Because Your Opinion Matters

  • Participant
    zgreyestjedi on #209432

    I am curious as to what kind of harp everyone else has, or even what kind you prefer!

    I personally am a beginner who only started learning for my birthday a couple months ago, so I bought myself a small 19 string lap harp to get started on and I love it! I already had a musical background beforehand and wanted to try something new.

    Tell me about yourself!

    Participant
    harpist123 on #209477

    Good morning, Jordan! What a wonderful question to post! I am surprised you haven’t received dozens of replies already…Even though in the end it only matters what kind of harp YOU want to play, this is an excellent question. Because when you hear how others may have wandered through the forest of harp buying (and even renting for awhile before they made up their mind) it’s good to get other people’s input on this. My first harp was a Blevins Espre (36 string floor harp). I wanted a harp that offered this many strings for 2 reasons: It sat on the floor instead of my having to prop it up and often be uncomfortable negotiating the harp to me, and it had enough strings to give me a nice bass, which is something I knew I would want. Also, the harp was more a “folk harp”, strung in nylon (with bass wires) which just didn’t break (rarely had a broken string) and it held pitch extremely well. This particular harp had a very nice and even overall sound, with the bass clear as a bell, and the upper strings also bell-like, not “plunky”…you know, they had a nice “ring” after they were plucked…

    I, too, have a music degree in applied music (performance) on the clarinet, and didn’t buy this harp until 2003…So I started as an adult many years later, knowing I wanted to do this. I thought I could learn on my own…I even had the opportunity to study with the harp professor at the university for one quarter…she let a handful of non-string majors try it out…And I knew that one day I would learn how to play…Anyway, I finally decided to take weekly private lessons for one year…Then I took it from there…My harp teacher was a pedal harpist, and of course would have enjoyed it if I went that direction. I really didn’t know WHAT direction I wanted to go, but mostly I wanted to play for my own enjoyment, and if a gig came into play, so be it…My next harp was a Lyon & Healy Prelude…(instead of describing each harp, which you can research, I will tell you why I chose each harp, and what followed). I loved the sound of my teacher’s pedal harp, but didn’t want something I could barely haul, let alone the expense. I truly enjoyed this harp. On the 5th year I owned it, I opted for the trade-up for full price I paid for the Prelude toward a pedal harp…And ordered myself a Lyon & Healy Style 100. I still have this harp, only I don’t play it that often…I keep it tuned, pluck it because it should be played, but may one day sell it so it’s in the hands of a harpist who can really do it justice. But it is sooooo beautiful that I can’t part with it, and who knows? I just might get back into learning it, pedals and all…The sound is magnificent! I later sold my Blevins to a girlfriend who was also an adult, and wanted to learn. Then I found I still needed a smaller floor harp to do a bit of traveling with, and play a couple local small gigs (I don’t do this for a living, mind you 🙂 So I bought a Lyon & Healy 34 string Ogden. A very sweet little floor harp, strung with gut mid-range. But it just didn’t have the “oomph” I needed in sound projection that I was looking for…So, I then purchased a used Pratt Chamber harp…My absolute most favorite harp of all so far…Strung concert tension and gut mid-range, and 36 strings. Has an “extended soundboard”. Check it out for a description, etc. This harp has projection in sound like I never anticipated. Never a need for amplification, even in a large venue with a few hundred people eating and talking! Needless to say, I still have this harp…But yes, I just recently bought another harp (OMG!!!) The Pratt is just over 50 lbs, and I need to cart it. I am older now, and it has become difficult for me. Also, I was looking for that lovely folk harp sound again (have I gone full circle here???) and have settled on a gorgeous figured cherry Dusty Strings FH36S, with a beautiful figured cherry veneered soundboard! This has become my “go to” harp…And I may now sell the Pratt!!! But of course I can’t part with it…not yet…even though I have been playing the Dusty Strings exclusively…It has beautiful open and even sound, with just enough overtones and sympathetic vibrations to produce a sound that receives many many compliments! It makes me happy! It makes me smile! It’s back to the lighter string tension, nylon strings with wire bass strings, but a very projected sound in noisy environments. It is also very easy to control the dynamics on this harp, and the quality and penetration of the sound emitted is excellent either way 🙂

    I have most recently gotten together with a little trio comprised of me on the Dusty Strings, hammered dulcimer, and nyckelharpa. We have a blast playing together. We’ve “opened” for a few concerts, and played some quiet more intimate venues such as coffee shops. There hasn’t been any “money” in it yet, but we have so much fun playing together that we don’t care…

    Is there another harp in my future? Who knows? That’s the joy in it! So, whatever harp you are currently playing, enjoy it to the fullest (and it sounds like you are) until you decide you’d like to play something different…

    Participant
    Biagio on #209489

    An excellent question Jordan! I am sure that you will see many fascinating responses, many of them naming individual models/makers. I will do that too and but think it would be more useful to focus on some other things initaily. First off let it be said that no matter how extensive our musical knowledge may be, lessons are imperative early on to develop good harp technique. There are some excellent self-teaching resources out there but none of them can possibly replace an experienced teacher. In person lessons are preferable, but many fine teachers will also offer lessons via Skype or similar.

    As we progress as harpists we often find that our needs and interests change; further, most if not all of the intermediate to advanced players that I know have at least two harps and most have more. So the question is: what might those be and which would be preferable to acquire first?

    Assume we are attracted to orchestral music: we would want a fairly large high tension gut strung lever harp to begin with – Lyon and Healey, Salvi, Camac, etc. or even at the lowest cost a Dusty Boulevard. Eventually we would acquire a pedal instrument. This is obviously a significant investment.

    Assume we prefer the lower cost and more limited chromatic ability of the lever harp. We would soon want a larger instrument: 4-5 octaves. The choices are many among good to excellent instruments, from kit harps to top end custom designs. We would probably also eventually want a smaller harp – your current 19 string to, let us say 22-26 strings. We might even branch out further to consider double strungs, cross-strungs or (as in my case) find that the wire strung grabs our interest.

    Getting down to specifics and personal history…I got into harping by the back door, by designing and building harps. Now, I do not recommend this route for everyone but I do emphatically wish that harpists in general knew a great deal more about specifics such as wood choices, string theory, sharping devices, etc. That would save them a lot of time and money when evaluating instruments. Given what I know however, let me offer a few choices for larger instruments that will not break the bank at this point:

    – Magical Strings 36 string concert Oladion/Oranmor: this is the choice of a renowned professional (Harper Tasche) for his outdoor concerts. While it does not have the nuances of higher end harps such as Dusty Strings FH series, Camac, etc. it has a big voice, and is relatively inexpensive.

    -Dusty Strings Ravenna 34 – also an excellent lower cost harp.

    -Music Makers 33 string Voyageur kit with upgraded custom strings. An easily built, fine harp, that is used by some teachers as a rental instrument; but the tension is erratic in the lower mid. If you should consider this, contact me off list for an upgraded string design.

    As you think about the many suggestions you will receive, try to attend as many gatherings as you can to try out as many different models as you can. First, though, find a teacher and rely on their personal guidance.

    Best wishes and welcome to the harp world!
    Biagio

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by Biagio.
    Participant
    balfour-knight on #209494

    Such nice responses, my harp friends–thanks! You all know that I prefer the cherry Dusty Strings FH36S above all other lever harps. Check out my testimonial and photo on their website! I love my “Cherie” even more now than when I found her two years ago, if that is possible. Happy harping everyone!
    Blessings,
    Balfour

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