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What Are the Best Tips for Tuning a Harp?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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The best tips for tuning a harp include getting a chromatic electronic tuner, using a clip-on microphone with that tuner, and ensuring that the tuner’s two hands move through the strings together. The process of tuning a harp is made easier if the tuner uses his or her index finger to pluck the string being tuned and mutes the two neighboring strings with his or her thumb and middle finger. The right hand should stay on the tuning key to ensure that it doesn’t fall and damage the instrument and that it stays on the correct string.

Electronic tuners make the process of tuning a harp much easier. Most electronic tuners can now identify the note that is being produced without being informed beforehand of the target note — an improvement over older models. The readout on the tuner will display the note the string is closest to and to what degree the currently produced note is too high or too low.

Most tuners feature red lights to indicate an incorrectly tuned string and a green light to show perfect tuning. These lights work in conjunction with a needle displayed on the center of the screen. Adjust the tuning of the instrument in order to get the needle to point directly up and the green light to illuminate. Using a clip-on microphone can help the tuner pick up the sound without being held close to the instrument.

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Starting at the lowest strings is a good tip for tuning a harp, because this helps ensure that each string is checked. The person tuning the instrument should place his or her middle finger on the lowest string, index finger on the next lowest string and thumb on the third lowest string. The first string should be plucked using the middle finger, and every one after that should be plucked with the player’s index finger. The thumb and middle finger can rest on the strings next to the string being tuned to mute overtones and ensure the player remembers which string is being tuned. All three fingers should be moved down by one place once a string has been tuned.

Tuning a harp is an easier process if the person tuning it keeps his or her right hand on the tuning key. The key should be placed on the tuning peg linked to the string currently being tuned. If the person tuning removes his or her hand, the tuning key could fall and possibly damage the body of the harp. Moving the tuning key down to the next tuning peg when the left hand’s fingers move down to the next highest string ensures that the correct string is being tuned and minimizes the possibility of the key falling and causing damage.

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