Serving the Harp World Since 1817

How to Change a Nylon or Gut Harp String

1. Make sure that you have the correct replacement string. See our section on Indentifying Harp Strings for further help.

2. Remove the broken string. (If it is a relatively thick string, you may want to cut it into 1-2cm sections to make string tags for later use.)

3. Wind the string peg so that the open end of the drilled hole points towards the soundboard.

4. Disengage pedals or levers.

We will start with the end of the string that sits under the soundboard.

5. Thread the replacement string through the hole from the top of the soundboard and pull it through so that you have a good length of string to work with, but not so much that the whole string passes through the hole. (If you have a bass wire string with a catch or a felt washer, you will have to push it through from underneath the soundboard.)

6. Hold the section of the string that you have passed through the hole so that the harp is on your left.

7. Make a loop by placing the SHORT end of the string OVER the rest of the string.

8. Make a second loop by placing the LONG length of string UNDER the rest of the string.

9. Pass the second loop through the first loop from the front.

10. Pull the short end. If you have done it correctly up to this point, then the loop should be tightening.

11. Just before the hole disappears, insert the tag into the remains of the original loop.

12. Pull tight.

13. If necessary, snip the end of the string, so that it is 1-2cm long. Any longer and it could touch the soundboard, making undesirable, extraneous noise.

Now we will finish off the other end of the string:

14. Pull the string up through the hole in the string peg. Make sure that the knot at the end of the string is pulled tight against the soundboard.

15. Check that the string is sitting in the correct position: on lever harps, make sure it is on the right side of the lever; on pedal harps, make sure it is lying in between the disc forks. Make sure the string is resting above the bridge pin.

16. As you pull the string through the hole in the peg, leave enough slack to accommodate three or four wraps of string around the peg when the string is at pitch. This can take practice and don’t be afraid to repeat this process until you have got the right amount of wraps. Eventually, you will get a feel for the correct slackness of each string.

17. Turn the peg with your tuning key, making sure that the second wrap sits behind the first wrap. This catches the loose end and keeps it securely in place. Keep winding until the string is up to pitch and you have three or four wraps on the post. All should sit snugly next to each other, without crossings.

Once you are satisfied that you have replaced the string correctly, snip off the end of the string. Some harpists leave string ends on the harp, but snipping the string prevents contact with other strings or the harp and therefore, any resultant buzzing or scratches. It also prevents a poke in the eye!