34 String lever harps in UK for beginners

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    oxalis on #224358

    Hello everyone,

    I’m a beginner harpist looking to buy my first harp. I’ve had a lesson with a really great teacher and done a lot of research online that has led me to the decision that for my needs I’d really like to buy a 34 string fully-levered harp. I live in the UK and don’t have a big budget, £2000 is my absolute limit but I would rather spend less. I also don’t want to buy something that wont actually work or will break so that narrows down the options. I realise how expensive good quality harps are to produce so I’m not complaining, just being honest about my situation.

    So I’ve narrowed my search to two different options, all with pros and cons.

    1) Morley (Elysian) Hempson 34 – £1500
    This looks like a really well priced harp from an established brand. I was wondering whether anyone here has experience with this harp? I read a forum post here about someone whose lever broke. Does anyone know whether the levers are good quality? Looking around the internet there seems to have been a few issues with the occasional string buzzing or lever going out of alignment, but they all seem to have occurred a couple of years ago at least. This seems to be the best option for what I’m looking for, but I’d love any input if anyone knows anything about this harp 🙂

    2) Teifi Siff Saff 34 – £2000
    This harp seems really beautiful and has a beautiful sound from recordings I’ve heard. This could be a matter of better recording equipment of course! The levers seem very high quality and overall it seems slightly better than the Hempson, which is reflected in the price. And it is only 8Kg! And it comes with a padded carry case which seems like a good idea to get, as these are usually about £200 it seems. Does anyone have any experience with this harp?

    Any help or information would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    wil-weten on #224363

    I’d prefer a Teifi to a Elysian Hempson.

    But: I am a great fan of second hand harps from reputable dealers.
    E.g, I love Camac harps and found:

    https://wales.camac-harps.com/en/second-hand/ With 2 harps within your price range.

    Even cheaper: https://earlymusicshop.com/products/4027s-camac-hermine-harp-in-walnut-34-alliance-strings-with-metal-levers-and-tuning-key-no-bag-but-includes-camac-dust-cover

    There may be other harp stores with really nice and affordable second hand harps. You may have a look at Morley’s at: https://www.morleyharps.co.uk/second-hand-harps-c102x2793724 (but at the moment, there’s no second hand 34 string harp).

    Anyway, ask your teacher for advice. It would be great if she would accompany you to select a quality harp within your price range that would keep you happy for many years.

    If she can’t accompany you, it’s important to have a checklist of all the things you need to know when selecting a second hand harp.

    Another suggestion: rent a harp before you buy one. This gives you the opportunity to find out what you really like (or don’t like) in a harp. Often, a rental from a reputable shop comes with nice opportunities to get part (or even all) of your rental money back if you buy the harp (or sometimes even another harp) within a certain period, let’s say half a year.

    oxalis on #224366

    Thank you so much for the information wil-weten! That’s really helpful.
    I was considering renting the Siff Saff for three months as Teifi subtracts that as credit from the final price if you decide to buy.

    I am quite hesitant to buy second hand, only because I only have a vague idea of what to look for myself quality/damage wise. Also, the warranty you get with new harps is definitely an anxiety alleviator if there is something wrong structurally with the harp. I live on the other side of the UK to most of the distributors so going with my teacher isn’t really an option.

    However, if I were to buy second hand what would be on the checklist of things I need to know/look for? I can think of checking that none of the strings buzz when open or levered, and that all the levers are working, and that the harp isn’t cracked or warped. Other than that I’m not really sure what to look for.

    Thanks again for your help 🙂

    wil-weten on #224367

    Most harps sound better when they have been played for a few years (or even just a few months). Structural problems with harps tend to show themselves after let’s say three years. In some cases you only get a warranty of three years…

    I don’t know how things are in the UK, but where I live I got a warranty of a year on each of my second hand harps. Even better, if within three months, I regretted buying a certain second hand harp, I would be allowed to chose another second hand harp and the price of the old one would be fully subtracted from the ‘new’ second hand harp. I don’t know the service UK harp shops offer though. Maybe you could negotiate something like this if it is not offered spontaneously.

    So, in your case, I would be really interested in a second hand harp that looks good and sounds fine. And also of importance, one you can sit behind comfortably (some harps sound nice, but can, depending on your length and build, cause problems with your back and/or shoulders).

    You may google “How to select a lever harp” to get an impression of the things that may be of interest to you.

