Buying a harp in the UK

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    FairportBookworm on #185563


    I’m sure there are loads of questions like this all the time, so I’m sorry for boring you with more ‘which harp shall I buy?’ questions!!

    I’m interested in starting to learn folk harp – I sing folk songs and would love to be able to accompany myself. My very kind family have said that if I want to buy a harp it could (at least partly) be my 21st birthday present 🙂 yay!

    I’ve never played a harp and I’m looking in to hiring one/having some lessons to get an idea of what I want.

    I’ve been looking at things like the Harpsicle, the Adventurer 20 or this Morwenna Rose harp which I found today:

    Many of these do not have levers, or in some cases there is an upgraded version with levers – would you recommend a full lever harp for a beginner? I think that is what I need to look for, but I really don’t know much about this at all! What would you recommend?

    Has anyone got/seen the Morwenna Rose harps at all? I can’t find much information about them, but they sound nice on the videos 🙂

    Thank you!

    Allison Stevick on #185571

    I think it’s a great idea to hire a harp and get some lessons. That will help you know better what you want in your own instrument. Thinking about what kind of music you want to play will help, also. You don’t need levers to start out, but if you can afford them and think you will want them in the future, go ahead and get some.

    I’m not familiar with the Adventurer or the Morwenna Rose harps, but they seem like good starters. I hope someone else has better input for you along those lines. Welcome to harping!

    wil-weten on #185572

    These are, as far as I know reputable harp shops in the UK:

    There are more fine shops in the UK.

    There’s a lot of difference between the various in lever harp, not only the amount of strings and/or levers on them, but also the kind of strings (nylon, gut or KF etc) and the spring tension.

    In your case, I would find a teacher first and then buy a harp together, based on the kind of music you like to play on it and some other factors.

    To start with: I would never buy a harp with less than a whole octave below middle C as a first harp, because then you would need to be creative from the very start, as most lever music goes down to two whole octaves below middle C.

    Biagio on #185575

    I would very much agree that it is best to hire (rent) your first harp if at all possible. There are many factors aside from the cost and looks, and personally I think they are more important in the long run. It is difficult to learn good technique on a small (lap) harp for example, some of the larger low priced harps look attractive but are poorly built or just fall apart, the harp should feel comfortable to you since everyone’s body is different, and so on.

    With that in mind, I would suggest looking into Teifi of Wales. They have a rental program and their harps have earned a top notch reputation.

    To lever or not and how many? That’s a matter of debate, considering that a full set of levers may be almost 30% of the cost of the instrument! If you have a choice and are comfortable with music theory and transposing, Cs Fs and either Gs or Bs will be sufficient for a long time. You can always add more later. With a rental of course that is not an issue.

    I started one beginner with a Sharpsicle (and a playing stand for it); some other friends use that harp as a rental for their students. Almost all beginners who keep at it soon move up to larger instruments, keeping the Sharpsicle for travel.

    Welcome to a wonderful musical adventure!

    FairportBookworm on #185577

    Thank you everyone for such lovely advice!

    I have found a teacher who I’ll hopefully have a lesson with soon, really looking forward to it! When I discussed the lesson with her, she said she can help advise me about what to buy etc which sounds great.

    The advice about levers is very helpful, and I have been looking at the Sharpsicle too, that does look like a good starting-point. Also very useful to know about making sure there is a whole octave below middle C. I had been wondering about how many strings were best to start on and that was the impression I had got – that more would be easier and more flexible.

    Thanks! Any advice is really helpful 🙂

    Angela Biggs on #185580

    Fairport, you said you’re interested in learning the harp in order to accompany yourself. Since that’s the case, the levers on the harp you buy should be decided by the keys your voice likes. If you aren’t sure what those keys are, get a fully-levered harp so that you have all the available options. Or, if you have the funds, just get a fully levered harp anyway, because then you’re all set!

    I agree with everyone else that renting in the beginning is a good choice. You don’t want to start out by accompanying yourself — you’ll be much better off learning the harp and then adding the singing later —
    and you can learn all technique (except lever-throwing!) on an instrument without any levers. That may save you some money on the rental.

    When you eventually buy a harp, keep in mind that as a sing-and-player you’ll often want to keep your right hand playing above the pitches you’re singing, and your left hand below. This means that you’ll be best served by an instrument with at least 1.5 octaves below mid-C, especially if you have a low voice. You’ll probably find two octaves more satisfying; although I find I use the lowest C,D,E fairly rarely when I’m singing.

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