choosing a harp – prelude 40 or dusty strings?

  • Participant
    tiredofpickingaddresses@hotmail.com on #255572

    I’m finally ready to purchase a harp after 3 years of lessons and rental. I think I’ve narrowed down my choices, but am looking for some feedback.

    I like playing early music, celtic and classical – particularly anything slow, melodic or in a minor key.

    I had a chance to test play a Dusty 26 string, but it wasn’t kept in tune, so it was hard to say, but I wasn’t in love with the sound. I also tested a Prelude the same day, but it also wasn’t kept in tune, so both of them were hard to judge. I did like the sound of the Prelude, but I found the upper strings difficult to get to with the ‘swoop’ design compared to a folk harp. Because it was a couple of years ago, and I had to travel to test them and can’t now because COVID, I’m having to judge by youtube clips and I know the location, microphone set up and player are all affecting the sound.

    I play mostly for my own enjoyment so I like more relaxing, meditative music. I would like to eventually play for events as background music – I don’t really want to get into doing weddings.

    I want to play outside in the summer in parks. As much as my wallet doesn’t want to hear it, I may need to eventually get two harps – one for home and more ‘formal performances’ and one for out-and-about. I’d like to eventually play with other musicians. I’m also in a flute choir, and I’d love to do some duets, and my brother plays lute.

    In some ways, I’m almost looking for a hybrid sound though.

    PRELUDE 40
    I like the warm, darker, mellow tone of the prelude 40 with the pedal gut strings, but I find the upper end sounds ‘plinky’ to me. The weight of the instrument probably excludes me taking it to the local park to play.

    I do like the ‘classic’ look of this harp. I do also really love the gentle, almost delicate sound of a classical pedal harp, which I think draws me to this one.

    DUSTY STRINGS
    I like the sustain on the Dusty Strings FH36S (I’m leaning towards walnut or cherry). I like the warmer tone of the cherry and walnut woods, and I like that the upper strings have more sustain than the pedal gut strings. I’m wondering if that’s because they vibrate more, being a thinner diameter?

    I do like the look of these harps. I love the wood grain, and they seem to have a powerful, round sound. BUT I also find that folk harps have this almost ‘metalic’ sound compared to the Prelude. I like the sustain and the resonance but something in the sound just isn’t the same. I’m also wondering if I will miss the lower bass notes only having 36 strings instead of 40.

    I know it would be easier to take to the park. The harp I have now is about the same size as a FH36 and I have a little trolley for it.

    Has anyone put gut strings on a Dusty? I see on their website that it comes as an option – folk gut strings. I’m wondering if that would mellow out the mid-range strings to take out some of that ‘tinny’ sound but leave the upper strings with their sustain. I haven’t been able to find any sound clips on youtube of an FH36 strung with folk gut.

    Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

    Participant
    Miriam Shilling on #255573

    Hello. I bought a Prelude 40 some years ago, but replaced it with a Dusty Strings because the Prelude’s levers were terrible. I had to use elastic bands to keep them in the up position, which did not work for me since I play a lot of lever-heavy music (I gig with my lever harp). My Dusty Strings has much better levers, and I am happy with the sound of the harp, as well. Good luck!

    Participant
    wil-weten on #255575

    The fact that the upper strings of the Prelude sounded plinky to you, may have to do with the fact that you then were a beginner on the harp and were still developing your skills to produce a full and warm tone.
    I find the tone of the upper strings of the Dusty a tiny bit plinky.

    In this clip you hear 3 harps played in the same room. One of them being a L&H Ogden (34 strings, with pedal tension gut) and one a Dusty Allegro Nylon strung harp (I’m not sure whether this is a 34 string harp). The third harp is a Salvi Gaia (38 strings, strung with pedal tension gut). https://youtu.be/6iPLzipq4kQ

    By the way, I’ve got a L&H Prelude. It’s 4.5 years old and its levers function just fine (though not as sophisticated as the levers on my Camac harp).

    As for easy transport, a L&H Ogden may be better suited than a Prelude, but frankly, for taking a harp into a park, I would think of a Dusty Ravenna 26 or, if you live in Europe, a Camac Odyssey (27 nylon strings).

