How to Tune a 15 String Lap Harp

shepherd's harp in the light, purple image by Scott Slattery from

Things You'll Need

  • Electric tuner
  • Tuning key

The lap harp has 15 to 22 strings and is commonly used as accompaniment in folk and classical music. Tuning a lap harp can be a time-consuming procedure. The standard lap harp has 15 strings, and the tuning keys are very delicate. The smallest nudge can cause the harp to go out of tune. Though there are virtually unlimited ways to tune the lap harp, its most common tuning is in the key of G.

Place the lap harp in your lap and position an electric tuner about 2 feet out in front of you.

Turn on the tuner and pluck a few strings on the harp to make sure the tuner is picking up the sound from the strings. Check to see if your electric tuner is set to 440 Hz. Refer to your tuner's user manual for specific instructions to do this.

Place the harp's L-shaped tuning key on the tuning lug corresponding with the longest string on the harp. Turning the tuning lug to the left raises the pitch of the string, and turning the lug to the right lowers the pitch.

Pluck the longest string. Adjust the tuning lug until the electric tuner reads "G," and the tuner's meter arrow is perfectly centered on the tuning meter.

Repeat the plucking and tuning procedure for all the following strings in consecutive order. The tuning sequence on the lap harp repeats twice, but the second sequence is one octave higher. The string tuning sequence is G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G. Use this same tuning sequence for the remaining strings, ending with a high G.


  • If you're new to tuning your harp, take regular breaks. This procedure can take upwards of an hour, depending on your experience.