How to Tune Your Harp

Perhaps you are a new and aspiring harpist. Or maybe you are just curious as to how exactly harpists tune their instruments. In this post we will explore how to tune a harp – the right way, for both pedal and lever harps.

My Dusty Strings lever harp

Right off the bat, I should probably mention that all of the red strings on your harp are C notes and all the blue or black strings on your harp are F notes. The scale is very similar to the piano. So the entire natural scale on your harp should be as follows: C D E F G A B and C again.

Tuning Your Harp: 3 Easy Steps

Step 1: All Your Levers are Facing Down (Or Pedals Up)

Tuning a lever harp is fairly straight-forward. The first thing you want to do is make sure all your levers are down. If your harp does not have levers, there is no need to follow this step.

All levers down

Putting the levers down loosens the tension of the strings so they are less likely to break while you are tuning.

If you are tuning a pedal harp, make sure all of your pedals are up (in flat position) – you will have to tune your pedal harp in flat. So C becomes B, D becomes C#, etc.

All pedals in flat position

Step 2: Grab Your Tuner and Tuning Key

You will either need to have super amazing ears that can hear pitch perfect notes, OR like me, grab your handy-dandy tuner. If you are looking for a tuner, I will add some recommendations at the bottom of the page.

WHAT IF YOU’RE IN A PINCH? 

There are two options for you if you don’t have time to grab a physical tuner. 

Option #1: By far the best option is to download a tuner app. One that I have used is called Peterson iStrobosoft Tuner. It is $4.99 currently. Or there are probably free apps out there. 

Option #2: If there is absolutely no way for you to download a tuner app and there happens to be a piano around that is in good tune…. annnndddd you happen to have good hearing, then… I suppose… it… might… work.

Step 3: Place Your Tuning Key on Your Harp’s Tuning Pins

This step is definitely the easiest! Your harp’s turning key should fit every single pin on your harp, so you simply need to place it on each pin and tune. You will turn your tuning key to the right to tune sharp (up) and left to tune flat (down).

Place your tuning key on the tuning pins (RH side of harp, usually)

Just like many other stringed instruments, the order in which you tune your harp doesn’t matter. I often go from the bottom to the top, however the choice is yours. 

And, you’re done! Congratulations! You have just accomplished the task of tuning all of those harp strings (I’ll let you do the math of exactly how many 😉 ). Play your favorite tune to celebrate!

An Extra Little Tidbit:

The longer strings will require more turning of the tuning key than the shorter strings. The shorter the string the less you need to turn the tuning key. 

Also, if you keep turning your tuning key and as you pluck the note, the sound remains the same… STOP!!! You are probably turning the wrong tuning pin and may end up snapping the string. So, just make sure your tuning key is on the right string 🙂

If You’re Looking for a Tuner…

There are so many wonderful tuners out there. I have used a Snark tuner which works decently, although it is really for smaller string instruments. One nice thing about it is that it allows you to choose a vibration setting so you could tune your instrument in a noisy room if needed. 

The main tuner I use is a KORG Chromatic Tuner CA-30. It has served me quite well over the past ten years. I don’t recall ever using the input on the side, but in theory it looks like you may be able to plug a mic into it.

I have linked a different KORG tuner than the one I own at the bottom of the page because I could not find my version for sale, so I have not used that particular one. However I can say the KORG I have has been a good and long lasting brand to me – so if you are looking for quality, KORG is my recommendation.

Snark Tuner for $11.95:

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KORG Tuner:

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Thanks for reading! Enjoy your day 🙂

Blessings!

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