Why Do Harp Strings Break from Time to Time?

As a harpist, one of the scariest things that can happen is when you hear a loud “snap” and realize that one of your strings has just broken. It’s natural to wonder, “Why did my harp string break even though I wasn’t even playing it?” Let’s share some common factors that cause string breakage.

  1. Temperature and Humidity: One of the most common causes of string breakage is changes in temperature and humidity. Many of us have experienced being startled awake in the middle of the night by the sound of a broken string. But have you ever wondered why it often happens at night? In the summertime, for instance, many households turn on the air conditioning at night, causing a sudden drop in temperature that puts stress on the strings, ultimately causing them to snap. Additionally, in Hong Kong, where the average humidity in the summer can range from 80-90%. Gut strings are more sensitive to humidity and are more easily damaged and broken due to the lacquer coating around the gut string.

  2. String Material: The type of material used to make the strings can also affect their lifespan. You may notice that nylon, Silkgut, and Silkgut copper are less likely to break. On the other hand, gut strings, which are made from natural materials, are more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, making them more prone to breakage.

  3. Rough Contact Points: When a string comes into contact with a rough surface, it can wear down and eventually break. The string passes through four contact points: the soundboard hole, semitone lever or disc (depending on the type of harp), bridge pin, and tuning pin. If any of these contact points are uneven or rough, they can cause the string to wear down and snap.

  4. String’s Age: Strings have a limited lifespan. Over time, strings can become brittle and break more easily. It’s important to choose high-quality strings to minimize the risk of breakage.

All of the above are common reasons for broken strings, even if they are not intentional or caused by human error. However, we can take corresponding measures based on these factors, hoping to help you reduce the frequency of broken strings on your harps.

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