Does the harp stay in tune like the piano?

Stravinsky famously said that “Harpists spend 90% of their lives tuning their harps and 10% playing out of tune.” Probably an exaggeration, but you get the point. The harp is very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity and usually will go flat over the course of a few hours.

How do we get around this? Here’s a few tips:

1. Tune your harp regularly! It will stay in consistent tune far better in a concert if you tune it daily rather than once a week

2. Get your harp regulated! Tuning only takes care of the neutral pitch of the string (i.e. with no pedals or levers engaged). A harp technician will finetune the mechanism to ensure that the strings are still in tune when changed to natural or sharp.

Make sure the other instruments tune to you, especially in chamber settings! Other instruments (especially winds) tend to go sharp as they warm up. Make sure they know to listen for you and that you can’t adapt to them. In orchestral settings, make sure you know what the orchestra tunes to (whether 440hz or 441hz) and you may want to tune a tad higher to compensate for the harp going flat.

What other tips do you have? Any funny stories?

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