Craig Pierpont’s Another Era 36 String French Style Harp

  • Participant
    Sharon Gilbert on #252449

    Hello,

    Is there anybody out there who has Craig Pierpont’s 36 string French style harp?

    I am considering purchasing it and hoping I can find someone who is willing to discuss it with me and better yet consider meeting me on zoom or some such to play me a piece or two.

    Thank you all.

    Sharon

    Participant
    jsmoir on #252910

    Hi, Sharon. I do not have one of Mr. Pierpont’s instruments, but the French Style harp is an absolute beauty of an instrument. I seriously looked at it, a couple years ago.

    Have you contacted him? He does have audio files he can send you, and my limited interaction with him was cordial, informative, and friendly. He also sort of explained his harp construction rationale, which, for a newbie such as myself, was a great help.

    Please let us know if you do decide to get one!

    Participant
    Sharon Gilbert on #252929

    Jsmoir,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I think Mr. Pierpont’s work looks absolutely lovely. What should count is the sound but honestly looks are important to me too. Unfortunately due to my own travel limitations, and moreover, covid, I cannot travel to his shop.

    I have had some correspondence with Mr. Pierpont and have received some sound files. I shared the sound files with my teacher and she thought that they may have been done in a studio making it difficult to judge. Hence, I am looking for information, especially related to sound. For example, how warm is the French harp and how the sound changes with nylon vs gut vs flourocarbon. I am looking for a harp more on the warm side.

    As a beginner harp player I have, with the help of forums such as this, came to the question, if each harp is different how can one really buy a harp without touching and playing the specific harp. If this is not an option, I guess one narrows down the choices and then takes a leap of faith?? My harp teacher tells me that I will fall in love with whatever I choose. And as others have noted elsewhere here, it appears harp players never end up with just one harp!

    Any comments appreciated.

    Participant
    Biagio on #252930

    Hi Sharon,

    I know Craig as an experienced hap maker, but not this particular model, so have refrained from commenting. However in light of your latest with respect to strings: it is important to understand that you are not “stuck” with what might come standard on any harp and the maker will be happy to use what you might prefer*. If in consultation with your teacher you may think you would want gut I am sure Craig will accommodate.

    *Caveat: ALMOST any harp; Dusty, for instance, so far will not “do” fluorocarbon and it would be absurd to use nylon on a pedal harp except in the upper register.

    Best wishes,
    Biagio

    Participant
    jsmoir on #252932

    All very good points. I wish I had known you had already travelled the path I suggested to you. I would not have wasted your time- but as Biagio has said, nothing beats hearing and playing each individual instrument ‘up close and personal,’ to know if it’s the right instrument. Even something as mass produced as a major harp manufacturer (whether a DS FH36, or a L&H Odgen, or Model 23!) will give you different results…. how much more, then, with a custom designed instrument! I’ve read of people who made the ‘pilgrimage’ to Chicago, (pre-Covid) and asked to line up all the (say) “Salzedo” models L&H had on hand, and then they just went down the line, till they found one (or didn’t- that can happen, too!)

    Best of luck. Let me know how it turns out!

    Participant
    Biagio on #252935

    Well, continuing in that vein (and a related thread):

    I had sold most of my tools and was fairly content with a nylon strung 26 and two bronze strung clarsach but missed the lower octaves sometimes. So I bought a 5 octave kit (the Musimakers Cheyenne) and modified it as follows: spruce sound board (instead of the supplied aircraft grade laminate), added two large sound holes in the harp base, and strung the lower octave with bronze core nylon wrap and the next up with fluorocarbon.

    Now, I’ve played the Cheyenne (formerly Regency) before and believe me, this one sounds nothing like the standard Cheyenne at all.

    Obviously one cannot change the SB on an already built harp (not easily anyway). But you can change the string material, and even the range, and get a very different instrument sound. Some people like a very deep bass for instance and drop it two steps (from C to A). of course you lose two strings at the top:-)

    Biagio

    Participant
    Sharon Gilbert on #252942

    Biago,

    It really does sound like one takes a chance ordering a harp without being able to play the actual harp itself. However, I wonder if a beginner, such as me, would really notice the difference between harps from the same model? Maybe even between models!? Mr. Pierpont told me his models sound the same due to a similar construction process.

