choosing a lever harp

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    mel-l on #161760


    I am a interested in buying a lever harp, I ‘ve been wanting to play this instrument for a long time ! I need help finding the right instrument for my needs and what should be taken into consideration. I am a professional violinist so as far as music goes, I have solid bases. One of the reason why I am interested in lever harp at the moment is that it is more affordable than a pedal harp and I don’t think that I will be able to afford a pedal harp for many years ! I am interested in classical music for the lever harp. I have many questions :

    – How hard is it to transition to pedal harp after having played on a celtic lever harp that has lesser string tension ? Should I take this aspect in consideration at the moment, even if I don’t know for sure that I will have money to buy a pedal harp ?

    – Choice of harps : I am hesitating between a Lyon and Haely Ogden (34 gut strings, same tension as the pedal harp), Camac Mélusine ( 38 nylon strings, lesser tension, loved the sound of this one !) or Camac Korrigan ( 38 gut strings, same tension as pedal harp). I can’t try a Korrigan because the don’t sell it in my area, but can special order it. However, I am hesitant to buy a musical instrument without trying it first…

    – Should I take my musical background into consideration ? For sure the harp is a totally different technique than the violin and as I was trying them, I felt very clumsy !

    – My goal is to eventually ( even though it might be many years) transition on the pedal harp. Also, I would like to aquire a strong technique and eventually raise my level of playing to professional ( even if it takes many years !) and play gigs on the harp

    I never took lessons yet but I am eager to start. It’s just a question of finding the right instrument and the money to buy it.

    These are many questions !!!!

    thank you for your help and time 🙂


    Audrey Nickel on #161761

    I would think that, if you’re only looking at the lever harp as a stepping stone to a pedal harp, you’d do well to get one with the same tension and spacing.

    barbara-brundage on #161762

    I would strongly suggest finding a teacher first. You may be able to rent a lever harp to start with, maybe even for the duration of time before you transition to the pedal harp. In any case, renting for a bit will give you time to develop a better sense of what kind of lever harp you want, if you do decide to buy one. Many teachers rent harps very inexpensively to their own students.

    tony-morosco on #161763

    First, I second Barbara’s suggestion. Renting first will let you know if you really like the instrument before laying out that much money on one.

    That being said, if that does not seem to be an option for you then to address your specific questions:

    1) while there are some adjustment issues going from a light tension harp to concert strung, it isn’t insurmountable and different people will have different degrees of difficulty.

    My first harp was a lighter, more narrowly strung harp and my lessons were on a L&H Troubadour. I had no problems going from one to the other at my lessons. However I later got a better lever harp that was concert strung. After playing that for a while and then going back to playing the lighter strung I had problems playing the lighter strung harp. Now I have a pedal harp, a concert strung lever harp and a lightly strung electric lever harp and I can go from one to the other without any problems.

    It is all about what you are used to and your own ability.

    But… if your play really is to go to the pedal harp eventually then you may as well get a lever

    alice-freeman on #161764

    I think one of biggest challenges for me of going from 30+ years of violin and viola playing to harp was changing from fingering with one-hand to fingering with both hands. If you can wrap your mind around that and determine that it will not be a problem, you will do just fine. As you say, you have the basics in music and that will be a help in the long run.

    I second the recommendations others made for renting as opposed to buying. You might have completely different opinions after six-months of playing. And I would definitely recommend finding a teacher before you buy anything.

    Tacye on #161765

    Renting is very sensible as you will mature in your harp tastes and it will let you make a truly informed choice, with your teacher’s advice!

    unknown-user on #161766

    I too am a newbie with intermediate to advanced previous piano experience. I had selected a harp previously to try , but time has passed. Lucky am I to live a couple of hours from the Virginia Harp Center. Still, when I go in to either rent or buy I do not want to be subject to sales suggestions or my inability to distance myself from suggestion and unrealistic ideas for my self (from myself mostly!!) I will be playing folk songs mostly although my training as a pianist is classical and folk. I don’t like pop and thank god now I don’t have to play show tunes for my mother…ha ha.
    Although it is so sensible to choose the best with the money you have I do not want to overbuy or rent out of my league. I am thinking 26 strings , but will that be enough? I am back and forth with brands and types as I read that a stave back is more comfortable? I am 5 feet tall. When I first began checking it out the only choices outside of the pedal were really Dusty and Tripplett. Now I see many more , some of which I do not recognize due to my inexperience.I will never conceivably play the pedal because of my size ,and budget, more to the point.
    Could you folks weigh in so I can feel prepared when I go in to discuss this with the folks there.? I need a good starting point to avoid being overwhelmed. Thank you all.

    tony-morosco on #161767

    Number of strings has little to do with the quality of the harp. Lap harps and such are great for what they are, but if you chose a 20 something string lap harp as your only harp you will most likely find the limitations of so few strings a hindrance. I wouldn’t even consider under 30 strings and really, 34 to 36 strings I think would be a more appropriate size.

    Of course if you have special need to have a very portable harp that may make a difference and compromises are sometimes necessary. But I have known many people who quickly find that such a small harp is just not enough range while I have never yet heard anyone complain that they had too many strings

    Aside from Triplett and Dusty Strings, who make excellent instruments, both Lyon and Healy and Salvi make lever harps. Camac as well makes excellent lever harps. Pilgrim lever harps are great… I am almost reluctant to continue because I will eventually forget to mention some great maker out there.

    As for pedal harp, budget may be an issue, but your size is not. I would be surprised if my teacher was five foot tall. When she plays she is dwarfed by her concert grand harp, but she manages it just fine. Besides, there are small pedal harps out there. My 85p would be a perfect size for someone of smaller stature. Although not too small for someone of my size (5’10”) it is an easy to handle size for someone much smaller. So while the money thing may be an issue the size shouldn’t be.

    Honestly, I have dealt with people from almost all the main harp sellers. Sylvia Woods, The Virginia Harp Center, Harps Unlimited International, Harps Etc…, International Music, Melodies. While I haven’t purchased harps from all of them I can’t imagine any of them trying to pressure you into something that isn’t right for you. They all have wonderful reputations and are an excellent resource so you shouldn’t be apprehensive about letting them guide you in finding the right instrument for you.

    Rather than being overwhelmed I think the good people at the Virginia Harp Center would most likely leave you feeling more knowledgeable and confident about your choices than before you walked in the door. A satisfied customer is a returning customer, and they have a vested interest to make sure you make an informed decision that you are happy with. After all if you are happy with the harp you buy from them you will be going back to them for years to come for music, strings and other necessities (and perhaps someday another harp). They want you to be happy with your purchase so use them as resources.

    But.. if you have any specific questions we are all happy to help. It is hard to know where to start because there is so much about harps to think about and talk about.

    Geri McQuillen on #161768

    Hi, Mel….

    I just posted a note in the “Harps and Accessories” forum regarding Aoyama harps; I have both a 26-string Celtic harp made in Australia with levers only on the C’s and F’s and a new 36-string fully-levered Aoyama.

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