People often ask me if I’m willing to work on lever harps, and the answer is yes! In addition to my extensive experience with Lyon & Healy and Salvi lever harps, I have also serviced and repaired harps by a variety of other makers including Camac, Dusty Strings, Thormahlen, Sandpiper, Triplett, Heartland, and more.
While some traveling harp technicians prefer not to get involved with lever harps, I consider them a specialty. During my time at Lyon & Healy I spent two years performing final regulations on all of the Troubadours, Folk Harps, and Preludes that Lyon & Healy produced. I was a member of the R&D team that developed the Prelude. I also had a hand in the final assembly and regulation of many of the Salvi lever harps sold in the United States in the mid-1990’s.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about your lever harp and its needs. How often do lever harps need service? A lot less often than pedal harps. Lever harps can go for years and years without any more maintenance than regular cleaning and string replacement. If you’re starting to hear some buzzing when you play, or if the harp doesn’t sound in tune anymore when you flip up some of the levers to change keys, then you’re probably due for a regulation.
I generally recommend that lever harp owners who are not having any problems with their instruments have them regulated about once every five years. This gives me a chance to perform preventative maintenance like tightening screws, replacing levers that may be wearing, and watching for any structural issues that may be developing over time.
As with pedal harps, I recommend preparing for a regulation appointment by replacing the strings in the first and second octaves if they are more than two years old. Many harpists also decide to have their bass wires changed during a regulation appointment. As we discussed in this post, new bass wires can give your whole harp’s sound a big boost.
I recently received a question about how to deal with buzzing levers on Salvi lever harps. While they are good quality and sound good when they’re in good regulation, Salvi levers are prone to a buzz when engaged, especially in the lower strings.
Since I had a Salvi Ana to regulate on the same day the question reached me, I took the opportunity to shoot some video segments. I also dug through the vault and realized I had some older footage which deals with the same issue, so I spliced that onto the video below as well.
This was the day I learned I need to travel with my good camera. I shot most of this video on my phone, and the sound and video are not ideal. Since I had the Ana to work with, though, I thought it was best to get some answers out there. Apologies for the sound quality.
Lever Harps in the Lyon & Healy West Showroom
If you play a Lyon & Healy or Salvi lever harp, you may have noticed that these manufacturers, through their sister company, Bow Brand Strings, produce both “Lever Gut” and “Pedal Gut” strings. You might think that if you own a lever harp, you will want to buy lever gut strings, but it ain’t necessarily so.
Both Lyon & Healy and Salvi produce two varieties of lever harp. Many of the best-known models, such as the Lyon & Healy Prelude, Troubadour, and Ogden, and the Salvi Ana, are designed as “starter pedal harps.” While they have no pedals, they are strung with pedal harp strings and mimic the tension, string spacing, and feel of a pedal harp.
Other models, such as the Lyon & Healy Lyric and the Salvi Egan, are designed with folk and Celtic harpers in mind. They are generally lighter in construction and easier to carry, and they feature a lower string tension for easier playing and a brighter sound.
The Lever Gut strings produced by Bow Brand (and available through harp.com, among others) are designed for use with these folk and Celtic harps.
If you’re unsure of what strings to order for your harp, contact Lyon & Healy West. They can advise you over the phone, and send you a chart that shows which strings to buy for each model of Lyon & Healy and Salvi lever harp. No matter what make of harp you play, it’s a great idea to contact the maker and request a stringing chart if you don’t already have one. It’ll make replacing strings that much easier when the time comes.