    Also, I see the Thormahalen site has a nice discussion on strings. Can I infer that on the same harp model switching from nylon to folk gut to concert gut, the sound would tend from brightest to warmest? Where does fluorocarbon tend to lie in the range? The brightest? Brighter than nylon?

    I am also not clear with respect to tension. I have listened to Josh Layne’s video introducing his Camac Excalibur and he describes the tension of fluorocarbon to be tighter than nylon but the Thormahalen sight indicates flourocarbon tension is lighter than nylon. I think Thormahalen says flourocarbon has very light tension and nylon has medium tension. Would they be using the word “tension” in the same way? Can a maker influence the tension so it is maker dependent??

    Any comments appreciated.

    Thanks again.

    Participant
    Biagio on #252943

    I’ll try to cover these questions but first dierct you to a much more detailed discussion than David’s by Rick Kemper at Sligo Harps:

    http://www.sligoharps.com/

    Click on String Theory on the home page.

    First concept – tension depends on string density (or more precisely mass) and vibrating length at any give frequency; greater density means greater tension holding vibrating length constant. Longer vibrating length = greater tension holding mass constant. Further, for the same string type, thicker diameter will increase the string mass. So you can see that it is erroneous to generalize that one type will be higher tension than another without accounting for the other variables. In terms of relative density nylon is lowest followed by gut and then by fluorocarbon.

    Second concept – lever vs. pedal gut. The only difference between them is that pedal gut is thicker than lever gut for any give frequency. That’s it, they both come from the same cows.

    Third concept – brightness/warmth of tone. A harder material will produce a brighter tone than a softer one. Ignoring metals for the moment, nylon is hardest, then fluorocarbon; gut is the softer. A harder material will (usually) have longer sustain.

    This is just a quick snapshot, without getting into esoterics such as elasticity, sympathetic vibrations, wound strings, etc. So to generalize, if you prefer a warm tone without long sustain you might prefer gut.

    When a luthier sits down to design a new harp he/she will first decide on the string design, given the approximate size and soundboard – that is what takes the longest time and why some really do not like to disclose the full details – there have been and still are too many copy cats out there trying to pass off a poorly built harp as something different.

    Anyhow, once satisfied it is on to the actual build but almost every harp maker I know goes through several iterations, perhaps with a nylon string based design for one and a gut based design for the same model, or slightly longer or shorter vibrating lengths. There is science to the craft but also a lot of art!

    Hope that helps!
    Biago

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Biagio.
    Participant
    Biagio on #252949

    Edit: I meant to comment on the question of harp production but forgot, so sorry but here we go.

    Back in the late 60s and early 70s when lever harps first started to become popular in the US virtually all people making them were small shops and to a large extent that is still true – the only “mass produced” harps are those such as Salvi (Italy) L&H and Camac which also make pedal harps – if by “mass produced” one means “use robotics to a large extent. Nevertheless even they do a great deal of individual hands on craftmanship.

    All harp makers that have become successful use templates for their standard designs; smaller individual makers such as Another Era Lutherie, Sligo Harps, Magical Strings, etc. generally build when they receive an order. They are also more likely to be willing to customize or do a custom design than those like Dusty Strings or Rees simply because the latter have invested in larger shops with streamlined construction stages.

    For example, Dusty will not mount Truitt levers because they have set up that stage for Lovelands and/or Camacs.Since they also produce their own strings they prefer to use nylon (although they have recently started to supply gut) and do not supply fluorocarbon – it is just not economical for them. All the same if someone (like me haha) wants Truitt and FC they will sell the “bare” harp – just leave it up to the buyer to mount levers, order FC and do that work. They will obvously not warranty the harp of course.

    Finally a comment on sound samples: while harp makers try to provide an accurate sample of the individual sound one must realize that is how it sounds in the hands of one experienced player without enhancement for a sound studio – at least for all reputable makers whom I know. How it sounds in your hands might be very different.

    At the last harp gathering I attended three professional players tried out my latest design and all three got sounds out of the thing that I had no idea were in there. They all also sounded different from each other:-) As they say” “You play the harp in front of you.”

    Biagio

    Participant
    jsmoir on #253440

    “That’s it, they both come from the same cows.”

    Ain’t that the truth! LOL

    Participant
    jsmoir on #253443

    So, Biagio. Are you making harps of your own?
    Do you do ‘custom’ work? Or what?
    Curious…..

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