As the range of strings vary from harp to harp, it is not possible to identify strings universally by number. Some manufacturers do use a numbering system, but this is for their own harps only.
So, to identify harp strings, we need to know the note, the octave and type (material) of the string in question, as well as the type of harp it is for.
Notes are identified by colour. Red strings are Cs. Black (purple or blue) strings are Fs. To identify the notes of the other strings, find a red string and start counting upwards (towards the shorter strings) as follows:
Red String: C
Next White String: D
Next White String: E
Black String: F
Next White String: G
Next White String: A
Next White String: B
and so on.
As you can see, each note occurs several times, so to fully identify a string, we also need to know which octave it is in.
On a harp, octaves are counted downwards from the top end (where the strings are shortest). Octaves start on E and end on F.
On a Pedal Harp
Find your highest E string. This will be your First Octave E. Any strings occurring above the first octave E are in the Top Octave. These are typically Top Octave F; Top Octave G and Top Octave A.
The six notes immediately below First Octave E are also in the First Octave and can be identified as First Octave D, First Octave C, First Octave B etc.
Below First Octave F, another E string occurs: this is Second Octave E and the six strings immediately below this are also in the second octave. Continue counting down the harp this way, through Third, Fourth, Fifth, Six and Seventh Octaves.
On a Lever Harp
Lever harp strings do not usually extend as high as pedal harp strings and the Top Octave and parts of the First Octave are likely to be missing. It may be the first E string on YOUR lever harp, but its probably not THE First Octave E. Lever harps often start on First Octave A or First Octave C. The highest E String on your lever harp is most likely to be Second Octave E.
Confused? Remember, if all else fails, find Middle C. This is Fourth Octave C. Then count up octaves from there. You should be able to identify the highest string on your harp using this method and then you can count down using the above method.
Type of String
It is important to use the correct type (i.e. material) of string. You need to know whether the string you require is nylon, gut, synthetic gut, or wire. This can be established at the time of purchase. If you are not sure, check our string lists for common models of harp in the UK, or contact us and we should be able to advise.
Type of Harp
Finally, a Third Octave E Gut string for a pedal harp, for example, would need to withstand a higher frame tension than the same string on a lever harp. In other words, pedal harp strings are a higher gauge than lever harp strings. Therefore, you do need to specify whether the string you require is for a pedal or lever harp.
Some larger lever harps use pedal harp gauge strings. Others use a gauge which is in-between lever and pedal harp – this is known as Pedal Light Strings.
Antique Grecian harps use a special gauge, as the frame of the harp would not stand up to the tension created by modern pedal harp strings. For these harps, use 18th Century Strings. Antique Gothic harps may use standard pedal harp gut strings, but special Gothic Harp bass wires.
In general, it is advisable to use the same make of string as those initially supplied with your harp. In most cases, this is for uniformity, but in some cases, such as Dusty Strings harps, strings have been specially designed for use with a particular harp.