"double-strung".  Once you find a source for wire, get enough to convert to 
"one-string, one-note". (And enough for those inevitable broken strings.)  
This particular stringing system is a relic of the 1970s, when a book on 
making folk instruments borrowed the idea from hammered dulcimers, without 
recognising the difference between the instruments.  There is at least one 
company I know who used (and may still use, if still in business) this 
arrangement to "save money", though the money "saved" amounts to pennies, 
perhaps only fractions of pennies. This company's harps had numerous other 
design, technical and workmanship flaws.  Unfortunately, they sold at SCA 
events, minor renn faires and sf conventions.

     As you noted, when you tune one string, you tune (or untune) two 
strings, which means you cannot tune to different keys, since when you sharp 
an F, you automatically sharp the adjacent E or G.

    Double (or triple) strung refers to the number of courses or rows of 
strings.  A double strung harp may have two complete parallel rows of 
strings, two complete crossed rows, a complete and a partial crossed row 
(comparable to the white and the black keys of a piano) or one complete and 
two partial parallel rows.  An "arpa doppia" has three, not two parallel 
rows, two complete and one partial in the middle.  The Welsh triple harp is 
a descendant of the Italian (16-17c) arpa doppia. There may be some other 
arrangements out there, but these are the most common.

   The wire pluckers on this list probably have better information than I do 
on where to find wire and how best to install them.  Good luck.

-- Signy

>Caera is not using wooden dowels, nor ball ends, at present.
>The harp-maker, whose name I forget, called the harp "Double-Strung".  (I
>had never seen this before, so please forgive me if I explain something
>about which you already know plenty.)  The harp is strung with one wire for
>each two notes, i.e. the low C and D are comprised of the same wire.  One
>end is wound around the C tuning peg, then stretched down to the sound
>board, through the C grommet, up 3/4" to the D grommet, then stretched up
>again to the D peg.  To tune her low C, Caera must tune the D at the same
>time, because loosening one loosens the other.  Is that typical?
>It sounds like the prudent choice would be that Caera switch to dowels, as
>you suggest.  I'll convey your advice.
>How does one affix the wire to the dowel?  Does it hold in place like a
>guitar peg in the back of the soundboard?
> >From: Pat Yarrow <yarrowp at mscd.edu>
> >Reply-To: yarrowp at mscd.edu
> >To: Myra Hope Bobbitt <mhbobbitt at hotmail.com>
> >CC: scaharpers at yahoogroups.com, minstrel at pbm.com
> >Subject: RE: minstrel: Wire strings?
> >Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 09:03:36 -0700
> >
> >I'm crossposting to the scaharpers list.
> >
> >If you've got a string that's breaking on a regular basis, there are a
> >number of possibilities.  Does the string always break in the same place,
> >such as near the bridge pins?  This can give you some clues.
> >
> >1)  Check the gauge of the wire.  Ask the harp maker whether it might be
> >appropriate to drop to a lighter gauge, which will require less tension 
> >get the same note.
> >2)  Check the stringshoes, if the harp has them.  There may be a rough 
> >that's abrading the string.
> >3)  How is the string secured?  If you're using a ball end instead of a
> >wooden dowel, make sure you're not bending the string in the process of
> >wrapping it, or anywhere in the process of changing the string.  A bent
> >string will break.  Make sure the wrapping is tight enough so that the
> >string isn't slipping and having to be retuned constantly.
> >4)  Are there sharping levers on the harp?  If so, check for rough spots 
> >them.  They'll eat right through a string.  Use of sharping levers, even
> >those adjusted properly, can shorten your string life.
> >
> >Dave Kolacny has a book available on troubleshooting your harp.  He also
> >carries strings.  8-)
> >http://www.kolacnymusic.com/
> >The site is giving me a little trouble this morning - keep trying or 
> >him at kolacny2 at dnvr.uswest.net - this is Denver's harp repair expert.
> >
> >Vivien
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: minstrel-admin at pbm.com [mailto:minstrel-admin at pbm.com]On Behalf Of
> >Myra Hope Bobbitt
> >Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2001 8:48 AM
> >To: minstrel at pbm.com
> >Subject: minstrel: Wire strings?
> >
> >
> >Greetings, all!
> >
> >I'm Leceabh merch Ouein of Carolingia (Medford, MA), amateur
> >harper/poet/singer and this year's Bard Stonemarche (New Hampshire).  I
> >play
> >a nylon-strung 29-string harp to accompany myself and others' folk songs,
> >and I play Irish and Welsh traditional tunes.
> >
> >My singing partner, Caera na Cride Tren, is not email-enabled and has 
> >me to relay a question to the greater group.  Caera plays a wirestrung 
> >that is double-strung.  One of the strings (b/c above middle C) breaks
> >regularly:  about once every two or three months in the year since she
> >bought the harp at Pennsic.
> >
> >a)  Does anyone on the list know where to get a hold of wire strings?  
> >seen some recommend piano wire.  Are there other options?
> >
> >b)  Would switching to single-strung help?  How could Caera switch from
> >double-strung to single for that set?  The soundboard is grommeted 
> >through, so wouldn't support my nylon-centric idea of a big knot.  Should
> >she try to fit in a guitar peg?
> >
> >c)  If she sticks with double-strung, how could she prevent that one 
> >from continually breaking?
> >
> >Please feel free to tell me if I'm asking the wrong questions -- wire is 
> >bit out of my element and I would like to learn more about it.
> >
> >Thank you!
> >
> >Respectfully,
> >~Leceabh
> >
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