Just want to throw in my 2 cents –
I’ve been playing harp for nearly 3 years. My first harp was a Dusty Strings Ravenna 34. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a lever harp at this point with big range, great tone, yet a relatively small pricetag compared to some other harps. Very sturdy instrument, and I’ve only ever heard good things about the company. 🙂
I just got a Salvi Daphne 47SE as my pedal harp. I’m very much in love with it. It’s a semi-grand but has the same number of strings as a concert grand. So, the same capabilities in a smaller, slightly lighter package! The tone is fabulous and Salvi is a great manufacturer.
As far as actually playing the harp, the weight should mostly be on your knees. Your shoulder should only be a guide for the angle of the harp. Good posture is very important and you shouldn’t ever feel like the harp is squashing you! Also, I’ve never gotten callouses. A harpist friend of mine has been playing over 20 years and she has also never gotten callouses. The flesh in my fingertips gets tough and I can feel the skin is a bit tougher, but I’ve never had a callous. Some harpists – like my harp teacher – get callouses but I think it is individual, based on body chemistry. Your fingertips definitely should not crack and bleed. You do have to watch out for blisters, especially when you first start out. As you’re building up stamina, if you play too long, you will start to feel a blister start. You’ll learn your limits and not go to the point of getting blisters pretty quickly. 🙂