    Participant
    harpist123 on #255576

    A little about my “journey for sound” with regard to the harp…
    1. Blevins Espre (36 string, nylon, fully levered). Needed more sound projection. However, this harp had clarity in sound and pitch from high end to low bass not often found on a harp this size.
    2. L&H Prelude (38 string, gut/nylon/wire, fully levered). Very nice sound and projection. Played for nearly 5 years. But I couldn’t travel with it easily, so needed a smaller harp. However, traded it in for full price (bounty program with L&H) for concert grand pedal harp. Thought I’d get into it. Didn’t. Still have it since ’08, and rarely ever play it, though keep it restrung and tuned, play occasionally.
    3. Pratt Chamber Harp (36 string, gut/nylon/wire, fully levered). String tension same as a pedal harp. Awesome sound, excellent projection and sustain, clarity of pitch. Eventually it got to be too heavy for me (I am older now) to travel with. Also, not really conducive to playing the sound I like to get with Celtic music.
    4. Dusty Strings FHS36 (36 string, nylon, fully levered). Thought this would be the answer for me. Turned out it had so many overtones ringing while playing that it drove me a bit nuts. I also felt it was too much treble. Not nearly enough bass. And definitely not enough projection. I have heard this harp played live and online or on CD recordings and it sounded lovely. Somehow, in person for me while playing it, it just didn’t have what my ear needed: more bass. Also, I found it tinny in various parts of different registers. Oh well…Onto
    5. Triplett Eclipse (38 string, nylon, fully levered). WOW! Seems this harp has a little of all the other harps I have owned. Good bass, excellent middle registers, and clarity in upper registers. Great projection, amplified or not (bought the built-in amplification system). This is the right harp for me in every way. Size, weight (though I do cart it…makes life much easier), sound, and it’s also GORGEOUS!
    So, hoping you find what is right for you. It’s a fun adventure. Yes, I still own 4 harps, along with a small Blevins Eden 26. But I play my Triplett Eclipse almost exclusively, and will most likely sell the pedal harp and Pratt…

    Participant
    Miriam Shilling on #255577

    Hi wil,
    Perhaps it was just my Prelude. I bought it when the 40 first came out because L&H had a nice sale. If they’ve improved their levers, that’s terrific!
    Cheers,

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #255578

    I would go with the Prelude. The extra strings allow you to play a greater repertoire.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #255579

    I agree, more strings, more repertoire. You can use a dolly to go to the park.

    Participant
    tiredofpickingaddresses@hotmail.com on #255581

    Wow. The Allegro sound I really didn’t enjoy compared to the other two.

    Participant
    tiredofpickingaddresses@hotmail.com on #255582

    I’ll start looking for some of the Triplett sound clips. I hadn’t really looked at them much.

    Participant
    harpist123 on #255583

    Here is an excellent link for listening to Triplett Eclipse (and other Triplett harps https://triplettharps.com/harps-by-sound.php

    Participant
    Biagio on #255585

    The Dustys use mahogany for the sound board treble and high mid which is probably the reason for the sustain you hear up there. You could choose gut lower down if you wish for a somewhat mellower tone.

    As far as I know, Dusty is the only maker who uses bronze core nylon wrap in the bass. I put those on my own 36 and love them, after hearing the DH36.

    Biagio

    Participant
    Gregg Bailey on #255716

    I, too, have been wondering what a Dusty Crescendo or FH sounds like with gut strings, but, the closest I’ve found is a video of a Ravenna being restrung with gut, being played before and after. It’s an interesting comparison, but the clip of it being played after the middle strings are changed to gut is a little disappointing tuning-wise; I wish the woman had waited until the strings had settled a bit so it would’ve sounded more in-tune. If you find a video of a Crescendo or FH being played with gut, please let us know!

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #255736

    Hi, Gregg,

    I was fortunate to be able to play a few Dustys with gut strings, and I was disappointed. I love the bright, clear sound of their nylons so much, that the gut strings seemed to make the harps lose that “Dusty sound” that I value so highly. I want that particular sound from my lever harp, totally different than my pedal harp. Otherwise, why have two harps? If a person only had one harp, and loved the sound of a pedal harp, then a gut-strung lever harp would make sense. (Because of the price difference, size, portability, etc.)

    To each his own! Good to see all your posts.

    Harp Hugs,
    Balfour

    Participant
    tiredofpickingaddresses@hotmail.com on #255789

    I decided to order the Prelude 40 for the more ‘classical’ pedal harp sound.

    I think I’ll eventually get a smaller Dusty Strings as a more portable harp. Maybe the double-strung.

    Participant
    katewilde on #255793

    I think you made a great choice with getting the Prelude for your main harp. I have a Prelude 38 and love it so much. I’ve been deeply happy with it for about 6 years now. I’ve had Dusty Strings harps before and although I do really like them for smaller harps, I would choose my L&H for a large harp over any of their large harps. The high register is lovely in my opinion, not plinky at all. It’s bell-like and beautiful. The upper register on Dusty harps is less plinky than on Tripletts or other lever harps, in my opinion, but it still doesn’t compare to L&H. The lower register is more balanced/smooth on my L&H, I think, whereas on the Dusty the bass strings sound kind of rough to me (although robust and satisfying in their own way, for sure). I have had zero issues with my Prelude levers.

    However!!! I have the Dusty Strings pedal harp pickup system installed in my Prelude, and I swear by it. If you perform ever, make the investment, I think it’s one of the best pickup systems out there for harp. I pair it with an MXR M108 ten-band EQ pedal, to adjust the EQ to whatever room I’m playing in, and it helps tone down the mids and shape the sound. Most EQ pedals don’t cover the full tonal range of a large harp so it’s worth it getting the 10-band.

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