March 28, 2012

Keeping Regular

Most of us have good, quality instruments that are well built by caring craftsmen.  Some are made by individuals.  Some are made in factories.  But they are all beautiful.  They bring joy and peace into our lives.  We look forward to the time we will get to spend with them.  To enhance that time we need to care for them in return. 
Some harp care items don’t take very long, others are a tad arduous and may be best left to someone else. Here are three things that help care for your harp in decreasing order of frequency:
1.       Daily: No one likes when I say this (including me, some days) – tune your harp. My students roll their eyes.  I know they don’t do it.  I think some people miss out on this because they think of tuning as a chore – something that stands between them and playing.  But if you think of it tuning as more of ritual than a chore – it is actually a little easier to get in every day.  Tuning, like everything else, gets easier (and faster) with practice.  You also get better at it the more you do it.  You will learn to hear when you are in tune.  You will learn that each string is different and how much to turn the key to achieve the pitch.  And tuning is a quiet time, just you and your harp.  It is stress free (no learning, no “wrong notes”, no broken expectations).   Enjoy the time each day…and enjoy the side benefit of having a harp that is in tune.
2.       Weekly: Dust it.  My harp gets dusty (and not just because it’s a Dusty – my Wurlitzer gets dusty too!).  I use a commercially available disposable non-feather duster (note that there is no commercial endorsement). I don’t use the little handley-thingy it comes with – just the duster.  And I always do the harps first so the duster is clean and then go on to the rest of the room.  It may not make a difference in my playing or even in my harp’s life but it makes me feel like I’ve taken care of my investment.  And my luthier told me my harp looks good (that’s always nice to hear). 
3.       Annually:   Now we get to keeping regular.  Harp regulation that is.  Have your harp regulated.  If you haven’t heard of this, regulation is the process of adjusting your levers (for pedal harps, it is adjusting the mechanism, repairs and changing the felts.   Your harp needs regulation if when you have open strings it is in tune but when you engage the lever on the string it is no longer in tune at the new pitch.  It may be sharp or flat.  If you have the patience of Job you can do this yourself.  I know people who do their own regulation.  I think they are sainted nut jobs….but I’m just jealous.   I take my harps to a professional.  Someone who knows what they are doing that close to my harp with pointy screwdrivers.  Someone who is obviously more patient than I am!  Find a luthier near you – someone you know, like and trust.  The advantage of this is that not only do they do a great job faster that you ever will and return to you an accurate harp that is a joy to play again, they may find something else you needed to know (mine once found and repaired a split in the back which was cosmetic but would have caused me to hyperventilate and panic if I’d found it myself).  If you don’t know a luthier, I’m happy to regale you with the heroic tales of real ones that may be near you.
Take care of your harp – you’ll be glad you did…each and every time you sit to play it them. 

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