I was interested in hearing from anyone who owns an Andrew Thom harp.
I own a Thom harp and I’m in love with it. Never had a moment’s problem with it. It always outshines (louder, clearer sound) any other folk harp I play with (yes even next to a Triplett). Plus according to my eye it’s gorgeously beautiful. It’s also extremely well built. I’ve knocked it more times than I can count and it has no dents. It travels easily and is durable, as well as being significantly lighter to carry than many similar sized all wood harps I’ve seen.
The downsides? Because they are finished in car paint, you can get chips in the finish. And if you have a multi-colour one like I do it can be difficult to cover this over with touch-up paint successfully. I’ve played and heard at least 8 different versions of his harps and they all sound great. Mine is high tension, although even the low tension ones ring loud and feel higher tension than similar sized wood harps. Honestly unless you are really wanting a pedal harp sound I wouldn’t pay the extra for the high tension. The folk tension is very good and there have been times when I’ve wished mine was lower tension (when I get blisters on my finger tips).
Also if you are looking for a very “celtic” or traditional harp shape then his harps probably aren’t for you. They are very modern in appearance and it’s the kind of styling that grows on you, rather than falling in love with it immediately. So saying that, the gorgeous white butterfly wing harp on his site I have seen and heard in person. It truly looks like something from the Lord Of The Rings. Absolutely beautiful and ethereal. It’s finished in a white pearl paint which makes it appear magical.
I’ve never met anyone who has a Thom harp who doesn’t love it. I knew a lot of other players with these harps and they all thought it was money well spent. I do think though that his big harps (more than 30 strings) are the pick of what he does.
Only the soundbox is aluminium, and it doesn’t sound tinny at all. The only difference in tone between my harp and a wood harp is mine tends to sound clearer and is much, much louder. The bass in particular is very clear rather than muddy.
I would recommend if you are planning on having lessons, that it would be best to have a few lessons and talk to your teacher about what sort of instrument most suits your needs.
I have had many pupils come to me over the years, that have bought a harp before they embark on lessons, and sometimes they are just not suitable for what they are aiming for, are not any good, or they become unhappy with them very quickly.
And I have had a couple of students that did find that with Andrew Thom harps, they became unhappy with them after a very short amount of time and regretted their choice.
I own an Andrew Thom 23-string harp with concert spacing but lighter tension, and it’s just lovely. The sound is big and clear, and the bass isn’t muddy at all. It’s nearly as ‘big’ in sound as my pedal harp!
I can’t see why, if you get a Thom harp with 34+ strings, fully levered, that you wouldn’t be able to play the classical repertoire available to non-pedal harps – there are plenty of people already doing so, including students doing the AMEB music exams. Certainly you can play folk and early music on a harp as small as mine, and it sounds perfectly fine.
The only drawback as far as I’ve encountered is that the paint can chip if you knock it hard, but it’s repairable easily if you have a single colour, with one of those touch-up pens.
Andrew Thom is also a very friendly, helpful and realistic guy to deal with.
I have a 32 string model. I can only say I’ve met over 20 people who own these harps and not one of them has regretted their decision. All agree they are good value for money. There is nothing uneven about the tone on my harp, no muddiness and no harshness either.
I can’t imagine what the previous poster means by saying “they are not suitable for classical or folk music”, if an instrument rings true to pitch and has good tone there is no reason that any kind of music couldn’t be played on them. I play both types of music on my harp and so far no complaints from the people hearing it. The claim that Thom harps are categorically “unsuitable” as an instrument is in my own opinion total rubbish.
Certainly if you are after a harp with a traditional look then by all means find a traditional harp. I agree it’s good to get a teacher’s opinion but so saying that you musst remember that even the best teachers have their own harp preferences (they are human afterall) and will naturally lead you towards the harp they have been most happy with. Nothing wrong with that but it shouldn’t deter from buying the harp you love.
I agree with other posters that the opinion expressed by AJ is totally out of alignment with anything I’ve ever heard about Thom harps and certainly completely in disagreement with my own experience of owning one.
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