"Okay," my friends said. Big pause. Then: "Ummm...what's a harp regulation?" Good question. There's a lot of mystery surrounding harps, harpists, harp music, harp care.
Some of it's pretty straightforward.
1. Harps are big and delicate and heavy. They make gorgeous music. They're beautiful. They're expensive. It takes a lot of practice to play one.
2. Harpists are delicate, too. Sometimes their backs and arms hurt. A lot. But they have strong hands. And nerves. And big biceps.
3. Harp music looks just like keyboard music. But you can't expect a harp to sound like a piano. Or a pipe organ. Or a string quartet, for that matter...
But harp care...well, that's the most mysterious part. I can tune mine and change strings no problem. I can perform minor repairs like putting the base frame bolt back in the bottom of the harp with a major amount of hysteria. (Read all about it here.) But when it comes to checking the pedals and the rods and the tuning pins and the bridge pins and the pedal discs...yeah, that's beyond me.
And that's pretty much why I'll cancel everything when Dan comes through town. We'll spend several hours together, me asking a thousand questions and him answering every single one of them. He's really the only person who's interested in some of the most deeply important things in my life. Like why the 3rd octave A has a kind of...whooshing...sound to it. Why the F pedal feels...sticky...sometimes. Why that...sound...comes from the back of the harp when I play in flats. You know. Not everybody is interested in that stuff.
So here goes, a documentation of what a harp regulation entails. With highly technical commentary. For those of you who are just DYING to know...
The ONLY time you should ever see a harp in this position. Ever.
"Oh no," Harry is thinking. "You're not gonna freak out like you did
when you had to put the harp in this position and fix it yourself, are you?"
There's some disturbing sounding scraping involved around the pedals.
But it's ok. Dan knows what he's doing.
There are brand new felts added (the red things)
so the pedals don't make banging noises when they're moved.
Then there are new pedal cushiony thingeys added to...cushion the pedals.
Jingle Belle checks to make sure there are no snacks in Dan's tool bag.
Nope, no snacks.
Then comes time for the "real" regulating.
(The only person who can lift the harp like that and not get screamed at? Dan.)
There's a lot of playing a string, tweaking, playing a string, tweaking.
Tweeeeeeeeeaking. Tweak. Tweak. Tweak.
This snazzy regulator machine thingy lights up and makes some noises
and tells Dan what's going on with the harp.
Sam doesn't listen to Jingle Belle about there being no snacks in Dan's tool bag.
Dan checks every string in every position - sharp, natural, flat. Over and over.
Tiny little screwdriver at the ready.
Yep, that one sounds a little buzzy.
Harry takes a nap on some of Dan's harp strings
(he's used to that kind of thing cluttering up his resting spots).
Sam takes a nap on me while I sit next to the harp.
He listens patiently while Dan and I say intelligent things to each other like
"Hmmm..." "Ewwww..." "Ugh..." "Wow..." and "Nice" while Dan works the strings.
And it's done. The harp sounds crisp and clear. The whooshy A string is solid. The F pedal is smooth. The mystery sound from the back of the harp is banished. I play "Greensleeves" (the first song I ever learned on a harp, so my ear is tuned into how things should sound) and all is well.
Dan packed up all his equipment and headed out, planning to drive all the way to Fargo that night. I straightened up the living room, let Jingle Belle play with an old harp string Dan left for her and then sat down for a little private concert. Just me and the cats and a perfectly in tune harp. I almost hate to take it out again after that. But it's what this harp is for - making beautiful music for people all over the place. And when Dan comes through again, I'll clear my calendar.