THE HARP COLUMN March/April 1996

Harp technician Mike Lewis answers your toughest maintenance questions in this new regular column.

As I launch into my first harp column for
The Harp Column, I'm wondering how many of you out there are thinking, "Harp maintenance? Boring. Bohhhhring. I'd rather be practicing Greensleeves than learning about how all those little metal things work." I don't think this is malicious boredom, though. I'm betting that most of you just don't know how much FUN this crazy world of harp maintenance can be.

I do know how fun--and how crazy! - it can be. I've been regulating harps for nearly 6 years now, and one of the best parts of the job is getting to know harpists from all over the place (geographically and otherwise) and hearing about their maintenance concerns, questions, and perceptions (or lack of any of the above). From old beginners to young professionals, every harpist I've met has had something interesting and/or enlightening to share about his or her experience. Particularly enlightening are those conversations that start off with "I thought if I just took a screwdriver and..."

Screwdriver scares and Holiday Inn hotel food aside, I've had a lot of fun regulating harps over the past few years. I want to share some of the fun I've had by passing along comments and questions I've heard from harpists like you and addressing them in an interesting (not bohhhring) way. I hope you'll also learn something in the process but, if not, it's okay just to have a good time. After all, isn't that why you started playing harp in the first place?

With this in mind, here are some topics I'll be addressing in the future:
"Do I really need to change strings when they aren't broken?
Do you really need to fill up the tank before your car runs out of gas?

"Don't you think my gold Style 23 looks just perfect next to the fireplace?
Looks great, but what's that smell?

Fun things you can do with a belt sander (I'm kidding, just kidding).

What's the best way to tune my harp?
You tell me (survey will be forthcoming)! But please don't tune it in C Major with the pedals in flat position.

"Is it possible to play too loudly?"
How to break strings and a lease all at the same time.

"That buzz..."
How to check a regulator's work (or, 101 things to say and do to your regulator to make them questions their career choice).

"If I put a blanket on my harp is it OK to leave it in the car overnight?"
Despite popular rumor, harps are not warm-blooded animals.

"I have an important audition tomorrow and I haven't had my harp regulated in a few years. Do you have a half hour you could spend with it? (You look pale, Mike, are you feeling OK?)"
Make that 102 things you can say to make your regulator question their career choice.

"Where can I buy a good used gold 23 in excellent condition with a large well-rounded tone for $4,000?"
Call 1-800-DOES-NOT-EXIST. How to get the most bang (oops, bad choice of words!) for your used harp bucks.

"I'm sure I need a regulation because..."
9 reasons you may thing you need a regulation when you really don't. (Why am I telling you this?!)

As you can see, harp technicians hear some standard questions, some thought-provoking questions, and some rather, shall I say, interesting assumptions. At the very least, questions like these show that harpists like you care about and are taking an active role in caring for their instruments. Actually, when it comes down to it, you have no choice in whether you want to be involved in your harp's upkeep because the harp is a high-maintenance instrument. Unless you happen to be married to a harp technician (I believe less than .00002% of harpists fall into this category), you need to be aware of the problems that can arise. You need to know how to fix, temporarily repair, or at least describe problems over the phone, as well as learn ways to best maintain your instrument on a day-to-day basis.

These are the types of things I want to talk about in this column, with your help and input. Do you have any harp maintenance questions that have been lingering in the back of your mind? What about strange maintenance rumors that you'd like to have confirmed, denied, or confounded even further? Are you wondering what barbecue sauce goes best with the charbroiled harp that used to look so nice next to the fireplace? Drop me a line here at
The Harp Column, or e-mail me at harptech@harptech.com.

THE HARP COLUMN March/April 1996