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Unlike with many other instruments (such as guitars, violins, and even pedal harps), there isn't a standard set of strings for the lever harp. Although this gives the makers the ability to precisely tailor the size, sound and feel of each harp they design, it unfortunately means that harp strings are not easily interchangeable from one harp model to another.
If you have a string chart for your harp, you can use any "brand" of nylon monofilament string (the plain ones with no wrapping), provided you adhere to the diameters specified on the chart. The same is true for gut strings, although it can be more difficult to sort out because most brands of gut are not labeled by diameter. The wound strings, however, (the ones in the lower register that have a wrapping around them) have far too much variation in materials, diameters and lengths to be used on harps they weren't designed for. These are almost always custom-made for a particular harp make and model.
The consequences of using a few of the wrong strings are probably fairly mild - less-than-optimal tone or buzzing sharping levers, for example - but with too many of the wrong strings, there is a risk of introducing more string tension than the harp was designed for and actually pulling it apart. For this reason, many builders will void a harp's warranty if their string recommendations are not followed.
If you don't have a string chart, don't know where to get the right strings, or are unable to reach the maker of your harp, we recommend contacting North Shore Strings. If they don't already have specifications for your harp on file, they can design and make a custom string set that will work well and be safe for your harp.
It's important to order the right strings for your particular model of harp! If you're not sure which model you have, you can find the model name and serial number on a card inside the lower sound hole of the harp.
It is easiest for us if you can order your strings online, by choosing your model from the list above, but if you have any questions or are unsure if you're ordering the right strings, we are happy to help over the phone! Please be prepared with the model name and the string number, counting from the shortest string.
Note: We changed the design of our FH36 around 1992, and the string lengths changed as well. If you think your harp might be around that age, be sure you check the model name written on the inside of your harp. If it says "FH36" without an H, B or S at the end, it is the Pre-1992 style.
If you'd like to order monofilament nylon strings by diameter and color, please see section below.
The prospect of replacing your first broken string can be daunting, but with a little bit of practice and the right instructions, it's pretty straightforward. If you don't have a string chart for your Dusty harp, you can print one from the "String Charts" tab on this page. Please contact us if you have any plans to deviate from the chart!
Here's a link to our step by step guide for replacing harp strings. We are still working on a series of instructional videos. At the moment, we have videos on tying the harper's knot below, and you can click the following link for a rough demonstration of putting on a phosphor bronze core string.
Note: Your harp neck is held on by string tension, so it will come apart from the body if you remove all the strings at once. If this happens, don't worry! It's not a big deal, but it's generally easier to do a few strings at a time.
Wound strings come with a knot and a leather washer as part of the string, which keeps them from pulling through the hole in the soundboard. When replacing monofilament strings, you will need to tie the knot yourself (see the link to instructions above or the videos below), and you'll need a spline (the short stiff piece of plastic that you tie the knot around). You can re-use the spline from the string you're replacing, you can snip off a piece of a .055" string, or you can keep our String Anchor Pack on hand.
If tying the harper's knot is difficult for you, especially if you struggle with joint pain or limited finger dexterity, we've devised a lower-stress alternative called String Buttons that might be of interest. String Buttons are a little larger than a spline, are reusable, and can make use of the power of the tuning pin to cinch down the knot. If that sounds interesting, please check them out!
If you'd like to learn the traditional harper's knot, you might find these videos to be useful:
All of our string charts are available as PDF downloads. The model and serial number of your instrument can be found on a label inside the lower sound hole. If you're not sure whether your harp is strung with nylon or gut, it is most likely nylon. With the exception of the Boulevard, our harps are designed for and strung with nylon by default, and gut is a special option.
Please order carefully, as strings are NOT RETURNABLE if you order the wrong ones.
String length is 46 inches for .022", 52 inches for .025" - .055", and 55 inches for .060".
We can also supply clear monofilament by the hank (4-5 pounds). Please call if you'd like to order in bulk.
If you are looking for strings for a Dusty Strings harp, you may have an easier time ordering strings by model (see section above).