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String Tension: Pedal Harp vs. Latin

  • Unknown
    Unknown User

    Hi! Having become a student of the Latin harp, I have noticed there seems to be very little mention, and so awareness, of the fact that the string tension in pedal and nearly all Celtic-style harps is quite high, about 30 pounds (12.5 Kg) per string or higher, necessitating the special playing technique that most harpers are familiar with.

    <p> In comparison, the string tension in Latin harps is about 14 pounds (5.5 kg) per string, so a different playing technique is used, and may I say with respect, one that's significantly easier than the above technique used for pedal and Celtic-style harps.

    <p> Just thought I'd post this point so folk will know.

    replies to "String Tension: Pedal Harp vs. Latin"
    • Tony
      Tony Morosco

      Actually Celtic harps are basically just smallish lever harps, and they can come in any range of string tension. Actually most are lighter tension and closer string spacing than pedal harps, although of course some are very close to pedal harp.

      That is why many people who play nylon strung lever harps can use their fingernails in the same general way that wire strung harpers play.

      I have three lever harps and have had others in the past and only one of my lever / Celtic harps has had similar tension and spacing to a pedal harp.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Hi again all. While the string tension of lever harps may vary, generally it seems to be a deal higher than that of Latin harps.  In 2006 I  built a Stony End Esabelle X-strung from a kit (thanks Gary Stone), and discovered on completeing and starting to tune it, that it was desgned to have high tension strings. (I solved the problem of having low tension to play Latin style by just tuning 3 half tones lower). In Jan. 2008, I used a sonometer to test strings - it can measure tension of a given string for a chosen  length and tuning or pitch, or determine another parameter of the three with the others set. So, it can determine suitable lengths and pitches for a given gauge and tension of string -a very useful device, no doubt.  I tested several strings off the "Esabelle", and at my Latin  tuning, they had  approx. 14 pounds tension per string.  At the specified tuning, however, they were more than 25 pounds per string (this was as high as the tuning pin would allow).