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Let’s talk strings

I sat down at my harp the other day, Thursday to be exact, and starting running my warm up exercises only to hear the dreaded dull, several semitone low, thud of a string that has unraveled. I thought “Oh dear, I have a rehearsal that evening! That B is going to be important. I know I do not have too many notes, but that was an important one.” The new

string settled in nicely before the rehearsal and behaved well during the subsequent recording session today, so whew! As I changed the string (happy that my string stash was stocked) I mused about what happened to my string changing project I usually do over the summer. I got interrupted in May according to my string diary. I keep a string diary with what I replace, when, and with what. It is a really useful document to have on hand. According to my diary that string had been on there for ages! Glad it broke. I have become lazy with my string care. I had completely ignored the signs of this ones demise and it is a wake up call

for me to go through my strings and their condition before my next engagement.

I stress a lot less about string condition than I used to. When I was in my twenties I really worried about how old they were, tried to change them once a year etc. Now as I approach 50, I really feel this is not necessary for my current needs. Honestly, I am not sure this is necessary for anyone unless you are doing a solo album or a high exposure performance of some sort. For most of my work, there is no real need for the expense. The only advantage is that you are less likely to be surprised by a broken string. Still, even new strings break. It seems that if a string is going to break it is usually when it is new or when it is really old. I like a nicely worn set, just in their maturity, before they lose all resonance. These are strings I can trust. They still sound okay, they hold tune, they are less likely to break on me. I am good with that. If the harpists of the past can work with patched strings, I can work with ones that are less than perfect. I think there is a certain elitism in thinking that one has to have new strings all the time. It may be a way of consuming less and dealing with possible supply uncertainty to learn to

make what we have work for us longer.

Just some thoughts. I will leave you with this cartoon in which I was inspired by that sweet spot in life where you know you have a complete set of strings… but then… ping!


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