About 4 months ago I upgraded from a Venus Penti chamber/student to a LH Salzedo. The venus had an intimate sound, full bass, and was very mellow (to the point of being muddy). I went to the LH factory and tried out about 16 harps – one consistently stood out from the rest – my new harp. A brilliant and powerful sounding harp with a crystal clear sound and very even throughout all octaves – quite an adjustment. The bass was no different than that of the other LHs I tried, if so more powerful. While I am happy with the harp and the changes I have begun to notice, I am somewhat worried about the bass – somewhat lacking. Starting at the 5th octave, the notes are tighter/thinner and brassy/wirey sounding, somewhat lacking in volume, and part of the 6th and 7th octaves sound unclear/muddy. Others have pointed this out to me. I don’t have the Penti so I am not comparing harp sounds, and I realize that the upgrade from a small student harp to a formidable concert grand is substantial. Nevertheless… When a new harp is “opening up”, does it do so evenly or does the bass take longer to develop? I’m only 4 months into this new harp – is this something I should even be worried about at this time? Is this common with new harps? LH harps? Salzedo harps? Don’t get me wrong – I still smile to myself when I play – the sound quality that sold me on the harp, but the thought of such a huge investment with a lacklustre bass does not sit well with me.
I would make a call to Lyon Healey and express your concerns. It could be that you simply need another set of bass wires. Your harp is still under warranty. The reps there should be able help you out.
I bought a new harp (not LH) two years ago. I did not pick it out personally but used the advice I trusted of the harp rep. When I got the harp, I wondered what I had done to myself. It was stiff to play and sounded soft and wimpy. I was assured when this particular harp was broken in – and it can take a couple years to get its full voice – it would be fantastic. I carefully followed the instructions about how to break in the harp. Here it is two years later and the sound is spectacular, the harp much easier to play, and is an overall great harp. I hope that your Salzedo just needs a little more time to break in.
I have a couple of thoughts, one is that ‘wirey’ is a word I could use to express my opinion of new bass wires every time I change them. The other is that as well as breaking the harp in to your playing there is the process of breaking your playing in to the harp. Just as I talk about breaking new shoes in but know much of it is getting my feet used to the shoes. When I got my L&H CG moving from a straightboard Salvi I had to change my playing – one obvious aspect was putting more damping in as the new harp didn’t shut up. There were a couple of effects that were easy on my old harp and harder on the CG, including a rather bell like bass when playing open hand and medium low in the strings. In a similar musical point on the CG I may play quite high in the string with a very conscious squeeze before release in the articulation.
Do you have a teacher? Play your own harp in lessons? Asking to spend a lesson on variations of bass tone on the Salzedo might be useful.
Thanks for the comments so far. I have a phenomenal professional teacher with many years of experience. She was very happy with my choice, saying it was a harp she would have bought. She played it a few months later and said it wasn’t opening up like she thought it should. However, she figuratively rapped my knuckles when she found out I wasn’t tuning it every day – which I am now doing religiously. My teacher played a Salzedo for years and I have a lesson today – I’ll bring the subject up with her.
What are people’s experiences with new LH harps, specifically Salzedo harps, when breaking them in? When do the lower octaves tend to open up?
Myds, this isn’t specifically about a Salzedo (although my instructor had one, and I rented a Salzedo for a year before getting my new harp), but I would suggest you give Lyon Healy a call and ask them for instructions on how to break in the harp. For mine, I was told to vigorously play the highest octave for a couple days, then work my way down the harp the same way. I did this at least 3 times a day. You don’t have to play music, just actively pluck the strings for a good five to ten minutes in the octave. It could be that because you are a student, you are not giving your harp enough of a workout when you practice to break it in. My harp took about 18 months to really break in. It just kept getting better and better gradually.
These all sound like good thoughts about breaking in the Salzedo. I have a L&H 85GP, 44 strings, built much lighter than the concert grand harps, and it sounded spectacular from day one! It is very bright, full and rich, and even though I did not think or expect that it would improve over the years, I honestly believe that it did. So, just give the Salzedo time, and tune and play it regularly, the more, the better!
You definitely need to replace any tarnish-resistant strings with standard silver and copper strings. The t-r strings definitely dull the responsiveness. New strings will sound wiry compared to worn-out old strings. The harp needs to become accustomed to your touch and vice-versa. I never felt the lowest strings on my harp had enough focus until a metal stirrup was added for reinforcement. Then they not only had all the power needed, the 1st octave gained in volume as well. And yes, you must tune the harp every day!
Thank you for your responses.
Gretchen – You are right. I don’t think I give it much of a work out. It doesn’t take much to get a lot of sound out of it, so I think I hold back when playing – neighbours beware! I’ll give LH a call.
Balfour – your experience was the same as mine. This is my 3rd harp, the 1st being a lever harp. The venus, like yours, came with a beautiful sound right out of the crate (it was on the floor for a few months). It seemed to change every time I played it.
In contrast, The Salzedo was only on the floor for about a week when I bought it. Compared to the many others I tried at the factory, it sounded very good. It was only at home did I notice the lower octaves being thin. While the harp’s sound in general has developed, I can’t say that the lower octaves have changed much – ergo the reason for my post.
Of course it needs more time. I love playing it, so working on breaking it in is indeed a joy!
Thanks for your response. I did not think of one very important point here, until just now: what are the acoustics like where you have the Salzedo harp now? My harp, when at home, is on a hardwood floor with plaster walls, a very “live” space. In that space, she is beyond beautiful, she is perfect! (Maybe that is why I play her so much, ha, ha!)
However, when I take her out, sometimes I have to deal with dead acoustical spaces, and have to resort to amplifying the harp to compensate. I just wondered if you have taken the harp out to compare spaces. Just a thought!
Have a great day,
Weather and temperature can also be a big factor. It’s usually quite dry out here in Phoenix, but on a day like today when it’s quite rainy, all my harps have that “What happened??” sound. From bright, bold, and projecting to dull and wimpy. I know that as soon as this weather front passes all will be well.
I have an Ogden harp, and when it reached a certain age, I think it was five years, it suddenly acquired what I would call the “Lyon & Healy sound.” I realized then how much difference the aging of the wood makes. I wasn’t playing it a lot, either. It was just the aging.
This is just me…but I had to laugh when I saw this thread. I got my first pedal harp (LH15) after four years of being harpless (end of school…saving my pennies for the down payment). I don’t think I would have noticed if it had sounded like a ukulele. I was so thrilled and felt so blessed to have my harp!
So, I took people’s advice and phoned LH today. I did get some info but more importantly affirmation. The person I spoke with today was brought in to give her objective opinion on two harps before I made my final decision (the Salzedo got a definite yes from everyone). 5 months later and she still remembers and can still describe my harp’s (distinctive) sound/character. Our discussion that followed really helped address my concerns.
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