How To Tune A Harp

Here are two simple text and picture guides which takes you through the process of tuning a harp by ear with piano and with the aid of a digital tuning meter. Or you can simply watch Allan taking you through the process using the video on the right!

If you are interested in semitone lever positions for various keys there is a handy chart at the bottom of this page.

Method 1 – Piano Method (By Ear)

In order to tune the harp in the key of E flat, simply follow the diagram for the notes required.

As a guide, start with middle C on the piano which is the 4th Octave C on the harp

Make sure that all the levers are in the ‘off’ position (i.e. clear of the strings). With the tuning key and whilst positioned at the harp, turn the top of key away from you to sharpen the note, towards you to flatten it.

Tune it until the note on the piano and the harp are in unison.

Method 2 – Digital Meter Method

This method uses a digital tuning meter to display the nature of the note being tuned (i.e. sharp, flat or natural).

This is the Korg digital tuner with a clip-on contact microphone. This picture shows the best method of storing the contact microphone, always detach from the tuner and loosely wind the lead.

Turn on the tuner and clip the contact mic onto the opening on the back of the sound box that is nearest to the strings you are going to tune.

Put the tuning key onto the tuning pin for the string you wish to tune. It is easiest if you have the tuner on a music stand, the tuning key in your right hand and use your left to pluck the string. This sounds complicated, but give it a go and you will soon pick it up.

With the tuning key in your right hand. If you push you thumb towards the floor the pitch of the string will increase. If you turn your hand the other way – thumb turning to point back at yourself, you will decrease the pitch of the string by slackening it.

Tune the harp string until the needle or the green LED stabilises on the centre position. The screen should show which particular note you are tuning. It’s a good idea to start beneath the note (i.e. flat) and wind to the centre position of the tuning meter display as sometimes if you go above the note the string will eventually wind down and settle slightly flatter than intended.

Check the meter is set to 440 Hz. The meter is reading the note as flat (and the red ‘flat’ LED is lit).

The meter is reading the note as sharp (and the red ‘sharp’ LED is lit).

The string is tuned to perfectly natural (and the green ‘natural’ LED is lit).

Tuning, Musical Keys & Semitone Lever Positions

Although it’s possible to tune a lever harp in any key (such as C) they are normally tuned in the key of E flat. This is because by tuning to this specific key 14 other different keys are readily available making it most versatile. These are as follows:

E flatAll levers down (clear of the string) – Download PDF
B flatA engaged
FA and E engaged
CB, E, A engaged
GB, E, A and F engaged
DB, E, A F C engaged
AB, E, A, F, C, G engaged
EB, E, A, F, C, G, D engaged (all engaged)
G minorA, F engaged
D minorE, A, C engaged
A minorB, E, A, G engaged
E minorB, E, A, F, D engaged
C minorB engaged