Easy Harp Tuning – How Are Harps Tuned in 2023?

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

You look at all these strings and think, “Wow, harp tuning is going to be an actual pain.” Believe us, it might look that way but that isn’t the case. It’s truly very easy to tune a harp and it only takes a couple of minutes. There are several totally different methods but we suggest using an electronic chromatic tuner because it’s the easiest way.

In this today’s world of the internet, the simplest way for a beginner to learn to tune a harp is to view the raft of resources available on YouTube. One of many big names in the lever harp world, Sylvia Woods, has a first-rate video on the right way to tune your harp.

This can be a great video on the right way to tune your Harp. Melissa reveals tuning with the harp lying on its side and, in fact, if you’re tuning a Rees Concert Line harp your harp will likely be standing up, but her description of how you can use the chromatic tuner is especially clear.

In case you prefer step-by-step written instructions, we have that too! In case you are a more skilled harper and you have been wondering about tuning in E-flat Major, harper Marta Cook explains. We actually love this video by harper Christy-Lyn as she does a wonderful job of explaining how and why you need to learn to tune by ear.

Tuning Key

A tuning key is an instrumental tool that you use to turn the tuning peg. In case your harp didn’t include a tuning key, we would suggest buying a rubber one. These are simple to use and won’t harm your harp when you accidentally drop the key on the harp. Mainly, the rubber tuning key fits most harps.

The Tuner

Step one in starting your tuning adventure is to get an electronic tuner that’s going to be just right for you. It only takes a bit of time to “get used” to a tuner, and that always makes the task simpler.

Prices for tuners vary from under $25 to well over $100. The larger the array of lights, the finer your tuning could be. You’ll be able to see just how far off you’re and turn the tuning pin to the appropriate amount. Needle tuners are often too jumpy, but the combination of the lights and the needle available in the Korg CA-30 to the left works nicely.

The costlier tuners last longer than the cheaper tuners and they’re rated for a larger note range. In case your tuner doesn’t pick up the high notes, typically attaching the mic clip to the tuning pin will allow the tuner to pick it up.

Harp Tuner Pickup

We think a harp tuner pickup is an important item. It clips onto the instrument and plugs into the tuner. It allows the tuner to listen to the note more clearly and keeps it from hearing extraneous noises, especially when tuning where there may be a lot of background noise.

Harp Tuning Method

In case you have a mic clip, find a place in your harp like the T-brace in front of a sound hole in the back to clip it to. It won’t harm the finish on your harp because it’s padded. Place your tuner on a chair, your music stand, or on the ground. We usually see individuals trying to tune by holding their tuner in their left hand. Nope! Don’t do that, it’s going to hinder the speed at which you’ll be able to tune.

We tune with all the levers down. Especially in the wound strings, in case you tune with a lever up, one of the windings might get caught so that whenever you lower your lever harps, you won’t have a true pitch anymore.

We start at the bottom and move up by placing 3 fingers on the lowest 3 strings with the third finger of our left hand. If that is a C in your harp, then you would be on C, D, E, (thumb on E). For the first string only pluck together with your third finger to tune. From then on it is going to be your 2nd finger.

Your third finger and thumb will serve to dampen the adjacent notes which can keep the overtones in check, and they’ll hold your place on the strings so you don’t need to guess which string it was you were tuning. Then you definitely just walk up the strings as each string is tuned, moving your thumb up one string and following with the opposite 2 fingers.

Now for your right hand and the tuning key. We would recommend that you never leave your tuning key on the tuning peg without your hand on it. If it should fall off, you can have a big dent in your soundboard.

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We have seen very skilled harp players do this and we cringe every time. We additionally advocate the black rubber handle tuning flat keys, because, should they fall on your soundboard, it can most likely only leave a bit of black mark on the soundboard which can come off easily. We have completed this, so we know!

After you have the tuning key on the lowest tuning peg, don’t let your hand leave the harp’s neck. When it’s time to “walk” up the neck with your 3 fingers, feel for the following tuning peg with your right-hand thumb. Match the tuning sharp keys onto that peg. You need to be capable of doing this without looking. That means you can hold your eyes on the tuner.

Even when most of your harp tuned is perfectly in tune if you get to that one string that’s off, your tuning key will probably be in place, and you won’t need to try to figure out which tuning peg tunes which string. You’ll already be there because you’ve followed up the neck by moving your right hand and turning the key every time you plucked a new string with your left hand.

However, in case you are turning the tuning pin and nothing appears to be happening, STOP and check to be sure you haven’t gotten out of line with the string. It still can happen.

The lights and/or needles give you a clue as to how far out of tune you are. Often, the “dead center” light can be a different color, say green, and the sharp or flat lights might be red. If the green light is on, but so is among the red lights to the left (or if the needle is just to the left of the center), then you know you are just a hair flat.

Turn the key to sharpen the string just a little tiny bit. If the green light is on with a red light to the right (or if the needle is just to the right of center), then you’re a hair sharp, and typically pulling on the string a little bit will deliver you right in. If not back off the tuning peg just a hair. You could then need to tune up again as you could have fallen below pitch.

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If only red lights to the left or right are on, then you realize you’ll be able to turn the tuning peg a bit sharper or flatter to get you closer. Getting a feel for how much to turn the tuning peg takes some practice. It’ll get simpler and quicker the more you do it.

Sometimes a tuner might be stubborn and not register the desired note. It picked it up yesterday, but at this time it’s on strike against that note. We attempt a couple of different things at this point, We pluck louder, we pluck on a different part of the string, quiet all the strings on the harp by damping them with our arm, or as we discussed in the beginning, move the mic clip.

The most successful place to move the mic clip is right onto the tuning pin of that string. We additionally may tune that string by ear to the same correct note in the octave below. We’ve gotten quite good at that with practice although we are likely to tune them a tad sharp. This additionally works easiest in the highest octave but as soon as you are good at that, the lower octaves turn out to be easier too.

Most tuners will indicate which note the harp string is sounding. Ensure you are tuning to the proper note. Typically your tuner might register one of the overtones of that string. So in case you’re trying to tune an E, it might show up as a B on the tuner.

It’s clearly not a B because you’ll be able to hear it, right? You really can tune to that overtone and simply get the B to come up to pitch. Or once more you’ll be able to pluck louder, on a different part of the string, quiet the harp, move the mic clip right onto the tuning peg for that string, or tune by ear using octaves.

I hope this lets you tune your harp faster, simpler, and more accurately. Your harp will thank you, your viewers will thank you and your harp builder will thank you.

How Often Should You Tune Your Harp?

The simple and obvious answer is to tune your harp when it’s out of tune but realistically you might need to check your harp’s tune each other day.

Checking it each other day depending on how often you play, will assist you to make sure that you are always in tune.

It should additionally lead to faster tuning when you do it regularly since you won’t need to tune every string every time.


Learning to play the harp while your harp is off-tune turns into thousand times harder than it needs to be. Hopefully, you have discovered a way to successfully tune your harp in a simple way.

We hope that you discovered all the things about tuning your harp.

Especially if that is your first time changing a harp string or something like that can be quite difficult.

You’ll need to get some important equipment just like the actual tuner or phone app and tuner key but that’s all you need to begin playing your harp and have it actually sounds good.

Bill Hood

Bill Hood

My name is Bill, and I am a musician and music enthusiast who has a deep love and passion for anything and everything stringed that moves my soul. It is an honor to be a part of the team at our website dedicated to stringed instruments, and I look forward to sharing my passion and knowledge with our readers as well.

Strings Kings
Strings Kings