    There is one simple way to have your teacher test a harp. By buying one from Thomann. That way you get a 30 Days Money Back Guarantee (which in fact is only a 14 Days Money Back Guarantee, as you would have to pay for the return costs after 14 days (within the 30 day period). Anyway, I would only pay attention to the Salvi Harps and the Lyon & Healy Harps (the other harps come from Pakistan, notwithstanding their ‘nice names’). The cheapest 34 String Salvi costs have a look at: https://www.thomann.de/gb/harps.html?sw=harp&price-first=0&filter=true&manufacturer%5B%5D=Salvi&manufacturer%5B%5D=Lyon%20%26%20Healy

    But I myself, would prefer a Camac harp, because of their nice price, balanced sound, great levers and their 5 year guarantee. I would love a Teifi harp too, but pricewise, you can’t beat a Camac (at least where I live).

    I don’t know what Brexit will mean for the prices of Camac (from France, completely made in France) and Salvi (from Italy, though several parts are being made in China) and Lyon & Healy (officially from the US, but L&H is owned by Salvi and several parts aremade in China; these harps reach Europe through Italy).

    Biagio on #224370

    A check list or questions for buying a used harp:

    Was it made by an established harp maker and when?
    Who owned it and how often has it been played?
    When was it last regulated and how old are the strings?
    What else comes with it – string chart, tuning wrench, etc.?
    Are there any visible, cracks especially at the neck?
    Is the pillar straight as viewed from the front?
    Are there any cosmetic imperfections?

    There could be perfectly acceptable harps and yet be negatives to these questions. So as I believe Wil suggested, take a teacher or some other knowledgeable person along with you.

    talfryn on #224371

    Hello Oxalis,
    Like wil-weten I have Camac harps (3 of them over the years) and I am absolutely happy with them, I live in France so it’s the obvious choice, their technical support is outstanding. I also have played various teifi harps and they are also excellant. A few years back they lost touch with a rental Harp here in France and they asked me to help them recover it, a Teifi Eos. It took a bit of finding and I kept it for some months before sending it back to Wales with my son who was at University in Aberystwyth. For me this was the best lever Harp I have ever played and it’s a dream of mine to eventually own one. I have also visited their workshops several times and tried their other models. So don’t be too worried, they are fine instruments.
    But this is a large investment for anyone, and you should try and find a way to play before buying, don’t worry about being a beginner just play what you can and see if the instrument is good for you. You mention that youre in the U.K. why not contact them for a dealer or go and visit them and see the workshop as well.
    Good luck

    Tacye on #224374

    Can you come to this? Lots of the harp makers and dealers all in one place… https://www.harpfestival.co.uk/

    evolene_t on #224387

    Hey Oxalis!

    Absolutely Agee with what has been said so far :
    – Ask your teacher for advice
    – Look at renting harps at least for a few month. It ends up being cheaper in the long run because you buy the harp you really want, instead of buying harps again and again.
    – Look at second-hand great quality harp : quality harps don’t deteriorate if taken care of, so it’s a real bargain.
    – Make a list of what you really want in a harp in terms of sound and feel. Nylon or gut strings? Bright or deep sound? Etc.
    – Always try a harp out before buying it because internet videos simply don’t give you enough info to go on.
    – If possible, go to a harp festival and take the time to try out everything

    As usual, I recommend this website to get an idea of what you want. Celtic Harper – What type of harp should I get?

    I haven’t tried the models that you’ve narrowed down but I concur with the others about the Camac quality. You can also look at Salvi and Dusty Strings.
    Keep us informed of your choices!

    wil-weten on #224398

    I don’t know your situation, but maybe, just maybe, you could be one of the lucky students that don’t have to pay VAT on their instrument.
    Have a look at this: https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/vat-government-and-public-bodies/vatgpb7825

    emma-graham on #224642

    Of the two harps you mention, the siff saff is FAR superior to the Hempson. The Hempson is an OK beginner instrument (I have one that I rent out to students when they first start to play) but in my opinion it isn’t an instrument that would take you very far. Personally I agree with what others have suggested. For build quality and value for money you can’t go wrong with Camacs. The Hermine is a great instrument at under £2000 I have two and 3 of my pupils also have them. All have a fantastic sound. Depending where you are in the UK, maybe you could visit Camac’s harp weekend in Cardiff next month to try out their range. https://wales.camac-harps.com/en/cardiff-camac-harp-weekend-2019/

    Veronika on #224667

    If you do decide to buy a second hand harp after all, I’d suggest phoning the harp shops – there may well be harps available that they haven’t yet put online, or they might know of rental harps that are due to come back shortly. The rental harp that I returned to Morley Harps never even made it onto their website, as far as I can tell, so I am assuming it was sold very quickly (it was a lovely harp!).

    Personally I wouldn’t be confident in my ability to assess a second hand when buying from a private owner, but I’d be happy to buy one from a reputable harp shop.

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