Aoyama Harps

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    Dear Harpists,

    Could you please share your experience with Aoyma Harps: advantages and disadvantages.

    Thanks in advance and have a very successful and happy New 2013!


    Hi Angela-
    I don’t have any experience with the more expensive pedal harps. However, with the 46 Orpheus models, their necks tend to warp rather quickly. Two or three years in a dry climate and the neck is already quite warped. Not sure how they respond in other climates, but, that has just been the experience I have seen with all 3 Orpheus models on our island . I didn’t think the sound was very good either.


    I have a 41 string Aoyama Etude and really like it! It is from the 1980’s and it has a lovely warm sound and has held up well through all the places I’ve hauled it. I am in a wetter climate, but no one I know around here has warping issues. The Orpheus is probably their “budget” model right now, I’m told that the Vega or the Delphi would be better choices if I want to buy a larger one.


    I have two. I have a Monarch and an Etude 45. They are excellent harps for the money. Both mine are rented out to pupils and have certainly not had any structural problems or warping. I am in the UK. Both harps have a really clear, bright even sound. I prefer the tone quality and string spacing of my Lyon and Healys but they are very different harps and it’s not really fair to compare them. Aoyamas have quite a wide string spacing so if you have small hands they can be quite a stretch for bigger chords. If my Étude is at home I often use it for weddings at a venue that has a spiral staircase of 32 steps. It’s light and easy to move and despite its straight soundboard the sound carries perfectly without amplification. Remember that sound is a subjective thing. What one person may like from a harp may sound hideous to someone else. If you find one you like then I wouldn’t be put off just because it is a cheaper make.


    Just be careful if you live in a drier climate (this goes for any harp, of course!) Humidifiers 🙂 Definitely necessary! 🙂


    I have an Aoyama “Princess Sakura” and am very pleased with it; however, it does not have the depth or resonance of my L&H Style 11 or 23. Nice things about the Sakura are the clear, bright tone quality and the perfect (for me) amount of string tension, the ease and quietness of the pedals, and a nice full bass. It also has wheels on the front of the base, which makes moving it around the studio very easy. Another definite plus is that this instrument is unique looking and extremely beautiful. The soundboard art is just amazing…cherry blossoms!


    i used to play on an aoyama monarch. the sound is bright, but the harp centre of balance is not that great… it tips over too easily. looks beautiful though, gilded in gold.


    Why or how is the Princess Sakura lighter tension? Is it just lever strings on a pedal harp? I have hand issues and am researching lighter tension pedal harps.


    I have an Aoyama Etude 1989 42 string. It’s very sturdy, and I use it for outdoor, house parties, etc., where it’s easier to maneuver than my other harp.
    The string spacing is a bit narrower in the bass than my LH15 and it was hard to get used to, but it doesn’t bother me now.
    When it first came from the factory, I thought it sounded terrible, but of course it got better being played on. The sound is not as good as the LH15, but I always amplify, and it sounds OK.
    Also, I think the metal work is not as good as LH. Several disc arms have broken. Only one of my LH disc arms has broken, and my LH is 1971.
    The climate here is both dry and humid, and I don’t use much AC. Probably the smaller harps aren’t affected as much by humidity.
    You can see it in some of the pics on my website.


    In the past, I owned a lever harp made by Aoyama, bought used to rent to students. I soon sold it however, because the three detachable legs made it unstable so I sold it for less than I had paid. Since then I have avoided all 3-legged folk harps(not because of the brand) and advised others not to invest in them also. They are far too unstable and tip over too easily.


    ArcherHarpist: Pilgrim Harps in England makes smaller pedal harps so the tension is lighter. If you are my height 5’9″ or taller, you may find it not quite the right size. Strings are 40 or 41; pedals are a bit closer to the floor than larger pedal harps. They are excellent quality, however. I went through their factory in 1984 and was impressed with their attention to each phase of their harp building. If you are still seeking pedal harps with lighter tension, you must seek a smaller frame than harps of 46 or 47 strings. Look online for a used 43-string harp made years ago by Lyon and Healy, called Style 14. The strings range from bottom E to top E (double-action permits all E’s to change to an F, of course). They weigh just 56 pounds, a great advantage in portability, and like any harp these days, can be amplified, so then it sounds like a larger harp. Gold covers the base, crown, top 15 and bottom 12 inches of the column, and the crown. Good hunting!


    I have an Aoyama Orpheus 47 that I bought new 21 years ago. I played on several harps when it came time to purchase one, but I kept coming back to this one and ultimately bought it. I was a harp major and used it for college and continue to use it professionally.

    The pros:There is more spacing in the upper octaves than the older L&H models. I do have larger hands/longer fingers. I like that the C tuning pegs are brass,which makes it easy to tune -locate the right peg quickly. There are wheels on the front – to move it easily around on a stage or flat surface instead of dragging it. I live in the pacific NW where it is humid. I play advanced repertoire. I baby it, take care of it and it still looks brand new. I get it regulated when I need to, change strings when it is time, play it frequently and tune it regularly. The neck is NOT warped. I also have not had any parts or pieces ever break or malfunction in the action of my Aoyama.
    It certainly does not have the intricate wood carving of a LH23, so I guess that makes it much easier to dust. I do have an L&H Ogden lever harp. My teaching studio at our Community music school has a L&H 30 that is over 35 years old. I still am partial to my Aoyama! I was recently at a harp class and a student had a brand new L&H natural 23. It had a a very dull sound, but it was still quite “green.”

    Cons: people somehow thinking these are inferior harps. You can get excellent harps from any major pedal harp maker, and you can also get crappy harps. The best recommendation I can give you is to visit as many showrooms as you can and play as many harps as you can. You will soon find what you are drawn to sound wise. Harps are just too expensive to buy without trying.


    I know it’s been a while since this thread was active, but I just wanted to enforce what Jeralee wrote – as with any harp maker you can get shitty ones or great ones.

    I have an Aoyama Musa that I bought from another harpist three years ago. It’s from 1989 and has an incredibly full, warm sound. I’ve played and do still sometimes play several different L&H (23, 23 gold, 85CG) and also a few Venus harps, and each harp is really just different. I LOVE the tone of my Aoyama, it is beautifully warm and round. The spacing is a little bit wider than the L&H’s but as with anything you get used to whatever you play, I don’t think one of them is easier than the other.

    Play many different harps and find whatever sound you like better. Don’t get hung up on specific brands or models – listen for the SOUND!

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