Consistency across harps?

  • Participant
    Andelin on #187679

    how consistent do harps tend to be, across several harps of a certain model/make? I have always thought it basically depends on the individual instrument, with its unique construction and wood composition. Obviously there will be variances, but how much the same would, for example, five style 85’s be, side by side?

    Back story: this weekend I had the chance to try out a few different people’s harps. They were all wonderful, but one stood out in my mind as particularly beautiful. If I were to search for a harp of the same model, what are the chances I will find the same beautiful harp? Or is she just super lucky to have such a great instrument? She told me it’s about 20 years old, which also makes a difference.

    Or if I were to order a new one after hearing a floor model, I guess I worry that mine won’t be the same as the one I played before, even after a break in period. (Although I will probably end up buying a used harp. That’s just how it goes.).

    I live in a place far from any harp showrooms, so no matter who I buy from, I will most likely have to travel a long distance, and not be able to return to try it again later. Harps do come up for sale in my area, but not too often, and then you have only one harp to choose from. I haven’t played enough harps to really know what “sounds better” without some kind of comparison.)

    Anyway, I better stop writing before this post turns into a novel. :). I’m wondering what others’ experiences are. Thanks!

    Participant
    Biagio on #187680

    Manufacturers do strive very hard for consistency, not only for the player’s benefit but at least as much for efficiency in production. That said, age makes a very noticeable difference given the same model (ignoring the high density laminate type boards). As the board ages under constant tension it will deform (plasticize) with an increasing depth of tone. At 20 years old it is probably approaching or at it’s prime. Brands new, still good of course, but no where near optimal.

    This begs the question: why do used harps sell for less than new ones? I’ve never quite understood that except for the obvious – eventually the board will either break or tension must be lessened. What “eventually” means is dicey; the good news is that if a harp has been well cared for it is not hard to restore if that becomes necessary.

    Biagio

    Biagio

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #187690

    Thanks, Biagio, for what you wrote. Going along with that, I once had a friend who wanted to trade in her 44-string Camac pedal harp for a new harp. I went along to help her play and listen to her possibilities in a new harp. She played all the pedal harps at the Atlanta Harp Center, about 14, I think, and picked out three “semi-finalists.” Unable to make up her mind, I suggested a “blind” test. I also included her old harp in the tests. Guess which one she picked! You’re correct, she picked her old harp every time! So to make a long story short, she kept the harp she had and was very happy with it after that. Age does make a huge difference!

    Best wishes,
    Balfour

    Participant
    Philippa mcauliffe on #187691

    You wont find the same beautiful harp….almost certainly. But you can find your own beautiful harp. I once played 12 in a row in a showroom (well two rows to be precise) of the same make and style – all new – and all slightly different in sound and feel and evenness across the range. And they were my own make and style and none of them were quite like mine. It is personal though – my mum was listening and said that she couldn’t always hear the differences I could and nor could the showroom staff. If you can get to a big conference you can play the different makers one after the other and see the differences inter and intra makers. Then you might be able to narrow down what to go and see second hand. There are fundamental charcteristics to each maker though and some people tend to prefer one over the other. I find the balance points vary as do pedals, space at the top, how they feel against you – never mind the sounds….I have three all time favourite harps I have ever played – one of which is my own – but all three were by different makers so for me its not really about the maker but about the harp itself.

    Member
    patricia-jaeger on #187692

    There was a time when it was the practice of the Steinway piano company in New York to send a man to the Pacific Northwest area of the USA, armed with a ruler and a magnifying glass, to visit lumber companies that had harvested some old- growth timber. His job was to find large sawn boards that would have very tight age-rings, no longer seen as rings visible in any tree stump, but as very close marks which proved slow growth of a tree in extremely cold winters. After he chose a quantity of boards and ordered them shipped back to the factory where they were used for the soundboards in the production of Steinway’s well-regarded wooden pianos, the remainder pieces of one board were just right for the Lyon and Healy Company in Chicago to cut out pieces of that excellent “tonewood” to serve as the soundboard for one harp. So the two companies had an agreement that suited them both. Impossible for two harps to sound exactly similar, since different trees were involved. In the years when Antonio Stradivari produced his violins, which have wonderful resonance and are very costly today, there is scientific proof that four years of extreme winter conditions happened in Italy. Trees grew much more slowly.Their wood age-rings were very close together in that century.

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