Advice on First Lap Harp please!

  • Participant
    ehutton on #216717

    Hi,
    I am looking to buy my first lap harp (beginner). I would like a good instrument, with reasonable base, mellow / rich sound, and an upper register that is not too “twangy”. I want to play Celtic and early / renaissance style music on it. As I am in Australia, I’d really appreciate the advice of the forum, as trying harps is going to be a bit tricky. Also, if people have experience of the shipping histories of the companies, I’d appreciate that too!

    My current short list is:
    Triplett Christina 26
    Dusty Strings Allegro 26
    Stoney End Even Song 26

    Does anyone have any comments on the pros / cons of the above, or other options I should consider in a similar price range?

    Many thanks! It’s a very exciting, but somewhat daunting process!
    Elspeth 🙂

    Participant
    ruth-harper on #216721

    Have you checked out the Noteworthy Harps:

    http://www.elderly.com/noteworthy-county-kerry-24-string-walnut-harp-bag.htm

    Jeff Gaynor has shipped harps all over the world and has made well over 1000 harps. Here is his web site:

    http://notewood.com/prod01.htm

    God bless and enjoy looking for a lap harp

    Participant
    Biagio on #216722

    Hi Elspeth,

    All good harps, including the County Kerry. You will notice, as you examine the descriptions carefully, that they also vary a good bit in terms of size, construction design, weight, range, type of levers, and so on. Here are some things to consider, as the choice is quite personal:

    -How you will support the harp. If this is your first harp learning good technique is a challenge while also trying to balance it on your lap. Some use “leg bones”, or a guitar strap; the Blevins “LeStik” is probaby the most stable. Dwwight Blevins is no longer making harps but LeStik is still available through his wife (see cindyblevinsmusic.com)

    -What kind of music you will play. If mainly Celtic, you will only need levers on C and F most of the time. Otherwise you may wish a full set.

    -What kind of levers. We all have our favorites but in terms of expense they run from least to most: Loveland, Rees, Camac, Truitt.

    Just to throw another name in the mix: my personal favorite lap harp is the Harps of Lorien Raphael:

    http://www.harpsoflorien.com/therapy_economy_harps.html

    Best wishes,
    Biagio

    Participant
    jessharpgirl on #216799

    Hi:
    I had a harpsicle (all levers; now called fullsicle) and loved the portability and everyone loved looking at it (white). I sold it to a friend when I tried my hand at entering a monastery. I now have a Christina (it actually only has 25 strings and the harpsicle 26). I love the Christina as well. When I bought it through the Sylvia Woods Harp Center
    harpcenter.com
    it came with a 7-year warrantee. It is heavier than the harpsicle and I believe a good bit taller, but not totally sure. My friend that bought the harpsicle from me still has it; I got it in 2005 and sold it to her in 2009; it’s still strumming!

    Participant
    wil-weten on #216816

    Hi Elspeth,you are looking for your first lap harp as a beginner, but really, lap harps are way more difficult to play than floor harps. This is because mostly are too large to sit comfortably on your lap and besides, you will need all kinds of tricks to play music that is meant for a larger harp.

    So, the main question is, why would you want a lap harp? If the main factor is its price, it may me worth while to discuss the possibilities of an affordable floor harp… Like renting one while you save for a floor harp (some harp shops give you a very nice price when you decide to buy a harp after having rented it for let’s say half a year). Or building one from a kit. Etc.

    Participant
    Biagio on #216861

    Wil makes a good point. Have you considered harp makers in Australia? Here is a list:

    Harplust List

    Biagio

    Participant
    ehutton on #216931

    Thanks very much to everyone for their thoughts and advice!

    I do want a lap harp rather than a floor one, as I want to primarily play Celtic / Medieval style music, and maybe with others down the track. I also only have a limited space for it!

    I think I have narrowed the choice down to the Triplett Christina or the Stoney End Even Song. Does anyone have any thoughts regarding one over the other? Also, any thoughts about Cherry v Walnut, both in terms of sound, but also durability and robustness, particularly given it will need to be shipped US to Aus!
    Many thanks to all you kind souls for your guidance!
    Elspeth

    Participant
    duckspeaks on #216943

    The Christina has rather low string tension when I tried it. I didn’t try the Stoney End Evening Song but from memory of You tube videos it may have better sound, high and low.

    Balancing a lap harp while learning it means more things to handle at the same time. But it is fair to say that I never had that experience and cannot recreate it now.

    In Tasmania, there is a harp maker Andrew Thom who makes harps with aluminium. He “tunes” the sound with different composite materials. The harps reportedly sound louder and can handle much more abuse than wooden ones.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #216948

    As to celtic style music, you do realize that a lot of books with celtic music are written for a 34 string harp? Yes, there are several books particularly suited for smaller harps, but you may miss the sound of the bass strings. Sometimes you can play a tune an octave higher, but this doesn’t always sound as good.

    For travel or for wanting to keep the harp in a small closet, a lap harp may be a more logical choice.

    By the way Camac had a 27 string Bardic, now sadly discontinued, but you may still find one in stock or a second hand one (as people after some time wish to have 34 (or more) instead of 27 strings. This Bardic harp has a firm string tension and a great sound for such a small harp. It still weighs around 6 kg, so it is a bit heavier than some of your other potential choices. Harps & Harps in Australia does sell Camac harps.

    Good luck with your harp hunting.

    Participant
    Biagio on #216950

    As Wil points out, most books and scores (whether Celtic or not) assume a 4-5 octave range with the lowest being a C2 (65.41 Hz). If you are comfortable with reading music, and music theory, adapting the score to a smaller harp will not be a big problem -but of course some of the left hand patterns may not be possible.

