OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

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OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby musicoutreach » Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:45 pm

I have been using a guitar/dobro steel for getting the chromatics on my hognose psalteries. I have noticed that Eastern psalteries (kanun, qanun, kanoune and other spellings) have nylon strings with elaborate sharping levers. The pictures were too small to see details. I did find a picture of "micanon sharping levers" - they were on a wood strip next to the tuning pins. I did find one comment from a harp maker who said that sharping levers don't work on wire strings.

My question - has anyone who has put levers on a plucked psaltery be willing to share how it is done? Are there small commercial levers that suit the psaltery or do you have to machine your own? My husband is a retired machine and die designer and may be able to construct something for me (if I ask nicely :D :D ).

Susanne
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Re: OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby musicoutreach » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:02 pm

musicoutreach wrote: My husband is a retired machine and die designer and may be able to construct something for me (if I ask nicely :D :D ).

Susanne


Ooops! Meant to say my husband is a retired TOOL and die designer.
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Re: OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby KenH » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:18 pm

Not a maker of plucked psalteries myself. Two people around here that would really be in the know are Dave "Harpmaker" Lynch, and Nic Hambas. You might PM them...
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Re: OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby StPeteNick » Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:23 pm

The picture i found of the micanon levers was at:
http://web.tiscali.it/cavigliotti/michi_e.html

They remind me of the old swiveling levers i have seen in 'folk harp journal' a loooooooong time ago. My understanding is that intonation is a problem with the swiveling types.

On my old odd harp kora (nylon strings,) i tried the plastic Jordan levers but didn't like them. They messed up the tone. I also tried some cheap metal ones and found them difficult to install.

Pics of the harp kora:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stpetenick/sets/72157603425975321/

With all respect to KenH, if harpmaker or nick hambas have knowledge of this stuff, i am listening (well ..reading.)

Nick
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Re: OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby harpmaker » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:42 am

First, sharping levers will work on metal strings.

Most sharping levers work by flipping up a lever that raises a small bridge into contact with the string. This also raises the string slightly. However this requires that the original bridge be at a specific height. Otherwise the bridge may not done into a firm enough contact with the string, or if the original bridge is too low the lever can result in a displacement on the bridge.

Whether or not the commercially available levers will work on your psaltery depends on the bridge height and if the wood is strong enough away from the bridge where you have to install the levers.

Levers are available from Robinson Harp and Strings at http://www.robinsonharp.com I have used these for years with good results
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Re: OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby musicoutreach » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:54 pm

Thanks for all the comments. Nick, loved your harp kora! Believe it or not, we picked up a kora at a yard sale for $2 - they said they priced it low because they didn't think anyone would buy it. Here is a picture - not very clear but you get the idea.

kora.JPG


Dave, I appreciate the info. I am thinking of just making one with levers for myself but need to ask a question that will pretty much decide if I will do it. I play only in the one key of the psaltery and would like the levers for on-the-fly changes for chromatics within a particular song. Is this practical? Also, I am assuming that the levers go next to the tuning pins. I make my hognose psalteries with the tuning pins on the right and since I am right-handed, I would reverse this so I could make the changes with my left hand. But if on-the-fly changes don't work well, I might just perfect my guitar steel technique for the chromatics.

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Re: OT- sharping levers for plucked psaltery

Postby Ken Bloom » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:39 am

Kanun sharping levers are a simple flip-up type of one piece device that work fine for low tension nylon strings. Having made lots of banduras and kanteles with levers I can tell you a couple of things. First, to get a nice clear sound the lever needs to engage the string at two points, not just one like a kanun. The way I did this on the bandura was to mill a slot in a piece of 1/4" brass rod. The string passed through the slot. When rotated into the on position, it grabbed the string front and back and made a clear sound. I did tuning adjustment by having the string go over an adjustable foot.
On the Lithuanian kankles, they use a swiveling one piece design for the oldtime style instruments. It has a slope which engages the string and presses it up as well as shortens it. Not hard to make and install. Modern full size kanteles have a kind of flip over half toen changer that is a lot like the old style Scruggs pegs of the sixties. It stretches the string to pitch. This requires a lot of filing and messing with to change the pitch. If you husband is a tool and die maker, he should be able to do any of these pretty easily. Just ell him that what you want to do is to either shorten the string by approximately 1/18th or stretch it a bit to raise the pitch. The shortening type of device is much simpler to make and less prone to break strings. You can check out more of this by searching info on the Finnish kantele or the Lithuanian kankles or e-mail me for more info.

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