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Tuning in C or Eb ?

  • Indra
    Indra Prabowo

    So, today I've just had my first harp lesson. My teacher plays pedal harp (her harp is a beautiful gold Salvi)  but she's willing to teach me although my harp is a lever one. She gave me a copy of  Grossi and Pozzoli etudes for me to learn and it looks that I'll spent this year with etudes and pieces in key of C major.
    As I learned from many lever harpist here the ideal tuning for lever harp is in Eb, and I found that it's very logical because tuning in Eb will enable us to play in many other common keys.
    Since my harp arrived about three weeks ago (my harp is a Lyon&Healy Prelude), I've tuned it in Eb. The question is, should I retune it to key of C major or just raise the E, A and B levers instead? Actually I prefer the Eb tuning for it's versatility, but many people here said that Lyon&Healy's Performance levers is quite abrassive for the strings.
    If I tune it in C for a year or so then change the tune in Eb, will it cause a problem for the harp? Thanks before for all responses..

    Bowie

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    replies to "Tuning in C or Eb ?"
    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      It is best to tune a harp as it is designed to be tuned: for the prelude, this is E-flat. Just put your levers up to change the key to C. Aside from the fact that IMO harps that are constantly retuned to different keys often don't hold pitch well, as a lever harpist you need to get used to what it looks like when the levers are where they need to be in different keys. If you tune in C, yah, it's easy to find that one F-sharp lever you want, but once you go back to tuning in E-flat it's going to disappear in the forest of raised levers. Get used to finding things now. It saves time and effort in the long run.





      Yes, the L&H levers are string busters. That's just part of the cost of doing business, I'm afraid. If your harp was levered properly, it shouldn't be too bad. If you keep breaking a particular string, inspect the lever. You may be able to help matters.

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    • Briggsie B.
      Briggsie B. Peawiggle, Esq.

      Keep it in Eb and raise the Eb, Ab and Bb levers. I don't think you want to take a new harp and start retuning to different keys. I would want my new harp to get used to being tuned in the key of Eb for stability. It just makes good sense to tune in Eb in my opinion, for versatility sake. Besides, after a a few months, you may wish to pick up something in G or F just for the fun of it, or improvise a little on your own. Hearing music in the same key gets tedious to my ear. It probably will to you, too.

      Briggsie

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I am not a pro or teacher, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.  Having said that, I am an opposing view.  I finally retuned my harp to C because:

      1.  All my pieices for the first couple of years of lessons were in sharps or in the key of C ( and  related minors ) Futhere, I learned several favorite pieces in a pentatomic scale that would be impossible with Bb.

      2. Now I am playing with an folk music ensemble that has mandolins, violins and ducimers.  We play almost always in D or sometimes G.  No flats ever.

      3. In my opinion, the strings ring better without the lever engaged.

      It is very true that I cannot play things in flats.  For me this has worked OK

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I should have also said that I wouldn't do any re-tuning now.   At some point you might want to do something different.  

      I have just started reading I Mac's book on the blues and he recommends a special blues tuning.  Very tempting.

      heide

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      You can play a pentatonic scale when tuned in e-flat. It's just not the same pentatonic scale.

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Barbara, you're right!   I didn't think of it.  The piece I had indicated a sharp B and E.

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    • Tony
      Tony Morosco

      Personally I think it all depends on what music you want to play. If you are not going to be playing in flat keys or needing accidentals in flats often then it makes sense to tune to C. Even the best levers will have an effect on tone, although many of the newer levers are much better than they used to be.

      I have three lever harps that I use for different kinds of music and one I keep in C and two in Eb.

      I agree with those who suggest not changing the tuning back and forth. What ever tuning you want to use stick with it and if it is Eb then just raise the necessary levers to play in sharp keys.

      However, I do think that if you want to tune to C for now and then at some later point tune to Eb you shouldn't have a problem, but I would make a major change like that as part of a full restringing of the harp. It takes a while for new strings to hold their tune anyway.

      I actually did this. One of the lever harps I use now I got early on and I was taught to tune to C. Later on, many years later, I decided I wanted to try more classical music so I restrung it and tuned it to Eb. It took a couple of weeks to settle but I have had it tuned to Eb ever since and despite years of being in C it plays in Eb just fine and holds it's tuning very well.

      The thing is not to just go back and forth, one week in C, one in Eb, the next back to C... that would just be hell for trying to keep it in tune.

       

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    • Jennifer
      Jennifer Buehler

      I think it's not just a matter of tuning but lever technique as well.   I have a friend who only tunes flats when she needs them and to be fair she's been around long enough that doing that was the preferred way due to horrible levers.  However, she has such a horrible time with lever changes and I think because it's not really fixed in her head on which lever does what.  Lever changes need to be smooth and automatic and it's much more difficult if you have to stop and think whether raising this lever will give you an A# or an A natural. 

      Jennifer

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    • Indra
      Indra Prabowo

      Dearest friends,
      Thank you for all of your suggestions. My long term goal is to play classical music on my Prelude, so I think it's best to keep it tuned in Eb.
      For avoiding repetitions of mistakes on levered strings, I think I'll do the exercises in key of C minor instead then raised all of the levers necessary when I have quite mastered it...

      Bowie

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      For avoiding repetitions of mistakes on levered strings, I think I'll do the exercises in key of C minor instead then raised all of the levers necessary when I have quite mastered it...


      Hi, Indra. I'd recommend not doing it this way if you were a student of mine, but each to their own. The sooner you get used to what the lever setup for the key of C looks like, the better, IMHO.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      I have just started reading I Mac's book on the blues and he recommends a special blues tuning.


      I'm curious, Heide. I don't have his book, but he has an article on playing the blues in the latest issue of the American Harp Journal. The four blues scales he gives there are all accessible to anyone who tunes in E-flat without any special tuning. Does he advocate something else in the book?

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      It is not too far from Eb tuning: Eb, Bb and a couple of Ab, a couple of A naturals and a G#.  I am still bogged down in the first chapter.  I am not well versed in modes.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Eb, Bb and a couple of Ab, a couple of A naturals and a G#


      But you can do all those with your levers with E-flat tuning. Does he want G-double sharp at some time or something like that which would require retuning the harp instead of setting those levers? The examples he gave in the article also included that scale, but the lever/pedal changes he talked about were all attainable with regular Eb tuning and lever changes, like Bb to B natural and so on.

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Here is the scheme of I Mac's F Blues Tuning:

      Flatten all Bs and Es.  Flatten 2A and 4A.  Sharp 3G.

      He takes 3 pages to explain it but in short the plan is  one can  play minor and major at the same time and the g# is enharmonic Ab.

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      It really depends on what repertoire one wants to play.
      Normally I would recommend the Eb tuning, to have also some flats.
      Myself at the moment I play a lot of Irish music and prefer the E´s and A´s
      goodsounding, so I tuned my harp in F leaving one flat possible. Also because playing in sessions uses the strings more than solo playing; my strings always break where levers are used.

      Are there lever harps where the use of a lever does not affect the quality of the sound???

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Right, so you tune in in E-flat and adjust your levers. Thanks (sorry, just saw this).

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Are there lever harps where the use of a lever does not affect the quality of the sound?


      Yes, but it's a question of the levers as much as the harps, though. Levers like the camac levers or some of the other metal levers don't affect the tone of the string any more than the disc affects the tone of a pedal harp string.

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