TUNING YOUR HARP
How to Tune your harp including using an electronic tuner (eTuner or tuner):
Free 3rd Party PDF Readers: (Adobe Acrobat Reader & Foxit PDF Reader)
Tuning PDF document is available.
Also, see the PDF drawing documents below to supplement this tuning routine.
- Optional Tuning Modifications for your harp (making tuning life easier)
- Mandatory & necessary Harp Tuning Mechanism modifications #1 & #2
- Attaching strings to your harp & winding
- Illustrated tuning routine
- Detailed string path
TUNING YOUR HARP
How to Tune your harp, including using an electronic tuner (eTuner or tuner):
When tuning your harp for the first time, have your eTuner clipped onto the Neck & ready to go when ready to tune.
Using your string winder, wind all strings up to the proper position on their tuner shafts (as shown in the above PDF documents, if you are viewing this on the website. Or, go to the website & download the PDFs). You do not need to bring the strings up tightly to pitch just yet. Just take a good amount of slack out of them, so each string is centered on its guide pin properly, is nearly centered on the tuner shaft (as close as is possible), and are then ready for actual note tuning.
Next, start to pluck the Middle C string by both listening for the correct Middle C pitch & while watching the eTuner. It is best to have your Middle C reference sound playing now in the background so you can bring the Middle C string up to correct pitch by ear. This procedure will get you started in the right note range for your harp. (See the website's Harp Resources page for an active YouTube link to a Middle C Finder.)
To bring each individual note (string) up to pitch, turn all Left & Right Hand tuning mechanism knobs Counter-Clockwise. I have found this to work the best to avoid tuner mechanism lock-ups.
As you get closer to the note's correct pitch, turn the tuning mechanism slower using your fingers or tuning wand (wrench). Pluck, watch, pluck, watch, etc. You do not want to accidentally over-tighten the string past its correct pitch and end up breaking the string. Most treble strings can break very easily. So, easy does it! (Strings broken by incorrect tuning practices are not covered by anyone's warranty.)
Pluck the string again as often as necessary for your particular eTuner. When tuning your note, don't go much beyond the proper pitch. Be sure to use your eTuner to match the correct note. The eTuner should already be set to the Chromatic &/or C scale. Some have automatic note sensing. Some you have to manually set the individual note you are tuning to. (See the String Charts for the correct note sequences found on your particular harp, if it is a Kovac/Davy C harp.)
Now, wait for the eTuner indicator to point to the string's current pitch. Some eTuners have a Red light or two when off-pitch. Most go Green when on correct pitch. There is an indicator that should also point up to perfect pitch when correct. (Please, review your particular eTuner's instructions on how your eTuner indicates correct pitch.)
If you go way too far, pull on the string a bit in the middle of its span and turn the tuning mechanism down a quarter or half a turn or more in the opposite direction to detune the string. Then, re-pluck the string again and let the eTuner sense the pitch again. From here, it is best to again bring the string back up to pitch but without going more than 5 or 10 cents sharp past perfect tune for each note. You'll notice new strings will immediately stretch and go back out of tune. So, linger on each new string & bring it up to pitch several times before moving onto the next string.
If you are new to tuning harps, you will soon learn that tuning the highest octave of treble strings will eventually take only a fraction of a full turn to bring the string up to proper pitch. This is the danger zone! For, it is now much easier to break your higher treble strings by excess turning of the tuner knob. Yet, it can take many full turns to bring your bass & midrange strings up to proper pitch. So: Always go slow & use your eTuner before tuning!
It may be necessary to hold a hand towel in one hand to touch and dampen (make quiet) the bass & midrange strings before tuning the next note. Otherwise, cabinet reverb or resonance will likely interfere with the following note's tuning, confusing the eTuner with the previous pitch still bouncing between the harp's sound chamber & resonant strings.
Next, tune your lowest bass C (longest strings) or, the lowest note, depending on your harp's note range. Then, tune the next C up (including Middle C again), working your way to the top treble C notes (shortest strings). Then, go back down to the lowest bass D and do all the Ds up to the smallest top octave strings. Keep at this until all strings are tuned. Note, you may have to tune the harp 2 or 3 times in the first hour of its initial tuning to keep it anywhere near tune. But, each day after, the harp will gradually stabilize more & more, and you will tune less & less.
Expect to tune your harp at least twice a day after the first 3 days (during the first 3 days more often is possible). If you want your harp to hold its tuning faster over the weeks before it finally stabilizes, tune it 2 or 3 times a day till stabilized. It is normal to have to tune it daily for 2 or 3 weeks straight before the harp will begin to start to hold its tuning. It should be close by the end of your first month's tuning.
Then, tune every time before you play. After a while, you might even be able to go a week or two without tuning unless you are playing for several hours straight every single day of the week. More playing requires more frequent tuning. But that is good. Practice makes perfect when learning to tune your harp! And, playing your harp is what it is all about!