A strange question for a harp forum

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    Rachael Rosenbaum on #188979


    So it’s like this…

    Originally, about 6 years ago, I began playing the harp to accompany my bigger passion, voice. Today I am a singer and songwriter, and harpist.

    I love singing with my wonderful, 36-string harp. But… I crave portability. I have craved it for years and I don’t seem to be getting over it. The great outdoors beckons, and I am finding it harder and harder to skimp on outdoor-creative time. Plus I want to be able to share my songs more spontaneously. (And no, a carbon-fiber harp is not an option. Nor do I believe that the range of a 26-string harp would satisfy my needs as a mostly solo performer.)

    I am considering…learning to play the guitar. Save my harp for instrumentals, and learn the guitar for songwriting like all the “normal” people do! Maybe transfer my songs to guitar.

    Am I crazy?

    Or am I quite sane?

    I would greatly appreciate any sound perspectives and advice! I am all wound up in this…

    Many thanks…

    balfour-knight on #188989

    Well, I see it like this, Rachael: the guitar only has six or twelve strings, so why not have a 26-string harp? Some of the small harps can have large voices. Try some and see. Hope this helps!

    Andelin on #188990

    No, not crazy at all! I “dabble” in guitar (I know a few basic chords, I accompany my fiddler son) and it’s fun! You also may find an advantage from harp experience; plucking the strings individually, rather than a strum, will feel really natural. And in sound, they aren’t completely dissimilar either. You may also find your understanding of chords learned from guitar will help you in your harp playing/theory.

    When it comes to instruments, the more the merrier, in my opinion. 🙂

    Allison Stevick on #188991

    It’s not insane to branch out to other instruments! I came to harp after piano and guitar, and I think the skills and techniques of all of them work together to help me with the others. So I say, go for it! Pick up guitar, too!

    A different way to achieve harpish musical portability may be with a 29-30ish string harp, or a small double-strung if that interests you–Both hands would have 3 octaves to play with, even on the smallest 22-note harp, and the frame is nice and compact. 🙂

    Rachael Rosenbaum on #188992

    Thanks, everyone! I appreciate your upbeat attitudes and good advice :0)

    randal on #189000

    Rachel – I’m not sure why you might think it’s outlandish to begin studying/playing a second instrument (especially one so well-suited to your accompaniment needs). In my 45-some years of playing, it would be easier to list instruments that I haven’t studied and performed with – cello and viola, and brass. I’ve studied oud, saz, charango, hammered dulcimer, violin/fiddle, doublebass, woodwinds, drums, guitars/banjos/mandolins, piano, piano accordians, button accordians, concertinas…and whatever else…

    Of course, I do think I’m a little crazy – my case is somewhat extreme and I cant’ say that I’d necessarily recommend such an apporoach. I think I’m particularly in-love with form, and so I can’t help myself – playing so many different styles…it does get a little nuts. It is nice, however, to have a big bag of tricks in that it’s easy to entertain people…although, hauling instruments around is a hassle ..

    Ann on #189006

    Sure, borrow or rent a guitar and play around with it. You might find you like it, or you might find it limiting.
    That said, portability can be pretty easily accomplished with harp, even in larger sizes. Blevins has at least 2 models you might look at. One is the MeadoWind, 34 or 36 strings with a lovely even sound. Blevins MeadoWind 34 Another is their hybrid wood/carbon-fiber models. Soundbox is natural wood (spruce or butternut), other parts are carbon-fiber. They are small and light, and range from 28 to 36 strings. Blevins hybrid harp page

    You’re a musician … explore everything your creativity suggests!

    Rachael Rosenbaum on #189019

    Ann, I really like the Blevins Meadowind. I have had my eye on it for many months. It truly calls my name… but I am sure my husband would not understand my wanting another harp, and would not be happy to spend the money on one.

    Maybe I should just aspire toward that and keep hoping…one day.

    I own a couple of other instruments that I don’t use anywhere near as much as the harp, I suppose I could try and sell them… but I don’t think he’d understand that either. I might need to do it anyhow…

    clinton-blackmore on #189030

    A strange question deserves a strange answer, right?

    What do you get if you cross a harp with a guitar?
    – A Chord Harp
    – or a Harp Guitar

    I’m sure there is a singer who dances with a small harp, but my google fu fails me.

    I can’t vouch for any of these choices — but, it never hurts to widen your options, right?

    Good luck. If you can invest the money and time, I see no reason to be bound to a single instrument.

    brian-saville on #189054

    In my personal view, you would be mad to take up guitar. A harp is in a different league from a guitar. Playing a harp makes you stand out. Why would you want to be just another guitarist? My wife plays at a lot of open mikes. The normal reaction from the audience is “Oooh, a harp!” She could just sit and pluck random strings and they would still enjoy it. A group of guitarists and her were recently invited to play at a charity event in Pembroke Castle. She played first and had quite a crowd of people sitting and listening. Then after an hour she stopped for the others to play. Everyone got up and wandered off to do other things.

    Biagio on #189057

    If I’m understanding…a portable harp would be preferable but you want more range and the expense of a double is too much. If so, so would be the cost of a good guitar so let me suggest two folk instruments admirably suited to vocal accompaniment in the great outdoors: a mountain dulcimer or an autoharp. You can find lots of decent ones for about $200 or less, especially the latter.

    Good luck!

    balfour-knight on #189058

    Good point, Biagio! My very earliest experience with a harp was with an autoharp. When well-tuned, they can be very enjoyable little instruments. Our mountain dulcimer is not as loud as an autoharp, so I would prefer the autoharp for outdoor accompaniment to singing.

    Best wishes for a great day,

    randal on #189059

    Well, one reason why guitars are ubiquitous – is because they are, both, extremely versatile and effective. A decent intermediate-level guitar can be had for only a few hundred dollars – or much less if you’re astute; because of their popularity hundreds of thousands of them were/are produced (distinguished from the hundreds of thousands of pure rubbish ones) – they’re everywhere and very easy to get ‘hold of a fully functional and decent-sounding one for quite cheap. (It’s the same with accordians, btw – because so many were made, a plethora of beautiful-sounding vintage accordians are available for a relative pittance)

    I love the sound of zithers too (autoharp, “lap” dulcimer, etc.) – ergo my penchant for playing hammered dulcimer (and wire harp, for that matter) – and am quite fond of the myriad traditional zither-style instruments. particularly from Scandinavia. Quite beautiful music can be made in rudimentary modal forms on rudimentary lyres, lutes, and zithers – I assuaged my love for the sound of wire with these instruments for decades – before I was finally able to procure a wire clarsach.

    Or perhaps other instruments? – an m’bira (kalimba), for example, can be carried in a handbag … or melodeon (button accordion) – quite small, easy to play simply, excellent for song accompaniment (portability and ease is in fact what they were/are made for, and again, a quality beautiful-sounding vintage instrument is a wee fraction of what it cost new…caveat – must know what to buy)

    Biagio on #189060

    I so much agree with you Randal, and with Balfour. Once one takes a deep breath, wades out beyond the comfy shore of classical into the wild surf of “folk” things get really interesting.

    Which is not to say that classical music and instruments aren’t interesting – just that there are a lot more options then those. And the two can be combined; one of the most exciting duets I’ve heard recently is of Catrin Finch and Sekou Keita (pedal harp and kora). Here it is:


    balfour-knight on #189061

    Thanks so much for that video, Biagio! It is really great.

    It is very interesting that an Autoharp has “harp” in its name, even though it is a kind of zither, more like a lyre but “automatic” with the chord changing “buttons.” I guess Autozither would not sound quite as nice, ha, ha!

    Good day to all of you,

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