First off, we build musical instruments and send them out to our customers tuned in a way that should support most repertoire, but the subject of tuning is so vast and so personal that we couldn’t possibly make everyone happy with every single instrument.
Second, the business of tuning is the business of the musician playing the instrument and he or she has the right (and responsibility) to change that to suit their repertoire. Because we feel this way, we offer some gratis string support for for most of our instruments, especially those which are custom-made or are new offerings. We do our level best to string things in such a way as to address most musical modes, but we cannot conceive of every possible situation that might arise in a creative millieu, so we typically include some extras to help address changes that might occur, or be desired.
Third, we operate this business in a temperate rain forest (that’s where the wood is, after all) that can see as much as 100 inches of rainfall in a year. This means that people who live in Wales or Ireland won’t see much of a problem, but people who live in Death Valley and Arizona probably will. It is therefore impossible for us to create a tuning chart that shows exactly how the strings are supposed to be tuned on each and every instrument, but we do depict quite a range of possibilities elsewhere in this part of the FAQ. The simple act of transporting a stringed instrument from the rain forest to the desert means that the tuning will have to be slightly modified (usually only a shift of a few tones up or down the scale) or else some different strings will have to be selected. In all cases, it is the musician’s job to tune the instrument and it is the luthier’s job to supply him or her with strings and data so the musician can accomplish this, and we are always happy to do that. Customer service is Job One at Orphic Airs—just write and we will help.
Fourth, some of the instruments we make have no known tuning, believe it or not. The Anglo Saxon Lyre, for example, is built from an archeological find from a Viking ship burial in the 11th century or so and next to nothing is known about how it should be tuned or even played. It really is upon the shoulders of the musicians who wish to play this instrument to do their research and we have included many links to modern bards who have good arguments for the disposition of the various tunings.
Fifth, realize that we live in a guitar-centric world where everyone “knows” that the tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E and everything about that instrument is built around this tuning, even tho’ there exist literally scores of other tunings for which the instrument might also be optimized. Historical instruments are not the plug-and-play things that computers are and it is best to realize that and to further realize that this increases the creative potential of the individual player just as surely as it burdens the luthiers who build for them..
Sixth, a few of our instruments are historical recreations from artwork , and not only is nothing known about the tuning, the instrument itself did not formally exist until we made it. An excellent example is the WSP series, which is an instrument designed by Dänae from a depiction in a stained glass window in a medieval church in Chartes. It is an ancient artist’s conception of some sort of psaltery which this luthier breathed a bit of life into and has offered for sale. It is the musicians themselves that have told our studio how it can be tuned, and the opinions are many and varied. We have included all their relevant remarks in the section which pertains to that instrument. Several of our offerings are of this character. If in doubt—ask.
Lastly, the string business is one with gargantuan markups. The $6 set of guitar strings you buy in a music store costs a great deal less than that, even at low volumes, so we are happy to pass along our strings at very little markup and ZERO shipping costs because we know that having the strings that you want is the lifeblood of your craft and your music. Please, let us help you make it sound the way you wish.