practical news, for practical harpists

Forums » Amateur Harpists » Ogden Broken Strings!

About Forums

Welcome to the Harp Column forums. Please read the Terms and Conditions before posting. By using this forum, you agree to adhere to these terms.

Want to add links or emphasis to your posts? Read the Harp Column blog about posting shortcuts.

Ogden Broken Strings!

  • John
    John Sims


    I am somewhat new to the harp.  I have been playing for the last 6 months and have gotten (or rented) an Ogden.  Since I have had it at my house it has broken 15 strings.  Since I am new to the harp I am not sure if this is excessive for a new harp? 

    Is there something I am doing wrong?  I have it in a room which does not change temp. ,too much, and have since gotten a humidifier and it is still breaking strings.

    Under my rental contract I have the ability to change harps for the first year and was considering switching to a Prelude, but I am worried this issue is going to happen with this harp as well.  Do all Lyon and Healy lever harps have this issue with string breakage or is it just the Ogden?  Should I just go with another brand altogether?

    replies to "Ogden Broken Strings!"
    • Jessica
      Jessica Wolff

      You startled me for a moment--Brokenstrings is my user name elsewhere. No, 15 strings in that time is not normal. Are you sure you're not tuning too high? Discuss the matter with the person or institution you are renting from. After all, you're paying for the replacement strings, right?

    • Dawn
      Dawn Penland

      It's hard to say what's going on.  I have two harps, one is a new Ogden I brought home in May.  I've broken 3 strings on each harp in the last 2 months.  So, I think my Ogden has normal string breakage for my conditions.  My friend has a new Prelude since January and she's broken several strings in May.  Some broke as soon as she changed them.  That might indicate winding them too tight.  I think breaking 15 in 6 months is too many.

    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Are they gut strings? If so, are you noticing them breaking mainly in the upper octaves? If so, you may want to consider switching them out with nylon. Call L&H and discuss this with one of their technicians, and the place you rented the harp from.

      Good Luck,


    • Galen
      Galen Reed


      I got one of the first Ogdens made (and still have it), and there was extreme breakage in the first 6-9 months, afterwhich it began to taper off until now when they are breaking much less, and usually of normal old age.  I've not checked my specific numbers (and do have exact records), but your situation sounds similar.  I believe there was another thread here which also discussed a high number of broken strings for Ogdens that the issue is not completely isolated.  As an experienced violinist who's worked with strings - gut, synthetic, and wire, I was not able to trace a reason and it still remains a mystery to me in spite of looking for unusual points of wear on the strings, checking if breakage is at the same spots (esp. pin or eyelet), and using sanding cord on the eyelets, etc. 

      The other thing is that the little rubber "footies" broke off very quickly - they were (in my opinion) very flimsy.  I alerted Lyon and Healy that I thought they should be more substantial and they sent some replacements, but I went to the hardware store and got some hard rubber, inch wide ones with metal washers inside and put them on...  just made sure that I could use the original screws though so I wasn't changing the thread size/pitch in the wood though.

      Otherwise I have really liked my Ogden - good sound, etc.  (oh yes, a bad wolf tone on 2nd D above middle C).

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I have had this problem with my Ogden harp. It was the same string that kept breaking (every week or two, for over a year!) We had to send it in for repairs so many times, and in the end they figured out there was a huge crack in the soundboard and I had to get a new harp.
      I think the string breaking had to do with the little rings at the bottom, they were made of metal but all the newer Ogdens (and all the other L&H harps) at the store had plastic rings. Maybe this is why your strings break as well?

    • Karen
      Karen Johns


      One of my dear harpist friends has an L&H Prelude 40, and she had quite a few strings break even with those plastic grommets. I really think it might have to do with gut strings and high tension in those upper octaves (if gut strings are what the Ogden is strung with). It seems to be a fairly common occurence with L&H harps, at least with these two models. Luckily, my friend contacted L&H about the problem and they replaced all her strings at no charge. They are now stringing the new Prelude 40 harps with nylon in the upper octaves due to this problem.


    • John
      John Sims

      Thank you for all the advice everyone.  Since my last post the Ogden has broken 3 more strings and I am done with this harp.  I am going to go take it back and hopefully will not have this problem with the replacement.

    • Andy
      Andy B

      Hi, John: I hope your experience with the Ogden won't sour you on harps! The Ogdens seem to be pretty sturdy, nice little harps once they get past that string breakage stage. I had one for a year myself, with the same issue for the first several months. It is very frustrating to have to deal with! I've had two Preludes that broke a few strings, but not to the extent of the Ogden.

      Another harp I highly recommend is the Thormahlen Serenade. I purchased a used one last Novemeber, and have been very pleased. I've replaced a couple of the older strings, but not had any breakage so far.

    • Lynn
      Lynn Tomczak

      Hello, John,

      I'm sure I'd have gotten at least as frustrated with this particular Ogden long before you did, but if you do like the size and tone, have the option, and are not so totally bummed out (I know I'm showing my age) to try another Ogden, you might try switching out the gut strings in the 2nd through 3rd octaves with nylons (they normally ship with nylon in the first octave, guts to the wires in the last octave).  I bought a 1 yr. old previously owned Ogden from L&H last August.  It broke a 2nd octave gut the first week., then the next month we lost our AC for 3 days and the humidity and and temp in our FL house was so high I figured I wouldn't play it for a week after we got our AC back, to allow it to readjust.  Well, ping, ping , ping and I lost the same one again and two in the 3rd octave in that week, just sitting there.  If I remember correctly, someone in another thread had suggested that Salzedo recommended nylon 1st thru 3rd octaves anyhow for tone so I restrung restrang replaced whatever all three octaves with Vanderbilt nylons and haven't had any breakage in those since - just one gut string in my 4th octave two months ago - and I lug my harp around a lot to and from home, lessons, and church.  If you haven't already, you might go to Melody's Traditional Music website and read what they have to say about the Ogdens, particularly that they tend to be a bit stiff in the upper register until they've gotten a bit of playing on them.  That's where I got my Vanderbilt nylons, by the way.  Hope you are happily harping on something soon!

