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Tuning

Let's start with me answering the most common questions about tuning:

 

1) Yes, harpists tune their own instruments.

2) Yes, you do have to tune each string individually. 

     2a) This doesn't take as long as you might think. Personally, I can tune a full size harp in just under 4 minutes. (In case you're wondering,                 I know this because I've timed myself. For about a week of my life a while back, I found myself having to tune eight pedal harps and ten lever         harps daily. When you're tuning 736 strings a day, you have quite a bit of time to think. Or to get out your cell phone and work out your                   average time for tuning both  types of harp.)

3) Yes, harps are sensitive to their surroundings, including temperature and humidity, and this affects the tuning.

4) Yes, tuning can be sometimes be a... nuisance, shall we say.

Here's the answer to the question I wish people would ask:

1) Yes, tuning is a skill just like playing, and you can improve both your general tuning skills and your efficiency with practice. Tuning can become something you easily take in stride. 

The harp is kind of an in-between instrument. You cannot hire a harp tuner to come and tune your harp once a year, the way you might with a piano. Instead, you have to tune it regularly yourself, just like you would with a guitar or a viola. At the same time, there are a lot more strings and student harpists don't usually bring their harp to every lesson and consistently work on their tuning skills with their teacher the way most orchestral instrumentalists do. Generally the teacher provides a harp for lessons and has already tuned it before you arrive. Certainly you can still work on tuning skills with your teacher, and might take your harp in from time to time with questions, but frequently tuning is something you find yourself at home trying to figure out. 

To help with this, I made a series of videos, covering different aspects of tuning. You can explore these below.

An Introduction to Tuning

If you've never tuned a harp before, and don't know that much about the whole process, then this video is for you. It explains in depth how to go about tuning a lever harp in the Key of C, starting with basics like what a tuning key is. 

Tuning a Lever Harp in the Key of E-flat

Generally people who have been playing the lever harp for a while are interested in this alternate tuning. This video provides a detailed explanation of what keys are, why you might want to tune your lever harp in E-flat and then shows you how to do so. This video assumes that you understand the general tuning process., but might not know much about keys.

Tuning a Pedal Harp

If you've been playing the lever harp for a while, and now happily find yourself with a pedal harp to play and tune, you should know about a few crucial differences in tuning the two instruments. 

Tuning Tips

Still have a few questions? Or maybe one string that won't cooperate no matter how much you tune it? This video covers various common issues and solutions when it comes to tuning.