Q and A with Steve Moss

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Harp Technician Steve Moss creates String Bag online app for harpists and talks 3D printing possibilities for harps

Harp Column readers probably know Steve Moss best as a harp technician, often featured in magazine articles and Ask the Experts columns. Turns out Moss’ talents extend far beyond the nuts and bolts of the harp. He recently released an online app called String Bag for harpists to track their string inventory. A welcome alternative to the Post-It Note method of keeping tabs on string inventory that many harpists use, we were intrigued and asked Moss to tell us more.

Tell us about String Bag, the new online app you created for harpists.

String Bag is a free web application that helps harpists keep track of their string inventory at home or on the go. After creating an account, a harpist can create string records individually, by the octave, or by the set. Strings can be added to or deducted from the inventory from any computer, tablet, or smartphone with internet access. One click on the “Reorder” tab will display a list of strings that are out of stock.

 

What was the motivation for creating String Bag?

From what I’ve learned talking to harpists, and from keeping my own inventory of harp strings, it’s hard to remember what you’ve run out of and need to order. Half the time when you change a string, you’re at a gig and you need to start tuning. There’s no time to worry about making a note to yourself that you’re out of fourth-octave B or second-octave C. Then you forget you’re out until the next time you need that string, which might be a year later. And then you remember you ran out. String Bag is mobile friendly, so if you’re at gig and replace a string, you can log in and update your inventory. No more forgetting what you’re out of until it’s too late!

When did you launch it and what kind of feedback have you received from harpists who are using it?

I launched it just before Christmas. I’ve a number of harpists tell me it’s a great idea and that they’re looking forward to setting up their accounts. I’ve also had some great suggestions on features to add and other ways to improve the application, which is fantastic. That is how software should be developed. New features should be driven by what the users want, not what the developer thinks they want. So I encourage people who take a look at it to contact me and let me know what they like and don’t like, and what they’d like to see. There is a form on the site for asking questions and submitting comments.  I’ll be working on adding new features as we go along.

How long have you been regulating harps?

This May I will start my 24th year regulating harps. I began my career at Lyon & Healy, doing both regulation and final assembly. I started my own business in 2003, and I’ve been traveling around various parts of the United States ever since.

Your skills extend far beyond harp regulation—you’ve produced a DVD on harp care, you are a fiction author, and now you’ve created this string tracking service. How do you do it all? What other hidden talents do you have?

Sleep is overrated! No, just kidding. I have some down time from traveling. If I spent all my time on the road, I’d never see my family, and they’d probably disown me! So I have days at home where I’m working part time on the administrative side of the business, but I also have time for projects. I’m not sure if I have any hidden talents, but I certainly have too many interests. Right now in addition to getting String Bag off the ground, I’ve also just gotten my first 3D printer, and I’m learning about 3D modeling.

Intriguing! So a harp technician with a 3D printer begs the question—do you think it’s possible to print a harp with a 3D printer? Or even a disc or pedal rod?

Home printers can’t work in metal at this point, but industrial printers can. I’m sure a pedal rod would be possible but not cost effective. A disc is very possible. 3D printing isn’t an efficient way to manufacture things at this time, but it can be great for prototyping and custom making parts. I can foresee a time when it will be possible to print a custom disc or other part that would match a particular harp’s needs.

A whole harp should be within the realm of possibility. There is a company that is 3D printing cars, and I’ve even heard of one in China that can print houses. Again, the cost would probably make a style 23 look cheap at this point, but things like that will be here before you know it.

What is one thing you wish all harpists knew about taking care of their instruments?

It’s hard to generalize. I’ve seen everything from harpists who do a fantastic job with every aspect of harp care to harpists who, well, let’s not talk about them. If I had to say one general thing, it be to adopt a regular string replacement schedule. If you just replace strings when they break, after a while you’ll end up with some new strings, some that are older, and some that could tell stories about the 1970’s. Your harp only sounds as good the strings you play on it.

What do you love about your work?

Harpists. I know, it sounds like I’m kissing up, but it’s true. Most musicians are great people who put a lot of time, work, and money into making beautiful art. But the kind of people who take up the harp are extra special. It is one of the most challenging instruments, along with being really expensive, high maintenance, and just plain big and difficult to move. Playing the harp is not just an avocation, it’s a way of life, and it’s not for the faint of heart. I’ve met so many fantastic and unique people through my work, and it is a privilege to contribute to this community in the small way that I do.

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1 Comment

  1. I guess I’m the only person around who plays harp right handed but on left shoulder. I started playing back in 1989 and automatically took up the harp on the left shoulder. I have tried to switch over the years but playing with right hand as treble and left for bass is horrible awkward for me for some strange reason. It would be like a right shoulder harpist trying to play totally opposite than what they use to. Anyway I have decided to keep what I’m doing even though I’m alone out here in the world by the technique I play. I would like to hear of someone who plays such as I do which is left hand for treble even though they are right handed. Thanks

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