How Long Does A Harp Last? Extending the Life of Your Harp

looking down on an old wooden harp

Would you believe that harps are just as delicate as they sound? Whether you play for fun or you have plans to go pro, it’s important to maintain your harp. With some special attention to cleaning and climate control, your harp could last you decades.

Typically, harps last more than 30 years! However, they could last longer if well cared for. While they could be functional for much longer, they would likely need replacement parts after the 30 year mark.

You can take some simple maintenance measures to extend the lifespan of your harp. These easy things should take a small amount of time and depend mostly on how often you play! Read on to see how you can take care of your harp and even make it last longer!

How to Take Care of Your Harp

To extend the life of your harp, some maintenance is required. You need to prioritize temperature, cleaning, and transport to prevent damage.

General Harp Cleaning

To clean your harp, start by getting two cloths made of 100% cotton.

  • Cloth #1: Using the first cloth, get a wood cleaner or conditioner to coat the wooden part of the harp. Make sure it doesn’t contain lemon or orange oil – this will both change the color of any images on your harp and soften the finish! It’s best to use what your harp maker recommends, as harps need specific cleaners. Using the wrong type of cleaner could damage the finish or make your harp a little greasy.
  • Cloth #2: Using the second cloth, wipe the strings when you finish playing. If you don’t use it often, wipe the strings occasionally so they don’t get dusty. This is especially important for strings that aren’t nylon, as they cause build up dust and grime more easily.

Cleaning the Tight Spaces

For those little nooks and crannies, such as levers, a huge cloth isn’t recommended. Anything bulky such as a big cloth could damage the delicate pins or levers. Most times, a soft paint or dust brush is recommended.

Transporting a Harp

Closeup of harp leversWhen transporting your harp, always be sure to keep it in a carrying case to prevent damage. Upon putting it in the case, put all the levers down. Then to carry it, use the shoulder straps and the hand loop.

The hand loop is an important part because shoulder clips have the potential to snap. Make sure to carry with the large end of your harp facing the front.

If you transport the harp by car, it’s important to lay it flat and ensure the levers are facing up. Next, secure it. Make certain it won’t shift or slide when you brake.

Remember, even though they are sizable, harps are delicate objects. So, try not to leave your harp in a hot car – and especially not in direct sunlight. This is really important because the harp will break apart as the glue softens in the sun’s heat.

If you are simply moving it around the house, you could put a cover on it to prevent scratches. Place one hand on the pillar and the other on the sound box access hole in the back. Then, lift upwards.

If you find it easier, you can carry the pillar alone with the large end forward. Just remember harps can weigh around 80 pounds so you may need to use a dolly!

Playing Tips For Extending The Life Of Your Harp

Before playing, be sure to wash your hands!

The sound could be distorted if the strings have any dirt or stickiness on them. Wipe your harp down beforehand if it’s at all dusty, as you will want no interference between you and the harp strings.

Also, make sure you are not wearing any sharp jewelry that could scratch the harp’s delicate wood. Take off any rings and bracelets especially, as they would be most likely to interfere with both playing ability and sound quality.

Sometimes, people catch their belt buckles on the strings if they lean too close while tuning. You could leave your belt on but err on the side of caution!

Keep Your Harp Tuned

It’s important to keep your harp tuned. Then, when tuning, don’t tune to a pitch higher than what the harp maker recommends. When you’re finished tuning, remember to NEVER leave the tuning wrench sitting on a tuning pin, as it will damage the soundboard when the wrench drops.

Harp String Maintenance

harp, angle view of strings

Be sure to replace strings when they break! If your harp doesn’t have any broken strings, people usually change them every year. A difference in tone, however, can usually only be spotted every couple of years.

When it comes to changing your harp’s strings, use the right gauge of string. Again, using the right string for your specific harp is imperative to a functional, undamaged harp and producing the proper sound.

Keep in mind that the easier string to maintain is nylon, as it can be wiped down quickly and collects the least amount of dust and grime.

How should I store my harp?

In the home, there are a few things to think about when it comes to storage:

  • Placement,
  • Humidity,
  • Temperature, and
  • Covering when not playing.

Keep these in mind when finding where you want to put your harp in your home. Factor in the amount of foot traffic for that area combined with the needs of your harp.

Placement: Where You Store Your Harp Is Important

As with traveling with your harp in your car, make sure to never put your harp in direct sunlight! Also, make sure it’s placed away from heating and air conditioning vents, as the harp can’t handle extreme temperatures.

For more consistency in temperature, try to keep it near an inside wall in the house, rather than next to an outside wall. Putting it near a wall will also prevent any other people in your home from accidentally knocking you harp over.

Humidity and Temperature: Your Harp Likes It Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

The right humidity is key for harp storage. Usually, a range of 40% to 60% humidity is best, with 50% being ideal.
If you’re unsure of the humidity levels in your house, a humidity gauge is an easy solution to perfecting this balance.

Without the right climate conditions, the harp could age prematurely. Depending on where you live, you could also use a humidifier, or a dehumidifier, for more control over the environment.

Keep the temperature at a normal, comfortable level. In fact, harps can remain around the same temperature people typically keep their homes – 68 to 70 degrees. If you won’t be home for a while, just leave the humidity where it is, set to a comfortable temperature, and place the cover on.

Also, remember that cold is as bad for your harp as extreme heat. If you leave the harp in an environment that is too cold, it could actually crack the glue of your harp, which could cause the wood to separate.

Cover Your Harp When Not In Use

A drape cloth or dust cover is the best way to store your harp if you play frequently. Drapes are also a good idea if you have any pets, children, or roommates.

Drape cloths are also convenient, prevent dust from getting on the harp, and not time consuming to put on and take off.

Make sure you put the levers where they need to go and try to leave your harp on a flat surface, as opposed to a fluffy rug.

Making Music for Years

harpist in red playing

All in all, a little goes a long way when it comes to maintaining your harp. As long as you focus your attention on maintaining it, your harp will retain its beautiful sound and look.

Remember to keep your harp clean with a cloth and some polish, keep the environment temperate with moderate humidity, and keep the strings tuned and fresh and you’ll have an heirloom to share.

Aaron

An ardant fan of acoustic music, I played the clarinet in high school band and even competed in Disneyland. As the son of a music teacher, I know firsthand the importance of keeping instruments clean and maintained. I now enjoy sharing information with others and providing answers where I can.

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