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What’s Your SPF- String Protection Formula?

Summertime. Time for lemonade, swimming pools, barbecue, the beach and…breaking strings.

Where I live in central Pennsylvania, we have beautiful summers, much of the time. We have beautiful days when the sun shines and the air is so clear it almost shimmers. Then there are the days when the humidity is as high as the temperature. The outside air is muggy and heavy, so heavy it even seems to penetrate the inside air conditioned spaces. And humid air can make your harp and harp strings very unhappy.

So what is your SPF - String Protection Formula? How do you protect your strings from breaking and your expensive harp from suffering in the summer heat?

Air conditioning is as important for your harp as it is for you. Keeping the humidity at a fairly constant and comfortable level will help your harp stay in tune and keep the joints in the wood from swelling. It will also help keep your strings from breaking, although with strings, there are no guarantees.

Gut strings are especially vulnerable in hot and humid weather. In addition, if the strings are at all worn, changing weather conditions are likely to stress them to the breaking point.

In order to keep your strings - and you – from getting to the breaking point, here are some suggestions so you can keep the headaches and inconvenience to a minimum and enjoy your summer harp playing. 

  1. Prevention is the first line of defense. Keep your harp indoors, in climate-controlled conditions, and keep it in tune. The sunshine may feel good on your shoulders, but it’s very damaging for your harp.  And NEVER leave your harp in a hot car. You don’t want to even imagine what can happen.

  2. Give yourself a quick string-changing refresher course. String breakage is less of a nuisance if you’re confident in your ability to change a string quickly. There are directions in almost every harp study book, and some harp manufacturers have terrific video tutorials. If you have an old string on hand or even a piece of string, you can practice tying the all-important knot, just so you’re ready if a string should break.

  3. Keep a complete set of replacements. I know it’s expensive, but Murphy’s law applies to strings as well as it does to everything else: the string that breaks is the one you don’t have. And who wants to lose a few days of practice or spend the overnight shipping price when you don’t have the right replacement string on hand? BONUS TIP: when you get those replacement strings, organize them by octave and store them neatly so you can find the string you want easily.

  4. Always tune with your pedals up or your levers down. This is an easy way to prevent excess damage to your strings. Dragging your strings through levers or discs that are engaged causes extra wear on the strings and can also misalign your levers or discs. Strings wear out quickly enough by themselves; you don’t need to accelerate the process. 

Do you have string-changing questions?  Let’s get them answered. Leave them in the comments below!

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