      God bless,

      Lynn T. and Patricia Rose (L&H Ogden #879) 


    • Laurie
      Laurie Muirhead

      I have a student that has been experiencing this same challenge.  She has a Lyon & Healy harp model #23 and a Prelude lever harp, and both harps are breaking strings - she mentioned a total of 20 strings breaking just within the last month! All helpful tips are welcome.  Thank you.

    • Deb
      Deb L

      I've had my one year old rental Ogden, #750, for 2 weeks and no broken strings yet.  I know that's not long but it is strung in nylon in the upper octaves and is hopefully past that stage.

    • Jean
      Jean Mac

      I too had many broken strings within the first few months of owning the Ogden 2 years ago and have now replaced most of them (gut strung) and have just had 2 more break.  I also have replaced a thuddy 5th Oct.A twice now in the past month and it still sounds terrible--accomplished harpists replaced the 5th Octaves for me, so not my issue.  I have enjoyed the sound, but now have cracks which are "supposedly" not structural, but wondering...I even bought a Damp-It and am monitoring my humidity with a hygrometer which is also not the issue..kind of discouraged, but may trade up in the Fall.  I have a Dusty Strings (nylon strung) which rarely breaks any strings. I would hesitate to replace the gut strings with nylon, as I have heard from a harp tech that it is not good for the harp's tension, etc. (I am certainly no expert).  Enjoy :-) Jean

    • Deb
      Deb L

      Jean, that is one scary post!  I just called Harp Connection and they assured me of the 80 Ogden's they've sold, they have had no soundboard complaints.  Also since Lyon and Healy themselves are now stringing upper Prelude octave with nylon rather than gut, I am not going to alarm myself any further about the nylon in the upper registers on my Ogden. 

    • Lynn
      Lynn Tomczak

      Hi, Jean et al,

      I'm certainly no expert either, but I do know that some Ogdens were strung with regular lever harp tension strings, while mine and I think the majority of other Ogdens are strung with pedal harp tension nylon and gut.  If you put pedal harp tension strings on a harp built for regular lever harp tension strings, you could damage the harp.  But from what I've read in these forums and in my books, if you use the right tension strings, you shouldn't matter if you use nylons or gut, except there could be some difference in the diameter of the strings that might change how they sound when engaging the levers.  

      Lynn T.  

    • Atlanta Harp
      Atlanta Harp Center


      Those cracks do sound a little scary. Cracks like that should not be forming like that so quickly if the harp has been well cared for.  From what you say in your post it seems like you have.  The Ogdens have a thin layer of veneer over the back of the harp as well as the soundboard.  If there are only cracks in that first layer than it should not be a structural problem. 

      The rest of this post is for John and Jean.  I would consider trading out your gut strings in the second and possibly third octaves for nylon strings.  Just start with the second octave to see what that does and then move on to the third. Adjusting the 4th and 5th octave strings would change the sound to a greater extent. This will release the tension a little, but would just enough to prevent other strings breaking.

      Just recently Lyon and Healy said they were going to go to stringing the Ogdens in nylon in both octaves.  This should help the string breakage a little.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Dear Laurie,

      It might be useful for the student to write down which strings are breaking (are they the same ones over and over?)  and where they are breaking from. Is it from the soundboard? Or up at the string nut?

      I had a student with an 85 E that had chronic string breakage and it was the brass eyelets collapsing and cutting off the strings at the bottom. I have heard of this with the Troubador model as well.

       We had to gain replacement eyelets and have them fitted by a repairer. This has improved it somewhat, although she still breaks at least a string month in the upper octaves. The repairer said that they were using a thin metal, even on the replacement eyelets. He said that this can also happen with nylon eyelets if they have not been nicely shaped and smoothed during manufacture.

      My students 85 did also have some string breaking from the top - this was from sharp edges on the string nuts. This was rectified by a repairer sanding the grove in the string nut to ensure it was smooth.

      I also had a problem with my #23, wearing through an extravagent amount of strings in the 2nd and 3rd octaves.  This happened just after it was regulated. It seems the L&H road technician had over turned the discs onto the strings, and so the discs were chewing through all the second octave strings in only a week!  I had to have it re-regulated and it fixed the problem.

      I hope some of this is of some use.



    • maia
      maia s

      I sold my pedal harp a few years ago and bought a new ogden. It broke numerous amounts of strings within the first year and I contacted both the dealer that I bought it from and the company. After trying to fix the problem, they ended up warrantying the harp and sending me a new model of the ogden (with eyelets that should have fixed the string breakage at the sounding board), but the new model has continued to break strings and this morning one of the tuning pegs simply slipped out! I never had this much trouble with my Lyon and Healy pedal harp and am extremely disappointed.

      I encourage everyone that has had problems with this harp to contact Lyon and Healy directly so they know that this model has a lot of problems and they need to do something about it! I am contacting them myself later today...

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Okay, I am DONE with the Lyon and Healy Ogden. I've had TWO of them and both have this issue (I'm currently buying up to 4 gut strings every month and I can never play properly because there's always one missing). With the first I thought I was unlucky but these harps are just problematic. I contacted the store and they told me every Ogden they sold has this massive string breakage and they refuse to buy any more of these harps from L&H until they fix it. I have no idea what L&H are thinking still selling these, they MUST be aware of this problem. Everyone who has one complains about it, it seems. I'm not willing to wait until the string breakage stops, after two years I'm sure it never will.