    At the size you are contemplating I don’t think you will notice much difference between cherry and walnut; the latter in principle should have a more mellow voice but the strings and sound board play a much larger role. With the Stoney End, however the wood type will make no difference at all – the side are simply high density plywood, it does not matter what color the are stained.

    Frankly, if I were in your place I would instead order the Musicmaker Jolie kit which will cost less to ship, and suit your needs better than either of the others. Assuming you are OK with a little sanding, gluing, and finishing, of course. If that appears to be an option, we can discuss levers as well.

    https://www.harpkit.com/jolie-harps.html

    Biagio

    Participant
    karen on #217018

    I fully agree with Will….a lap harp is not an ideal FIRST harp. Many people go this route and end up not sticking with the instrument. Too much to juggle (literally), too confusing to understand what to do when most music requires more strings, etc.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by karen.
    Participant
    germanharp on #217026

    Hello,
    I´m new here and I´m luthier from Germany.
    Perhaps you´d like to look at my website
    https://www.travel-harp.com/
    It´s a very small and light weight harp, but by a new construction it was possible to give the harp 32 strings.
    I can send the harp all over the world.

    Thank you very much.
    Kind regards
    Alexander

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by germanharp.
    Participant
    ehutton on #217095

    Hi Everyone,
    After contemplating the advice, I’m changing my plan to a 34 string option. Do people think I am better going with Camac Hermine, Dusty Crescendo or saving money and going with a music makers kit, like Voyageur or Jolie?
    I’m nervous about outlaying a lot of money before I start to play, but would prefer not to be frustrated in a few years about my purchase, either from range or sound quality.
    I understand there may be a tensioning variability issue with the Musicmakers harp, and Biagio mentions on another post that customising the Strings might improve it? Can you please give me some more information about this? Also, are the universal levers ok, or should I get Camac/other ones, and how would I do this? Are they hard to fit?
    Many thanks again to all for your advice! I’ve been very impressed with how friendly and helpful the harping community is!
    Elspeth

    Participant
    wil-weten on #217102

    Hi Elspeth, I am a fan of Camac harps as they are sturdy harps with a nice, balanced sound, great levers and they are not too pricey.

    Harps & Harps in Australia sells Camac harps. I don’t know if his site is up to date, but as the Camac Hermine is the most popular of all Camac harps, you may find a second hand one for a nice price. Also, when later on you would like to sell it, it would be rather easy to find a buyer for it.
    If you manage to buy a second hand Camac Hermine, it will hardly lose any value if you would decide to sell it later on. And also the purchase of a new Camac Hermines may be considered as a nice investment, though it will lose some of its value in let’s say the first few years.

    Another advantage is, that you wouldn’t have to pay extremely high shipping prices, as you can buy it in Australia en preferably try before you buy.

    The Camac Hermines come with medium light fluorocarbon strings. I love the sound of these strings. They will keep sounding nice, even when they get rather old (nylon strings gradually lose their nice sound). And of all the different strings on the market they react the least to changes in humidity.

    Building one’s own harp may be tempting is one is rather handy. Still, if you don’t like its sound (every harp, even the same model and price sounds different), it would be a pity as you may not resell it easily on the Australian market as people tend to buy more or less popular harps.

    You may also find out whether renting a Camac Hermine with an option of buying it later on, may be interesting to you.

    Yes, I am probably a bit positively biased about Camacs (I own a Camac harp and a Salvi harp).

    Edit: there may be more fine harps shops in Australia selling Camac harps than only Harps & Harps.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by wil-weten.
    Participant
    Biagio on #217112

    Hi Elspeth,

    Full disclosure, the MM folks are friends, as are the folks at Dusty Strings and a few other harp makers but I am not associated with them otherwise.

    I think going with a 33 or 34 is a wise choice, so a big “whew” here! As to the specific model:

    Whether a kit will be good for you or not depends on how comfortable you are with putting it together, so before deciding to order one, download and read the instructions. I’ve noticed that after Jerry Brown (the owner) retired last year those instructions have been revamped; I guess Matt thought the illustrations were clearer but IMO they also look more complicated than necessary. Personally, the Musicmaker Voyageur was my second lever harp and I put it together in about 5 days in my living room. But you will have to judge4 that for yourself.

    I understand that they have revised the string regime for the Voyageur after several discussions but I have not analyzed the new one. I don’t much like the Universal levers myself, but if you are considering mounting levers yourself they are OK and easier to do than Lovelands. Easiest of all are the Rees and Truitt levers – Rees’ are available through Robinson’s Harp Shop. The general principle for all levers are the same, so one should understand those first.

    As a side note, you will probably be playing in the key of C major at first so you won’t really need levers for a while. Get comfortable with the harp and then consider how many you need – for Celtic style only Cs and Fs. I am biased in believing that all harpers should know how to mount and regulate levers but I seem to be in a distinct minority; I do however strongly recommend that they buy two books:

      The Harper’s Manua

    l by Laurie Riley, and

      Troubleshooting Your Lever Harp

    by David Kolacny. These cover topics that turn up again and again from new harpers on harp forums.

    Moving along….some people choose the Dusty Cresendo over the Ravenna because they like to look of it but personally I don’t think that justifies the higher price. Given that expense is a major concern therefore I would choose the Ravenna. It is in many people’s opinion around here – the Seattle area – the best harp available for the money.

    Wil has covered the Camacs so I won’t comment further aside from agreeing that they are excellent.

    Good luck and best wishes,
    Biagio

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